By Mike Monahan

In the final meet before the Class 2A track and field sectional, the Charleston boys won two events and placed in 10 of the 18 events Wednesday evening, finishing third among 13 teams in the Big Trojan Meet.

“It was very much more of a complete meet for us, which I was kind of waiting for us to have,” said Charleston head coach Alex Koebele. “ So, I was very happy with third place today. There was a lot of good competition today. Our community is really starting to back us and really starting to understand that the track is on its way back up in Charleston, and that is what we want. To get third is a step in the right direction. That is all I keep telling the kids, ‘We are making steps in the right direction to rebuild this program.” 

Mt. Zion won the meet with 128 points, followed by Olney (101.5) and Charleston (70.5). The Trojans had finished fourth last year.

Mattoon finished eighth with 43.5 points, led by the 4×400 relay team of Deaiden Arnold, Hayden Gordon, Cale Kimbro and Andy Karpus that took second in 3 minutes, 34.94 seconds, eclipsing their persona best by 4.4 seconds. MHS’s Drew Sledge, meanwhile, also took second in the triple jump at 39 feet, 8 inches. 

“We are right on the edge of several things,” said Mattoon coach Jarad Kimbro. “We just have to cross that bridge and get there (to state). The kids are working hard. The main thing for us is rest in the next few days to be prepared for the sectional at our place. This was kind of our prep meet for sectional, especially with the relays. We are pretty close to getting the start qualifying time. The idea here was to see how close we can get to running qualifying times.”

Charleston’s Alex Stout makes an attempt in the shot put at the Big Trojan Invite Wednesday afternoon. (Photo/Chet Piotrowski)

Stout, who will be competing in the shot and discus next year at Eastern Illinois University as an invited walk-on, won both the shot put and discus. His set a PR on his second throw in the shot put, heaving it 53 feet, 6 inches to win by nearly 3½ feet.

Stout won the discus with a throw of 137 feet, more than six feet better than the second-place finisher. 

“I made a bunch of improvements in the shot put,” said Stout. “I think the past couple of weeks I have been focusing more on slowing down and finishing faster. 147 is my personal best in the discus and 143 is my best this season. I improved a bunch this year, and it feels good.”

Stout won the discus in last year’s meet at 145-3. 

“He has been pretty much doubling this year-winning both,” Koebele said. “He has been very consistent.”

Blake Homann ran alongside Effingham’s Garrett Wagoner through most of the first four laps in the 1,600 before Wagoner pulled away on the final lap with a personal best of 10:11.71. Homann’s followed in 10:25.01, a minute faster than the third-place finisher. 

“My goal was to try and get my time close to the state time at the halfway point, which I did,“ said Homann. “My first mile was what I needed to get to state, and I was trying to run that pace. 

In the 1,600, Homann said his goal was to run it in the 4:40s, which he did in finishing 10th in 4:48.71. The top five finishers finished with personal records, including the eventual winner: Iroquois West’s Bryson Grant’s in 4:27.52.

Koebele was happy with senior Caleb Oakley. 

“He ran a 16.83, which we would have loved last week (Apollo Conference meet), but now our new goal is to get to state which means he needs to run a 15.54.”

Oakley, who will be playing basketball at Lake Land next year, and was among five seniors honored prior to the meet with their parents or guardians.

“I was .2 (seconds) off my P.R.,” said Oakley. “It was my second best by far, and I am pretty proud of it. My senior year has been good. I wasn’t even planning on doing track, but with coach Koebele coming I decided to do track to get more athletic for basketball. This year, I have focused a lot on getting to the first hurdle really strong and staying smooth throughout the rest of the race. Coach Koebele has helped me a lot throughout the year. I have improved a lot as it has gone on and, hopefully, I will continue to improve. I am doing track to get quicker, more athletic and have fun, and that is what I have done this year.”

While Oakley does not think he will qualify for state, he does hope to get a PR next week at sectionals.  

“Blake Homann had a good day today,” said Koebele. “He is getting better and better for a young guy (sophomore). Our vaulters (juniors Marquis Green and Grant Kattenbraker), which we missed at the Apollo Conference meet. I was really happy to see them back in action today.”

Marquis Green and Grant Kattenbraker vaulted 12 feet to tie for fourth in that event, which was a PR for Green.

The last race proved to be the best for the Greenwave, who placed second in the 4×400. Deaiden Arnold was added to the relay because of his team-best 11.34 seconds in the 100.

“He is our fastest kid in the 100,” Kimbro said. “I told him ‘I need you to show me what you have got,’ and he did.”

After Hayden ran a solid second leg, Cale Kimbro ran a 52-second third leg.

“Cale battled that third leg and got with the program and put us in a good spot,” Jared Kimbro said.

Their final time of 3:34.94 is within 3.63 of the state qualifying time.

Said Jared Kimbro: “We are knocking on the door of state qualifying.”

MHS dropped the baton in the 4×100, ruining a chance to posting a state qualifying time of 43.96 in that event. “I think the 4×100 would have been close,” said Kiimbro.

The 4×200 team of Gavin Cline, Arnold, Karpus and Cale Kimbro ran a PR of 1:33.27, which was 1.07 faster than their previous best, despite a clunky handoff during one leg.

“If we clean things up,” Jared Kimbro said, “we give ourselves a chance.”

Cline, a junior, ran 17.00, which was 1.23  better than his previous best. He said he hopes to break 16 seconds in next week’s sectionals.

“I think it was my space between the hurdles and getting faster, speeding up a little bit,” said Cline. “The first time I did the hurdles I think I had an 18.0, but I was not very experienced with that. Doing it over and over again with our head coach (Kimbro) just made it a lot easier. Today, I went out there on the track and it was almost natural.”

Big Trojan boys’ track meet

Team scores: 1. Mt. Zion 128, 2. Olney 101.5, 3. Charleston 70.5, 4. Lincoln 68, 5. Robinson 67.5, 6. Effingham 57, 7. Newton 49.5, 8. Mattoon 43.5, 9. Casey-Westfield/Martinsville 35, 10. Marshall 34, 11. Cumberland 17.5, 12. Paris 17, 13, Iroquois West 10

Charleston, Mattoon top six places overall

3,200: 2. Blake Homann, Charleston 10:25.01, 6. Jonathan Brown, Charleston 12:15.12

110 hurdles: 4. Caleb Oakley, Charleston 16.83, 5. Gavin Cline, Mattoon 17.00*

4×100: 5. Charleston (Ethan McBride, Jeremiah Hayes, Langdon King, Parris Coopwood) 45.61

4×200: 3. Mattoon (Cline, Deaiden Arndold, Andy Karpus, Cale Kimbro) 1:33.27*, 4. Charleston (Coopwood, Luke Nelson, King, Hayes) 1:36.29

4×400: 2. Mattoon (Arnold, Hayden Grodon, Kimbro, Karpus) 3:34.94*; 5. Charleston (King, Hayes, Marquis Green, Nelson) 3:42.46*

4×800: 5. Charleston (Stanley Himes, Noah Hardwick, Tim Davidson, Tyler Hodges) 9:43.44

Triple jump; 2. Drew Sledge, Mattoon 39-8; 4. McBride, Charleston 39-4

High jump: 5. Alija Mosley, Mattoon 5-6

Pole vault: 4. Tie, Green, Grant Kattenbraker, Charleston  12-0; 6. Cooper, Mattoon 11-0

Shot put: 1. Alex Stout, Charleston 53-5*

Discus: 1. Stout, Charleston 137-0

* – personal best