CHARLESTON, Ill. —DeKalb junior Aidan Donohue ran into a familiar opponent in an unfamiliar venue on Saturday afternoon.
Donahue, a first-time state qualifier, and junior teammate Juan Castro battled against Kaneland junior Austin Adams in the state finals of the Class 3A 800-meter run at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Field.
Unlike the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference meet, when Donahue beat Adams to set a new school record by winning the 800 title, it was a different ending on the famed blue track.
Adams relied on strong kick in the final 50-plus meters to place fourth in a time of 1 minute, 56.48 seconds on Saturday. Donahue finished fifth in a time of 1:56.68, while Castro claimed 12th (2:02.21).
Adams and Castro, running side-by-side, were locked in a battle in the last 75 meters.
“Donahue beat me in conference, but I didn’t know he was next to me (at state)," Adams said. "I just pushed hard.”
Donahue praised Adams for running a strong 800 final.
“Austin is a very good competitor and always gives me a fight,” Donahue said. “My goal was to get on the podium and get top six. I did what I had to do. There was a little tripping in the race and I was almost tripped up early. But I’m so happy, and it was special to run with Juan."
DeKalb senior Jaylen Hobson didn’t top Friday’s preliminary mark of 23 feet, 0.75 inches in the finals, but he managed to walk away with a sixth-place medal in the long jump. Hobson admitted his experience competing at the highest stage in track might cause him to attempt the sport in college.
“I was disappointed that I didn’t jump farther because I wanted to go out with a bang,” Hobson said. “I can’t be upset because I got a personal record."
Kaneland junior Daniel Occhipinti was all smiles after placing ninth in the 1,600 (4:27.07). Competing against Granite City senior Andrew O’Keefe, who won the 1,600 in a time of 4:13.50, allowed Occhipinti to dream of a higher finish next season. Occhipinti finished ninth in the 2A state cross county meet in November.
“I was keeping an eye on the center of the pack and tried to stay within striking distance,” he said. “I’m hoping to return next year and place even higher.”
Nate Bermes fell short of earning a medal by finishing 11th in the pole vault state finals, but he extended Kaneland’s streak to 36 consecutive years with a state qualifier in the event.
Sycamore’s 3,200 relay team made its return trip to the Class 2A state a memorable one. After the Spartans finished 12th last season, Jacob Jovanovich made sure his new teammates would not experience the same disappointment at state.
“Last season at state, I ran the last leg in the state championship and we weren’t happy how we ran as a team,” Jovanovich said. “Our goal this entire season was to get back and medal. As a team, we used that as motivation to get back and redeem ourselves.”
Sycamore’s 3,200 relay team of Carson Cambell, Erik Handel, David Lerohl and Jovanovich accomplished their goal by snaring a seventh-place medal (8:10.32).
“I used last year’s race and letdown to push me harder,” Jovanovich said. “It’s bittersweet that we ran about five seconds faster at sectionals, but nothing is better than taking a medal home.”
“I felt pretty good during the race and tried to pace it out in the first lap and go as fast as I could in the last 200 meters,” Lerohl said. “I’m happy with how I ran in the finals."
Sycamore’s Griffin Nelson missed the medal stand by two spots, placing 11th in the discus with a top heave of 148 feet, 5 inches.