Keyhea was stronger, faster and about five inches taller. Etherton could see the possibilities.
"(Christian's) development is going well. Part of it was the amount of time he put in the weight room during COVID. He was working on getting himself bigger and stronger, and he's grown a lot over the last year, so that helped," Etherton said. "He has worked hard to get himself prepared. We noticed he was faster in the spring than he had been and we knew it was going to benefit him in football and it has definitely benefited him in track."
Keyhea had another outstanding year on the gridiron, leading the Braves with 700 yards receiving on 25 catches (28 yards per catch average) and 11 touchdowns. On the track, Keyhea was one of four Class 2A runners in Illinois to crack 11 seconds in the 100 meter dash this year and he is seeded No. 2 at Friday's state tournament at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
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Keyhea faced off against Tolono Unity's Kyle Burgoni, who is seeded No. 1 in the 100, at sectionals last week and finished second with a time of 10.95 to Burgoni's 10.71. Although he did win, the experience was helpful for him.
"Burgoni is really fast and has had the top time in the state in the 100 all year. We knew how fast he was going into the sectional and he ran well," Etherton said. "It was good for Christian to see that type of kid and see that kind of speed because it prepares him for what to expect at state. From Christian's time to the next eight people there really isn't that much difference. He's going to go out and get a good start and run a good race and who knows what could happen."
Keyhea also joins Jacob Baten, Kemper Koslofski and Matthias Adams in the 4x200 relay and will run the anchor leg. Braves sophomore Sam Atkinson will be running in the 800 meters and sophomore Kyle Hensley and senior Reid McNeil will both compete in the pole vault.
"Sam has been running really well and has really come on at the end of the year. He ran a great time and won the sectional," Etherton said. "It is nice to have two good pole vaulters and they have worked extremely hard. Both of them have done well and Reid will go and pole vault at Augustana and play football there next season. It is great for them to have each other and great for me as a coach to have two really great pole vaulters."
Friday's forecast for Charleston calls for a high temperature of 100 degrees, adding another dimension to the state competition. Etherton will send his pole vaulters separately to minimize the runners' time in the heat.
"(Kyle and Reid) are pole vaulting early so they are going over in one bus with the poles so they will be ready to go. The guys that are running, we will bring them over in a mini bus that is air conditioned," Etherton said. "We will stay out of the heat as much as possible and bring lots of water and hope for a breeze. We will be smart about it and keep them in the shade and minimize their time in the sun. It shouldn't take much to warm-up this year.
"With this crazy year, I am pretty proud of our guys with how it has worked out and they have put themselves in good positions to compete for some state championships."
Gilbert leads strong Maroa team
Maroa-Forsyth sprinter Ben Gilbert enters Thursday's Class 1A Boys State Track and Field Meet as the second fastest sprinter in the 200 meters (22.46) after claiming the sectional title last week. He's seeded fourth in the 100 meters (11.04) and leads the Trojans 4x100 (Gilbert, Jameson Allen, Wade Jostes and Bryson Boes) and 4x200 relay (Gilbert, Allen, Jostes and Kile Campbell) teams, which are seeded third and fourth, respectively.
"Ben is running really well and he's got a shot in the 100, 200 and the 4x100 and 4x200. He's a special little dude. I tell everyone, if he was 6-0, 200 pounds he would be picking whatever school he wanted to go to," Maroa-Forsyth boys track and field coach Josh Jostes said. "He is getting faster and faster and I think it is maturity and spending years in the program. He's healthy and that's a big deal as well. Ben is a competitor. I've been watching him line up since he was a fourth grader and he has grown into his own and put in the time."
Long-distance runner Brock Richards will compete in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters as well as in the 4x400 relay (Allen, Jostes, Richards and Austin Miller) for the Trojans. Brothers Charlie Gentle, a freshman, and Rob Gentle, a junior, will both compete in pole vault as Maroa could compete for an overall team championship.
"I feel like both of our pole vaulters have a shot. I feel like Charlie can hit 14 feet and Rob can hit 13 feet and that will place probably about third and fifth," Josh Jostes said. "We would love to have those points because we are competing against St. Joseph-Ogden. They have been No. 1 all year and will be tough to top. Our guys have to come out and do their best and we could have a chance."
Other athletes in contention
In Class 1A, Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond's Layton Hall is the No. 2 seed in the 3,200 meters and the No. 5 seed in the 1,600. Meridian's Drew Hurelbrink is the No. 1 seed in the high jump and will battle Arcola's Beau Edwards, who is seeded fourth. Warrensburg-Latham's Jake Sarver is seeded fourth in the triple jump.
The senior sprinter had medaled twice already on Thursday — a bronze medal in the 100 meters and a silver in the 4x200 relay — and he needed a little extra to finish off the 200, his fourth race of the day.
Maroa-Forsyth's Ben Gilbert (22) runs the ball in the first quarter against Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin. Gilbert will be in contention for a state title in the 100 and 200 meter dashes at the Class 1A Boys State Track and Field Meet.