OREGON – The late addition of the Art Carlson Hawk Classic to their track schedule proved to be a fortuitous one for the Newman Comets.
Led by meet MVP Nick Rude, the Comets claimed third place in their first trip to the annually strong competition at Landers-Loomis Field.
"We kind of jumped into this meet late," Newman senior Maison Bittner said, "but we were all excited to come here and compete against the best around, especially in such good weather. We were feeling it from the time we got here, and we got off to a good start and kept going from there."
Newman, which added the Carlson Classic after the Rock Falls Invite was canceled April 19, scored 62 of its 72 points on the track, led by senior sprinter Rude.
He blazed to a win the 100 dash in 10.96 seconds, then anchored victories in the 400 relay (43.87) and 800 relay (1:32.03). He finished off his day as runner-up to Lutheran's Tarence Roby in a photo finish in the 200, losing by two-hundredths of a second (22.46-22.48); he had beaten Roby by nine-hundredths of a second in the 100.
"Usually I'd be pretty mad if I lost the 200," Rude said, "but I was right there with one of the top guys in the state. I don't know if I've ever raced him before, but I've heard about him, and I think we're even after splitting [the 100 and 200]."
The MVP voting came down to Rude and Le-Win's Tevin Sellers; Rude got votes from eight of the coaches, while Sellers picked up six votes.
"I can't believe this; I'm so pumped right now," said Rude, smiling from ear to ear as he accepted the MVP trophy from coach Andy Accardi. "This is such great competition, finally some good weather, and we responded really well, especially since this is only our third outdoor meet of the year."
In a rare Saturday meet for the Comets – "This is the first weekend meet any of us have had, except for state, since middle school," Rude said – they also won the 1,600 relay to close out the meet, beating favorite Le-Win 3:31.66-3:32.58. Oregon was third in 3:32.83.
The team title came down to that final event, with Le-Win's runner-up finish securing an 89-81 win over two-time defending champ Winnebago, which placed eighth in the event. The two were tied heading into the race, and Le-Win came on strong down the backstretch to claim their first Carlson Classic championship.
Bittner was part of all three winning relays for Newman, and he also took third behind Rude and Roby in the 100. Tyler Rockwood was also involved in all three relay wins, while Brady Rude and Nolan McGinn took part in two each.
Oregon placed fourth as a team with 69 points, led by a 1-2 finish from senior Mark Schmidt and junior Ashton Rutherford in the pole vault. Schmidt cleared 13 feet, 6 inches after making 13-even the past two weekends, while Rutherford hit that mark – the state qualifying cut – for the first time this season.
"This is just amazing," said Schmidt, who took time out of working at the concession stand to talk about his winning vault. "Austin McCourt, my partner in crime the past couple years, never had the chance to win the vault at this meet. This means a lot to me, to both of us; to go from not even thinking about vaulting when I came in as a freshman to winning at the Carlson Classic … it's so surreal."
The Hawks also went 1-2 in the high jump, as Jacob Adams and Pierce Dhaese both cleared 6 feet; Adams won with fewer attempts. Oregon placed second in the 3,200 relay (9:28.39), behind winner Rockford Christian (9:23.00).
Erie-Prophetstown took sixth with 55 points, as Nate Andreas won the triple jump (43-6) and Devin Johnson took the long jump (21-10). Johnson's leap was less than 4 inches from the meet record, and he might have broken the 22-1 3/4 set by Rock Falls' Jose Oquendo in 2004 had he taken off at the front of the launch board instead of the back.
"I'm glad I won, but I feel like I've hit a point where I'm on the downslope a little bit," said Johnson, who also finished third in the 400, fourth in the 200 and seventh in the 100. "I want to get off that, get back to running well, and this will provide more motivation for me to start performing better and living up to my own high expectations."
Polo-Forreston placed eighth with 29 points, led by Brian Kraft's win in the 110 hurdles. His time of 15.66 was 15 hundredths of a second faster than runner-up Bryce Holesinger of Fulton (15.81).
"Cleanliness," Kraft said with a smile when asked what the key to his run was. "I avoided hitting any of the hurdles. I got a killer start, then kept things smooth. It's the best day of the year for me, for sure."
Holesinger bounced back to take the 300 hurdles, as his 41.35 was a quarter of a second faster than Le-Win's Tristan Fox (41.60). The Steamers took ninth as a team with 22 points.
"I wanted to make up for the 110s, but I also wanted to keep where I was and see where I'm at against good competition," Holesinger said about his 300 win. "My average is right about 42 seconds, and I wanted to stay right there; eventually, I want to get down to the 39[-second] area, so I wanted to put it all in today and see what happened."
Milledgeville-Eastland and Amboy tied for 13th with six points, and West Carroll failed to score a point at the 21-team meet. A pair of Coopers provided the lone points for the Missiles and Clippers, as Milledgeville's Cooper Pauley was third in the 3,200 (10:45.40) and Amboy's Cooper Nelson took third in the 300 hurdles (42.47).
Boys track & field
Art Carlson Oregon Hawk Classic
Top 6 teams: 1. Le-Win 89 points; 2. Winnebago 81; 3. Newman 72; 4. Oregon 69; 5. Rockford Christian 57; 6. Erie-Prophetstown 55
Meet MVP: Nick Rude, Newman, won 100, 2nd in 200, anchored winning 400 & 800 relays
Local winners: Rude, Newman, 100; Jacob Adams, Oregon, high jump; Nate Andreas, E-P, triple jump; Bryce Holesinger, Fulton, 300 hurdles; Devin Johnson, E-P, long jump; Brian Kraft, Polo-Forreston, 110 hurdles; Mark Schmidt, Oregon, pole vault; Newman 400, 800 & 1,600 relays