CHARLESTON – Drew Thaxton was late to report to the discus throwing area. He had to run to get in the warmups line.
When he got in the circle, things did not go well. And he never did get in sync, failing to make his mark in the event during Friday's Class 2A preliminaries of the boys state track and field finals at Eastern Illinois' O'Brien Stadium.
And sure, he would have loved to have performed much better.
But the Eisenhower senior was still floating from his day's initial event.
Thaxton reached his first goal and more, getting off a throw of 58-0 ¾ in the shot put to set a school record. It also was the day's second best throw behind only defending champion Sam Sikon, who broke his own 2A state record with a 63-6.
“Shot is my first event,” Thaxton said. “So that's really the main thing I was focusing on. If I made it in discus, that would just be a plus.”
The discus? He fouled once and got off a best of 144-5 – four spots out of qualifying for today.
“I don't know. I really don't have too much to say about that,” Thaxton said. “My spin was kind of off. My release was bad. I was opening up early. But hey, I made it in shot.”
That didn't start so well either.
“On my warmup throw, I scratched,” he said. “I threw it out of sector, way out of sector.”
He settled down, got the first throw in and “just went for broke.”
He slipped on the second throw and still got off a 55-foot effort. Then everything went right on his final attempt.
But don't think that because he has the school record and a likely state medal, that Thaxton is completely satisfied.
“It was a good spin, a good release, my speed was right, my form was right,” he said. “But I have more coming tomorrow, most definitely.”
It only takes one
The discus circle also was not kind to Mount Zion's Harley Russell, who came into the day with the third best throw from sectionals.
He was returning to the same circle in which he fouled on all three attempts a year ago.
And he fouled twice on Friday.
But Russell was good enough on his first throw – putting it out there at 157-3 to qualify for today. He sits in fifth place.
Terrence Hill was another athlete wearing a big smile following his event on Friday. Shortly after making a qualifying height in the high jump (6-3), Hill held his own in the fastest heat of the 100-meter dash.
The O'Brien Stadium scoreboard showed the Effingham junior had just posted a 10.90 in his 100 heat. Hill was almost smiling too big to speak.
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“It just feels amazing,” said Hill, who at the time couldn't remember his personal best.
Later the smile turned to relief. Hill's time was actually 11.05 – or more accurately 11.042. And every bit of that time was needed to make today's final nine.
That's because Ronald Reed of MacArthur was also timed in 11.05 and it turned to 11.044.
Reed was optimistic after this heat but knew he could have done more to make sure.
“It's not as fast as I can run,” the junior said, just wanting a chance to make finals so he could “go harder than what I did today.”
Robinson's Joey Wright was carrying a lot of extra weight with him during his two laps around the track.
He was getting aggravated by being unable to break the two-minute mark in the 800.
He was hoping to make longtime coach Tony Cork proud in the final race of his high school career.
Being the only athlete to make girls or boys state track from his high school, it was important to Wright he represent the Maroons well.
And he was still trying to impress college coaches enough to be able to run at a bigger school next season.
Wright can check all those things off as he set a personal best by about two seconds, running the event in 1:57.97. That was the day's fourth fastest time.
Cork retired from coaching Robinson track following this past season after 40 years in charge. But he couldn't stay away completely.
“He stayed around helping the distance runners,” Wright said. “I begged him to stay to stay around. He's a great coach and he knows what he's talking about.
“It was a lot of motivation.”
Now the goal is to medal.
“It feels great. It's been a lot of hard work,” Wright said. “I didn't want to get done with the race and look back 10 years, 20 years from now and say, 'Man, what could I have done. I didn't push myself hard enough.' ”
By a whisker
In the same event, Mattoon's Mitchell Kremer was another to nearly feel the heartbreak of state. But Kremer made the field with a time of 1:59.31.
The last spot in today's finals went to Kyle Rader of Stanford Olympia, who was timed in 1:59.32.
“I was ranked sixth coming into it, and my whole goal was to get to the final,” Kremer said. “Because once I get there, then you just run and don’t have to worry about anything. I feel when I race fast kids, I can hang with them. I was just in a slow heat and didn’t have anyone to push me.”