By Kyle Daubs

Last year left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. 

Not a single Charleston athlete advanced to the boys state track and field meet. 

After missing the state meet, Strader chose to get to work as soon as possible. 

“After last season’s sectionals, I was really upset about not making it to state,” said Strader. “I took one day off, and then decided to join the football team. That kept me in shape all summer and played a big role coming into my senior season.”

Last year, Strader leaped a personal best of 21 feet, .25 inches to win the Apollo Conference meet in the long jump, but then finished fourth at the Tolono Unity Sectional, missing out on the state experience. This year, he won the sectional to qualify for state for the first time. 

Strader will be jumping for the last time at the state meet. He will attend Lake Land College to major in Networking Administration. He is currently ranked 19th among 25 qualifiers and knows that he would need to have his best jump of the year to make the state finals. 

“To make it to finals, I will most likely have to set a new PR,” said Strader. “I do believe I can do it, coming off of a week of resting my body. I think this year has been so great because of my consistency. I have jumped over 20 feet, 10 inches around seven or eight times this season. I have been doing this event for six years now, since seventh grade, so it seems to come easy at this point.”

Strader will be joined by brothers Zach and Alex Stout. Zach qualified for state in the pole vault, while Alex made it to state in the shot put. 

Zach vaulted to a second-place finish at the sectional and is ranked 17th in the event, but his goal is to finish the season even higher and to vault on Saturday. 

“I believe I can make state finals,” said Zach. “I just have to make sure I work to get a PR. My goal as of right now is to finish in the top 10.”

Last year was the first year that Stout took up pole vaulting. He has hit 13-0 once this season at Charleston and that mark could get him into Finals if he does it again. With that said, he has done enough to impress Eastern Illinois University, where he will be a decathlete and pole vaulter for the track team. 

“Last year was my first year vaulting, and I didn’t have the perfect form,” said Zach. “After last year, I have worked on my form a lot more, and I believe that has helped me qualify for state. This season, I worked on perfecting my form, and trying work to jump as high as my poles will allow me to jump. I believe it has been such a great year for me because I’m more familiar with vaulting than I was last year, and Peyton has done a great job of pushing me to keep doing better to maintain the number one spot on the team.”

Zach’s brother, Alex, will be participating for the first time as a junior in the discus. His progression is a true testament to his hard work. Last year, Alex threw a personal best of 127-10, which was at the Sectional. This year, Stout threw the state qualifying distance and uncorked a huge personal best throw of 147 feet, 10.75 inches. 

Stout said that he knew he could qualify for state after he threw 145 feet, 4 inches at the Charleston Big Trojan Invitational eight days prior. 

“I thought that I was good enough for state since practice when I felt like I would throw it every once and a while and then with the Big Trojans meet when I actually got the mark of 145,” said Alex. “I would credit my success to practice. I worked hard every day and grew a lot stronger to where I could finally hit that mark. I got to that point thanks to practice and Mr. Williams who told me a few things to fix and helped me end up throwing a state.”

Stout is ranked 13th among state qualifiers. His focus will be shooting for a new personal best and cheering for his brother to make it to Saturday. 

“It’s cool that I get to go with my brother,” said Stout. “It means a lot to me that he gets to go to state his senior year and, hopefully, make it to finals. My main goal is to get a PR and do well at the meet, but I would also like to make finals the next day.”