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No storybook ending: Sterling battles, settles for bronze

STERLING – Near the end of the DuWayne Dietz varsity boys 1,600 relay at the Sterling Night Relays, a Sterling athlete offered anchor runner Cornell Hartz some encouragement.

“Go get that big guy,” he said to Hartz.

The big guy was Rock Island anchor Ben Kochuyt, who held a slim lead over Hartz entering the final 400 meters.

“Just like football,” a Rock Island athlete yelled to Kochuyt.

The physically imposing Kochuyt won his latest battle with Hartz on Friday night, as the Rocks won the race in a time of 3 minutes, 30.99 seconds, a little more than 2 seconds ahead of the Golden Warriors.

Hartz and Kochuyt have hooked up in many duels over the years. Hartz noted it’s about a 50/50 split when it comes to who gets the best of who.

“It’s just a battle, and whoever is feeling it that day usually takes it,” Hartz said. “It was just his turn tonight.”

Sterling finished third in the team standings with 86 points, behind United Township (99) and Rock Island (96). Rock Falls (23) and Dixon (21) occupied the final two spots among eight teams.

The lone first-place finish for Sterling came from the high jump trio of Gaije Fowkes, Hartz and Draque Penaflor, who combined to clear 17 feet, 2 inches. That tied them with United Township.

Second-place finishers for the Golden Warriors were the triple jump threesome of Hartz, Jacob Kirchoff and Fowkes (118-2); the 1,600 team of Penaflor, Diego Aguilar, Andrew Garcia and Hartz (3:33.3); the 3,200 team of Ethan Rocha, Peter DelaFuente, Logan Cheshire and Cody Hansen (8:42.65); and the fresh-soph sprint medley team of Dillon Mikan, DeLaFuente, Cheshire and Cody Lund (3:58.34).

For Rock Falls, the top finish came from the 800 relay team of Adrian Villa, Mason Thompson, Trenden Schwindenhammer and Alex Leaf. They were second in 1:34.61.

Also for the Rockets, the 300 shuttle hurdle team of Travis Johnson, Tanner Mortonson and Matt Mammosser was third in 2:15.59.

Dixon’s highlight came in the 1,600 team race, in which Simon Thorpe, Roy Hummel and Evan Grady teamed up for first place. Thorpe won the race in 4:29.65, Hummel was third in 4:33.25, and Grady was ninth in 4:47.19.

Thorpe was angling for the Dixon school record of 4:20.1, held by Kasey Ferrigan, but the pace wasn’t conducive to record-setting. He completed the first lap in about 65 seconds, behind a pair of slower runners, and the goal the rest of the way was simply to win.

“It would have been pretty tough to run 65 even, and then 64 at the end,” Thorpe said. “In the back of my mind, I knew it wasn’t going to happen tonight.”

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