CHARLESTON – Bryce Holesinger headed toward a gate, a cup of water in his hand and a broad smile across his face.
Waiting were a group of friends and teammates. An announcement came over the loudspeaker that said he was one of the finalists in the 300 hurdles.
"All hail Bryce," one of the Steamer throng said, and Holesinger was soon swallowed up in a wave of backslapping and high-fiving.
Holesinger is among a strong contingent of area athletes who thrived on a trying day at the 1A state track meet at O'Brien Stadium on the campus of Eastern Illinois University.
Holesinger will be joined in Saturday's finals by athletes from Morrison, Erie-Prophetstown, Bureau Valley and Oregon.
Holesinger has battled a right hip injury this season, and he aggravated it at the Three Rivers Meet 10 days ago.
As the state meet approached, however, Holesinger started to feel better. It showed with a strong anchor leg in the 800 relay, in which he teamed with Rodney Gossard, Jason Osborn and Devin Kuehl to post a time of 1:31.24, good enough to advance to the finals.
The 300 hurdles came after a lengthy lightning delay, and when the weather finally cleared up, Holesinger was ready to go. He blazed to a time of 39.69, third-best in the field, and a personal best by .11 of a second.
It also eclipsed the Fulton record of 39.7, set by Matt Ottens in 2004.
"Coming off the [800 relay], which is going to finals, I think if I would have ran after that first delay, I would have been faster," Holesinger said. "I had so much adrenaline then."
Erie-Prophetstown advanced in three relays. Posting season-best times were the 400 team of Jack Bauer, Dvaree Thompson, Grant Ames and Chris Bauer (43.26), and the 1,600 foursome of Kyle Pannier, Chris Bauer, Thompson and Ames (3:26.74).
The 800 team overcame a bad exchange between the No. 2 runner, Pannier, and the No. 3 runner, Thompson, to gain a finals spot with a time of 1:31.28.
Chris Bauer overtook the anchor runner from Chicago Leo early in the final leg, and Leo later ended up getting disqualified from the event.
"I knew I had to do that," Bauer said of his early burst. "[Leo was] quite a ways ahead, and their anchor looked like he was the weaker leg. I just took advantage of that, and was able to get first place in our heat."
Morrison senior Ryan Mayberry qualified in his three events, the 100 (11.36), 200 (22.76), and 400 (50.13).
The 400 was his top time by .36 of a second. He grabbed the final spot in the 200 finals field when one of the favorites, Madison's Andre McGill, was disqualified from his heat.
"I was only looking to make it in one, for sure," Mayberry said. "My best chance was the 400, and I made it in that. The 100, I made it out of lane 8, and that was because of my start, mostly."
Bureau Valley moved on in a pair of relays. The 3,200 team of Kane Eastwood, Ryan Taylor, Colton Peterson and Daniel Trone finished third in their heat with a time of 8:09.63. They sliced nearly 3 seconds off their sectional time.
"We looked at that third place, and we were kind of upset," Trone said, "but you look up at the clock, and we're happy to do that. We cut down time, and that's awesome. I'm proud of my guys."
The 1,600 team of Trone, Tucker Schoff, Peterson and Eastwood advanced with a time of 3:27.85.
The lone Oregon finalist is Troy Pudlas, who hurled the discus 156 feet, 7 inches on his second of three attempts.
• Erie-Prophetstown 400, 800, 1,600 relays
• Ryan Mayberry, Morrison 100, 200, 400
• Troy Pudlas, Oregon discus
• Bryce Holesinger, Fulton 300 hurdles
• Fulton 800 relay
• Bureau Valley 1,600, 3,200 relays