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CHARLESTON — As soon as Boston Stewart came around the final turn in the 800-meter dash and passed Charlie Clay of Evanston Beacon Academy, he knew.

Stewart's pass put him in second place in his heat and he figured he had enough left in the tank to zip past Carlinville's Jacob Landon. So, Stewart, a St. Teresa senior, kicked it up a gear and made the pass on Thursday at O'Brien Stadium at Eastern Illinois University in the preliminary round of the Class 1A Boys State Track and Field meet.

He finished the race in 1 minute, 57.73 seconds to give him the top overall time entering Saturday's final.

Less than an hour later, Stewart doubled back and found yet another kick late in the 400-meter run to win that heat as well in 50.17 seconds to advance to the finals in another race.

It's all a process for Stewart, who didn't run his sophomore season after sitting out per IHSA transfer rules or his junior season after an ankle injury that doctors feared could threaten his career altogether.

“I’m speechless," Stewart said. "At the beginning of the year, I didn’t think this would be the outcome of it. I’m just amazed."

He knew he'd be nervous for his first race at the state track meet. He could begin to feel it last week at the Sullivan Sectional. He was spot on, but it didn't faze him.

“The was the most nervous I’ve ever been coming into this race, but once I started I just started to run my race," he said. "I didn’t really know I was going to be able to catch him at the end, but it kind of just happened. It felt normal."

Klein zooms to finals

Cody Klein zipped past a group of photographers after the 100-meter dash.

"Excuse me," he said in a light-hearted way. He then pointed into the stands at his coach in celebration.

After not running track his first three years of high school, he gave it a shot as a senior and took the preliminary meet round by storm.

Klein won his heats in the 100, 200 and on the 4x100-meter relay team. He's also on the finals-qualifying 4x200-meter relay team. Klein, a Pana senior, has the fastest seed time in the 100 (10.75 seconds), second fastest in the 200 (22.65) and the the 4x100 team has the third fastest time entering finals (43.35).

“It’s not normal at all," Klein said of the success after a three-year hiatus from the sport. "I wasn’t expecting any of it. I was expecting to get the records and that would be it. I didn’t know 10.8 would be this good in state. It’s pretty awesome."

He saw the seed times in the 100. "That's speed right there," he thought. He wasn't sure how he was going to fare, but he fits right in.

"It’s going to be hard," he thought. "But that’s one one day. This is any given day. It can happen any time. I was just runnin’ and hoping for the best."

Target on Tedford's back

Last year when Warrensburg-Latham's got to the state track meet, Jorden Tedford was under-the-radar. Few expected the wiry, laid-back high jumper to win the event. Of course, he captivated the crowd and did win in Class 1A.

This season is different. Tedford knows that. If he's bothered, he doesn't show it. He shrugged off any notion of being bothered by being the state's top dog.

“No one knew I was coming," Tedford said. "Now everybody knows I’m coming. I have a target on my back, I guess."

He advanced to Saturday's finals in the high jump, triple jump and on the 4x200-meter relay team. He jumped 43 feet, 1 inch in the triple, which he's actually approaching with a bit of form now. He took 12th last year on raw athleticism.

“I'm not winging it as much," he said. "I’m getting my marks down and actually jumping."

The 4x200 team of Tedford, Jarius Ingram, Addison Hortin and Will Kent finished their race in 1:31.61 to advance to Saturday. Kent turned in a huge leg. He's a first-year high school track runner, joining the team by way of a little peer pressure and a little bit of, "Hey, why not?"

The rest of his relay team is clad in track medals. Kent wants his, as well.

“It’d mean everything," he said. "It’s my first year of track in high school. Everybody else has had a state championship on my relay team. It probably means a little more to me than everybody else, but everything is great."

Maroa-Forsyth seniors get to Saturday

The case of Noah Holthaus, Justin Livingood and Harlan Kupferschmid are tricky.

Each did four years of track at Maroa-Forsyth. Until Thursday, neither of them had punched their tickets to Saturday's final.

That changed on Thursday. First, Holthaus advanced in the 110-meter high hurdles with a time of 15.17, good for fifth entering Saturday. Later, he advanced in the 300 hurdles with a time of 40.68.

“It finally feels like everything you put in for four years start paying off in your last year doing it," Holthaus said. "It all makes sense."

Kupferschmid was advanced on the 4x400-meter relay team, the final race of the day, with a time of 3:27.92. Kupferschmid wasn't ready to take any credit, despite a stellar third leg.

He deferred to runners like Ben Gilbert, who also was on the advancing 4x200-meter team, ran in the 4x1 and did the long jump. Kupferschmid pointed to Braden Crosby who was also on that 4x2 team and ran in three total races. Then Kupferschmid nodded to Wade Jostes, who gave up his spot on the 4x4 at sectionals because Kupferschmid was a better bet to lead them to state.

“I’m here and I’m happy I made it so I can get a little taste of it before I leave high school," Kupferschmid said. "I give credit to these guys. It’s incredibly tough to do what they do."

Justin Livingood and Wade Jostes rounded out the advancing 4x2 team. Livingood, like the other seniors, hadn't ran on Saturday in his career.

“All this hard work coming together feels like what we deserve," he said.

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Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25

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