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Boys track and field: Sycamore's Weckerly wins state in discus to be Athlete of Year

SYCAMORE – Sycamore senior Connor Weckerly waited with a small towel wrapped around his eyes.

After coming into the final discus throws of the Class 2A Boys Track and Field State Meet with the top mark of 176 feet, 10 inches, Weckerly couldn’t watch as he waited to see whether his distance held up against three of the best throwers in the state.

He didn’t watch as Carbondale’s Sam Sikon, who was the two-time defending state champion, threw a 172-9, or as Roxana’s Jordan Hawkins scratched. Weckerly decided to uncover his eyes and watch as Kaneland’s Clayton Hannula, a friendly rival who had beaten him during the season, failed to get past 170 feet on his final attempt.

With that, Weckerly became a state champion.

“That was stressful,” said Weckerly, who is the Daily Chronicle 2017 Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year. “It was my second-to-last throw (that he threw a 176-10) so I wasn’t as stressed after that one because I still had one more left, so I figured if somebody beats mine I still have one more to try and beat that.

“Then my last throw was my furthest throw, but I scratched and it was my first unintentional scratch of the year, so that was cool. Then I had to watch those three guys throw, so I wrapped a towel around my head. I was just listening to how far they threw.”

After growing up in Sycamore, his family moved to Baraboo, Wisconsin, on the first day of his freshman year. Three years later, Weckerly came back to Sycamore as a type of Paul Bunyan figure – a 6-foot-6, 290-pound senior who had committed to Ole Miss for track and field and quickly broke the school record in the discus.

He also made one heck of a first impression on Sycamore throwing coach Daryl Graves.

“When he came back and I watched him throw for the first time, I was like, ‘Holy cow.’ I mean, it was like nothing I’ve ever seen come off somebody’s hand. It was incredible,” Graves said. “I think there was a lot of pressure on him. He came into Sycamore and he was already refined. There wasn’t a whole lot I could do with him, other than get him on the bus and get him to the right track meet on time.”

For Weckerly, it was an up-and-down season. At the Gib Seegers Classic, he threw a season-best 181-8 – which Graves said was when he knew a state title was a real possibility for Weckerly. However, two weeks later at the Northern Illinois Invite, he only threw a 168-0.

He came into the Class 2A state meet tied for the third-best sectional mark (165-6) but headed into the state finals in fourth place with a mark of 166-3 during a windy day in the preliminaries.

On his second-to-last throw of the finals, he beat his prelim mark by more than 10 feet with the eventual state winning distance of 176-10 and managed to survive. Graves said Weckerly looked like he “had been there before” after becoming the third Sycamore track and field athlete to win state, calmly shaking the hands of the other competitors. For Weckerly, actually winning the state title felt surreal at the time.

“It feels good but different in a way because in my head I pictured there’d be a big celebration because I forgot the part where you have to shake everybody’s hand and go get the medal,” he said. “It still feels like this is all a dream and it feels fake at first until you actual get the medal and you feel it’s real.”

As for the celebrating, while Weckerly played it cool on the outside, the same couldn’t be said for his mother, Sandie.

“I think she yelled after my second throw, she like screamed,” Weckerly said. “After I won I heard her and my dad yelling and then I walked over to Graves and she came up and screamed and hugged me. It was just yelling. I couldn’t recognize anything she was saying, it was just straight yelling. I was like, ‘You need to calm down, Mom.’ ”

DeKalb Daily Chronicle 2017 Boys Track and Field All-Region Team
Athlete of the Year
Connor Weckerly, sr., Sycamore
First Team
Tristan Bujarski, jr., DeKalb – One of the top sprinters in the area, Bujarski had a season-best time of 11.04 seconds in the 100-meter dash at the Gib Seegers Classic in Sycamore. He was also a key leg of the Barbs' 400-meter and 800-meter relays. The 400 relay qualified for the Class 3A state meet.
Michael Gaston, fresh., Indian Creek – Gaston burst onto the scene in his first prep season by being the only member of the Timberwolves to qualify for the Class 1A state meet. After running a season-best 11.38 in the 100-meter dash at the Class 1A Bureau Valley Sectional, he ran 11.87 at state.
Cody Delarme, sr., Kaneland – The Knights' 400-meter and 800-meter relays both qualified for the Class 2A state meet and Delarme was a major reason behind that. He anchored both relays, which narrowly missed out on making the finals – the 800 relay took 11th in the prelims and the 400 relay took 12th. He also had season-best marks of 20 feet, 10 inches in the long jump and 51.0 in the 400-meter run.
Evan Jacobs, sr., Sycamore – Jacobs got hot at the right time, posting his two best times of the year at the Class 2A state meet. After running the 800-meter run in 1:56.24 in the prelims, he ran 1:54.59 in the finals to be the state runner-up and break the Sycamore school record. He was also on the Spartans' 3,200-meter relay, which took eighth at state.
Matt Richtman, jr., Kaneland – Richtman made plenty of school history this season, becoming the first Knight to medal in the 3,200-meter run, participate in both the 1,600-meter run and 3,200 at state and break the school record in both distance events. He ran 9:23.46 to be the state runner-up in the 3,200 and took seventh place in the 1,600.
Tanner Chada, sr., Hinckley-Big Rock – Chada became the first track and field athlete in Hinckley-Big Rock history to win a state championship, when he took the top prize in the 1,600-meter run at the Class 1A state meet. He finished with a time of 4:18.35 in the mile after being the state runner-up in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 9:16.28.
Stephen Poorten, jr., Sycamore – Poorten only competed late in the season after a foot injury from cross country sidelined him for most of track. However, when he came back he made an impact by qualifying for state in the 3,200-meter run and eventually took sixth place in Class 2A in the event, finishing with a time of 9:33.49.
Drew Gould, jr., Kaneland – The versatile Gould was the fourth-leading point getter for the Knights, who finished in third place as a team at the Class 2A state meet. Individually, Gould qualified for state in the 110-meter hurdles, running a season-best time of 15.28 at the Class 2A Rochelle Sectional. He also had a season-best mark of 6-1 in the high jump.
Zuerek Day, sr., DeKalb – Day had a meteoric rise at the Class 3A state meet in the 300-meter hurdles. He came into the week with the 19th best sectional time in the event before qualifying for the finals with the seventh-fastest time in prelims. During finals, he broke a school record and took third place with a time of 38.15. He was also a part of the Barbs' 400-meter relay that qualified for the state meet.
Danny Walker, sr., Kaneland – The best pole vaulter in the area, Walker won the Class 2A Rochelle Sectional with a mark of 15-3 before being the state runner-up with a 14-6. He collected plenty of championships, setting a Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference Meet record to close out a prep career that featured a state championship his sophomore year.
AJ Petersen, sr., DeKalb – Petersen dealt with a serious illness during the season but still managed to have a season-best mark of 13-7 in the pole vault. A two-time Class 3A state meet qualifyer, Petersen finished in third place in pole vault at the Northern Illinois Big 12 meet with his mark of 13-7.
Brian Ross, jr., DeKalb – Ross was one of the top jumpers in the area this season. At the Gib Seegers Classic in Sycamore, he posted a season-best mark of 6-5 in the high jump.Two weeks later, he took the crown in the event at the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference Meet, winning with a mark of 6-4.
Clayton Hannula, jr., Kaneland – Hannula was a major reason why the Knights finished in third place as a team at the Class 2A state meet. He finished in third place in both the shot put and discus at state and was the leading point scorer for Kaneland this season. He won the Class 2A Rochelle Sectional in both throwing events.
Trey Wideman, jr., Sycamore – Wideman started the season by throwing a 159-6 in the discus at the Ottawa ABC Invitational in the first meet of the season, which broke a school record before teammate Connor Weckerly overtook him in the following meet. Wideman also qualified for the Class 2A state meet by throwing 146-4 at the Rochelle Sectional.
Honorable mention
Connor Farrell, sr., Sycamore; Keonte McKinnie, jr., DeKalb; Jack O'Sullivan, jr., Kaneland; Dan Guardi, sr., Genoa-Kingston; Issac Vasquez, soph., Genoa-Kingston; Adam Rivas, sr., Kaneland; Matt Noel, sr., Kaneland
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