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DIXON, STERLING AND ROCK FALLS, IL
December 20, 2014 Cloudy, 32F

Boys state track: Local teams eyeing team state hardware

CHARLESTON – When Class 1A team hardware from the boys state track and field meet is distributed Saturday afternoon, Erie-Prophetstown, Newman and Oregon could be right in the mix to bring some home.

The Panthers qualified for the finals in seven events, tied for the most with Pleasant Plains. Newman is next with six qualifiers, while Oregon is in a group of five squads with five finalists following Thursday's preliminary round at O'Brien Stadium on the campus of Eastern Illinois University.

That gives each of those teams the best chance to earn one of three trophies awarded at the end of Saturday's finals.

"We've talked about the team aspect," Newman senior sprinter Nick Rude said, "but that's not going to be a goal until the end of Saturday when we know we have a shot. It's the unspoken thing. We all think about it, but nobody says anything. We'll just see where we're at Saturday."

Erie-Prophetstown was led by versatile senior Devin Johnson, who qualified in four events. He soared 21 feet, 11 inches in the long jump, second only to Chester's Kyle Landon, who went 22-1 3/4.

In the 400, Johnson was seventh among nine finalists with a time of 50.57. Monmouth-Roseville's Martel Hunter had the top time of 48.97.

Both of the Panthers' sprint relays also advanced. The 400 team of Darius Owens, Nate Andreas, Chris Bauer and Johnson finished in 43.65, while the same foursome was clocked in 1:30.77 in the 800 relay. Both will enter the finals as the third seed.

Three more E-P athletes moved on individually. They were Owens in the 200 (22.58), Ethan Oleson in the shot put (47-9) and Jon Butts in the discus (140-6).

Rude is leading the way for Newman by qualifying for four events. Highlighting his and the sprint crew's effort was a time of 42.77 in the 400 relay, breaking the school record of 42.8 at the Bureau Valley Sectional this past Friday. Brady Rude, Maison Bittner, Tyler Rockwood and Nick Rude teamed up for the feat.

The 800 team of Brady Rude, Bittner, Nolan McGinn and Nick Rude finished with a time 1:29.91. Both of Newman's sprint relays will enter the finals as the fastest qualifiers.

"Everything's going good," Nick Rude said. "We really just focused on making finals, and so far we've made the finals in all the sprints. We're doing our job today, but the goals will change when Saturday comes around."

Individually, Nick Rude will have his work cut out in the sprints. In the 100, he had a time of 10.98, second to Monmouth-Roseville's Hunter, who won in 10.92.

In the 200, Rude was fifth in 22.13. Rockford Lutheran's Tarence Roby is the top qualifier in 21.86. They were in the same heat.

"I was going to try to catch him on the curve, but he's a good 200 runner," Rude said. "I gave it all I had. I'm not disappointed, as long as I made the finals."

Bittner also had a big day for the Comets. He qualified for the finals in the 100 with a time of 11.02, behind just Hunter, Rude and Madison's Carvel Dixon.

Bittner also anchored the 1,600 relay team to a time of 3:28.88, outdueling Robinson's Blake Hale in a back-and-forth tussle down the backstretch. Robinson finished in 3:28.90.

"On the back turn, I could hear [Hale]," Bittner said. "It's hard to run your race when you're in the lead, because you don't know where everyone's at. You don't know if you're going too slow or too fast. My kick is when I make that last turn, and I was able to hold him off. It felt good."

Brady Rude, Rockwood and Alex DeForest ran the first three legs of the 1,600 relay for Newman.

Relays were supposed to be the strength of Oregon's team, and the Hawks delivered by advancing to the finals in all four. The 400 team of Ashton Rutherford, Jacob Adams, Tommy McCormick and Nick Newman finished in 43.85 to earn the fifth seed entering the finals, while the 800 team of Adams, Pierce Dhaese, McCormick and Nick Newman was clocked at 1:31.87. They enter the finals seeded seventh.

The 1,600 team of Trevor Otten, Dhaese, McCormick and Garrett Newman posted a time of 3:28.02, behind just Lena-Winslow, which had a 3:27.73.

The Hawks and Panthers staged a memorable battle in that race at the Oregon Sectional, with Oregon prevailing in a time of 3:25.3. McCormick is looking forward to another encounter with Le-Win.

"It really helped to push us to get that better time," McCormick said. "Come Saturday, we'll be ready to do that again."

Oregon's 3,200 team of Garrett Newman, Austin Burkhart, Adam Weller and Otten had a time of 8:17.54 and will enter the finals seeded sixth.

Individually for the Hawks, Mark Schmidt was one of 14 vaulters to clear 13-0.

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