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Panthers thrive away from track

Field artillery

Ethan Oleson would like a gold medal to go along with his black belt. A state championship would surely conjure up some inspirational lyrics from Devin Johnson.

Johnson and Oleson are two-fifths of Erie-Prophetstown's field-event state qualifiers. The others are Jon Butts, Jared Cole and Kyle Pannier.

Oleson, a Prophetstown senior who is seeded fourth in the shot put, is not your typical 300-pounder.

"I think something that would surprise a lot of people is that I'm a black belt in tae kwon do," he said. "It helps with my flexibility with throwing, so it actually does help."

Oleson, who owns the shot put school record and placed eighth at state last year, hung up the black belt a few years back.

"I was in it for 4 years," he said. "I quit my freshman year, because I was doing three sports plus tae kwon do. It got pretty hectic."

Johnson, a Prophetstown senior, is an aspiring rapper who goes by the stage name "D.E.V.," which is tattooed on his chest. He's also a 4-year state qualifier. He's a member of the second-seeded 400 and 800 relay teams, he's seeded fifth in the long jump, and he's the No. 23 seed in the 400.

Johnson hopes to have plenty to rap about after state.

"I think I'm going to win this year," he said in a very matter-of-fact way about the long jump. "I don't think there's any reason I shouldn't. I'm going down there to win, and that's what I think is going to happen."

Butts, another Prophetstown senior, is seeded 19th in the discus and a first-time state qualifier. He doesn't have to listen to Jeff Foxworthy jokes to figure out if he might be a redneck; he's a self-proclaimed one.

"My family's a bunch of goofy rednecks," he said. "We go mattress sledding in the middle of the summer and stuff like that. The farmer that's our neighbor hates it."

Butts has come a long way since his humble discus beginnings as a seventh-grader at Huntley Midlde School in DeKalb. In eighth grade, he attended Riverdale before winding up at Prophetstown as a freshman.

"It was kind of weird at first, because I had never touched a disc," Butts said. "Some people say it's just like a Frisbee, but there's a lot to it. It was lot harder that I thought it was."

It's no surpise that Cole, a Prophetstown sophomore, is a pole vaulter. He has three older siblings who competed in the event in which he is seeded 22nd. His brothers, Alex and Matt, and sister, Rebecca, are all in college.

Cole, who will make his state meet debut, made the vault of his young career with his winning effort of 12 feet, 3 inches at sectionals.

"That was my PR by 3 inches, and I cleared it by over 3 inches," he said. "It helps me know that I can get at 12-6 at state, but my goal is 13."

What was different about Cole's sectional performance?

"I was using a new pole," he said. "It's 5 pounds heavier."

Pannier, an Erie junior, also advanced to state in the pole vault by finishing second to Cole at sectionals. Pannier is seeded 28th.

Field harvest

(Panthers' field-event state qualifiers)

Ethan Oleson, shot put, No. 4 seed at 51-6

Devin Johnson, long jump, No. 5 seed at 21-11 1/4

Jon Butts, discus, No. 19 seed at 143-8

Jared Cole, pole vault, No. 22 seed at 12-3

Kyle Pannier, pole vault, No. 28 seed at 11-3

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