CHARLESTON – Hinckley-Big Rock senior high jumper Bill Weissinger knows the feeling of clearing height after height at the state meet as competitors dwindle and the pressure builds.
As a sophomore two years ago, he cleared 6-foot-6, still his personal best, to finish in third place in Class 1A. The top five jumpers that season were sophomores, so he’s built a kinship with his competitors at the state meet, where he’s already medaled twice.
After clearing 6-3 in Thursday’s Class 1A preliminaries, he’ll compete in Saturday’s finals once again, and he’ll look to that experience to help carry him through..
“It definitely gives me a lot of experience because they’re still a lot of the same guys,” Weissinger said. “There’s still a lot of the same guys, so we’ve developed a friendship among us all, a bunch of guys who have been here since sophomore year, so we kind of push each other and that kind of helps.”
Weissinger cleared the qualifying height Thursday despite battling shin splints. Injuries have made his track career a constant struggle, but he made the medal stand last season by finishing ninth after pulling his hamstring.
He’ll take today to rest his ailing shins before competing at 10 a.m. Saturday as one of 12 finalists in the high jump. The top nine will medal.
“[The state meet] definitely brings everything out of you,” Weissinger said. “Hopefully, I’ll give it all I’ve got on Saturday and maybe get up around that mark again.”
Weissinger was the only area athlete to qualify for the finals on Thursday, when only Class 1A athletes competed. Indian Creek senior Jake Gullstrand wasn’t able to repeat his all-state performance of last year after finishing the 400 in 52.03.
H-BR senior Jared Madden finished the 300 hurdles in 41.51, just more than half of a second out of a spot in the finals.
Madden didn’t have the benefit of the experience that Weissinger had. The all-area basketball and soccer player went out for high school track for the first time this season, and only began racing the 300 hurdles midway through the year.
Thursday was only the fifth time Madden ran the race, and he ran his second-best time of the season despite jumping over one hurdle with the wrong lead leg.
“I’ve figured out how to run this a little better,” Madden said. “[This season] was pretty much the first time I’ve gone over a hurdle since the eighth grade.”
Hinckley-Big Rock coach Greg Burks was pleasantly surprised with how Madden performed this season in a race that takes speed, endurance, experience, and a little luck.
“It’s the most unpredictable race on the track,” Burks said. “I just thought that was a great story this year. A guy that came out his senior year to help out some teammates from his fellow sports … A little over halfway through the season, he decided that maybe he should try the 300 hurdles … He didn’t quite match his sectional time, but it was easily his second best time of the year.”