By Mike Monahan
(Photo by Dominic Baima)
CHARLESTON — Mattoon senior Dakota Spencer was the only Green Wave to make the Illinois High School Association Class 2A state track and field meet Friday at O’Brien Field on the Campus of Eastern Illinois University. Spencer was in the discus, which was one of the last events to finish before the running events which were delayed three hours from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. due to the extreme heat that saw heat index at 104 and even warmer on the track.
Spencer, was making his only trip to state and was the second thrower in flight two, as anyone that threw 142 feet and above was in that flight. Spencer had thrown 142 feet, 7 inches at the sectional meet at Tolono Unity.
His first throw appeared to be a good one, but we will never know how long it was due to an IHSA official who moved the marker (throws were measured electronically) before the distance was recorded and they could not mark it after that.
“There is nothing we could do about that,” said Mattoon boys coach Jarad Kimbro. “We do what we can with what we have got. You have to control what you can control. He had no control over the missed management of the marking. Like I said to him, I would have asked to move him back in the flight to give him a chance to rest before he threw. But hindsight is 20-20, and so nothing we could do about it. I am not even sure I could do that. He is a competitor and he did everything in his power to make up for that first throw. You can’t do anymore than that. “
The positive Spencer didn’t put any blame on the officials at all.
I would have liked to have it, but I had four other throws and I couldn’t make due,” said Spencer, “I couldn’t be mad at the officials when I couldn’t get a throw off myself. “
His third throw was his best, going 38.56 meters, or 126 feet, 7 inches). His first throw, which was a redo due to the mismanagement of the IHSA, was a foul and his second throw was 37.18 meters and his last throw was 36.60.
In the other flight, I think three kids beat him,” said Kimbro “If you eliminate that mismanagement, who knows, because he comes in on a high and maybe he throws it out there. I think it was the right flight for him. You have to rise to the level of competition, which I think he did, but he didn’t get the mark.”
Spencer was glad he was in Flight Two although he said he didn’t think it would have mattered. “I was just happy to be with the guys that I really know and I watched some amazing talent.”
Mascoutah’s Barry Evans was the state champion with a throw of 176 feet, 8 inches.
Spencer and Kimbro were there at 9:45 a.m. Usually teams can practice on Thursday after the Class 1A is done, but this time the only time they could practice was in the morning.
“I practiced and got some work in on the new ring,” said Spencer, who had not thrown at EIU before. “I sat around in the shade and stayed cool. I went back to the school van in the air conditioning and drank water and just stayed hydrated. “
Said Kimbro: “Everything is new for him. So we got the disu checked in and tried to ease any of that anxiety and anxiousness. So he could focus on what he needed to do. The good thing for Dakot is that he is a positive person. He doesn’t let those things that he can’t control bother him too much because you can’t. You have to control what you can control.”
Spencer said of being the only athlete from Mattoon, “I would have really liked to have some of my buddies come, but the fact that I made it was good. Track is as much of an individual sport as team sport. The fact I was able to work hard and do what I could is something to be proud of.”
Despite not having his best day, Spencer was excited to have competed at state in what is his final track meet of his career as he will attend Lake Land College in the fall.
“It is a blast,” said Spencer. “I have worked hard and I have been working toward this moment since middle school and high school. I have been chasing some of my buddies older than me. It is an honor to be here.”
This was the first year there were no preliminaries for the first time as everyone competed on one day. Prior to Friday, Mattoon had seven earn a medal (top nine) from 2002-2019.
“We have had a fair share of discus throws here,” said Kimbro. “Despite final standing here, he has put the work in and he has done everything he can do to be the absolute best that he can be. He lifts, throws and records himself. We go over the tape. He does all of those things that you want a kid to do. He is the perfect example of a high school athlete. That is exactly what we want. He did the same thing for me in football.”