BLOOMINGTON — The sound of Rantoul Township High School indoor school track records breaking could almost be heard in Rantoul. On both the boys and the girls level. All the way from Illinois Wesleyan University’s Shirk Center in Bloomington.
Last indoor meet of the year
The Top Times Meet, while not officially recognized as the indoor state finals by the Illinois High School Association, it is the final indoor meet of the year and it is quite simply, by invitation only. You have to register a time, distance or height worthy of being invited to the meet.
"I told the boys that Donnell Robertson would definitely be watching from above today, so lets give him a good show," said Mitch Wilson, the boy’s track coach, referencing the Eagle track star, who died in 2018.
The "show" on the track started immediately with the 3,200-meter relay. But, the Mye’Joi’ Williams might have beaten the boys to the awards stand with her school record throw in the indoor shot put.
Hall, Harper, Gossett and Cunningham break records
Elijah Hall, Jerry Harper, Jonathan Gossett and Kayon Cunningham dashed to the finish line in the 3,200-meter relay in eight minutes, 22.70 seconds. The four crushed the former indoor school record of 8:39.27 set in 2018. The former school record was held by the same four athletes. The senior, who is second on the indoor leaderboard in the 800-meter run, found himself boxed in for some of his first leg. Once the senior middle distance runner emerged from being boxed in, he took the lead, promptly running a 2:03.2 split.
"That was a little aggravating," said Hall about being boxed in."Once I was able to get free, I just wanted the lead. Third is great. I knew coming in, we could do better than our ranking."
While his split was the Class 2A best, the senior handed off to someone even faster in all-state 400-meter runner Jerry Harper. Harper had the fastest split on the relay, handing off after circling the track four times in 2:02.1.
"As far as the school record, I thought we would get it," said Harper. "I remember the last time, we set the school record, we were finishing alone."
The other two legs were run by Jonathan Gossett, who runs distance events most of the time, and Kayon Cunningham, who is like Harper, a sprinter/middle distance runner. Gossett finished in 2:07.8, while Cunningham finished his leg in 2:09.6.
That was the first of three school records as Elijah Hall and Jerry Harper both had to turn around in short order and compete in individual events.
Hall ran an even faster time in the 800-meter run about one hour later. He finished the race in 2:02.93, which is the second fastest indoor time in RTHS history.
"Elijah ran inspired, not only in the relay, but in the 800 as well," said Wilson. "He missed placing by one spot. I don’t know how many of those athletes were on fresh legs either."
Harper had a bit more rest, but 1 hour and 45 minutes later, he returned for the 400-meter dash, finishing second overall. He finished in :50.86, losing only to Thornridge senior Davon Bolden, who finished in :50.47.
"My goal was to win it, but I came up a little bit short," said Harper. "During outdoor, I am just going to take it meet-by-meet and hopefully, but the third outdoor meet, I will be in the 48’s."
Buford breaks 200-meter dash record
The third and final school record run by the boys was posted by Robert Buford. He finished seventh in the 200-meter dash, breaking the tape at :23.09. The three top times belong to athletes performing on the team at the present time. Jerry Harper owns the old school record at :23.6. Buford also competed in the 60-meter dash, finishing in :07.28.
Dillion Harper also competed in the 200-meter dash, finishing in :23.99.
The 800-meter relay had a mishap when Cunningham fell during the second leg. The sprinter left the track under is own power.
"I am pleased that Kayon was ok," said Wilson. "I think we would have finished very high up in the 800-meter relay as well. I think we could have very well won it."
Rantoul girls also break records and earn medals
The girls collected seven medals with Tanaya Young was exceptional on the track, but earned her highest medal in the field.
"Indoor is a great deal of fun, but we are looking forward to the outdoor season," said Ben Hankes, the girl’s head coach. "The outdoor track season is what track is all about. We want to be the best we can be at the end of the year. We will use the season to get ready for the big three: conference, sectionals and finally, state."
The sophomore entered the competition ranked second in the state and finished as she was ranked. She recorded a leap of 18 feet, 4.5 inches. The winning jump of 19-9.5 was posted by Springfield Southeast senior Serena Bolden.
"I am pleased with second place," said Young. "I came into this and wanted to finish with a personal best jump. I did that by two inches today. I concentrated on my form and technique. To be successful during the outdoor season, I need to get my knees higher and explode better."
She also earned two track medals and was only one place away from earning a fourth. She took fourth in the 60-meter dash and sixth in the 200-meter dash. She finished with respective times of :07.92 and :26.07.
The other race the sophomore was a part of was the 800-meter relay. The team of India Emery, Shanyla Stawder, Montyiona Walker and Young as the anchor leg, finished seventh with a time of 1:49.17. They earned seventh place medals.
"We also ran our best time of the indoor season in the relay," said Young. The handoffs were pretty good today."
Lovenya Perry finished with two medals and a school record in the 800-meter run. Perry, who is also a sophomore, finished third in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:21.80. She broke a 28-year old school record set in 1991 by Amy Bersig. Bersig ran a time of 2:26.4.
"I am happy to be the new school record holder," said Perry. "I wish the 400-meter would have gone a little better. I am confident that I will do well in outdoor. The 800-meter is not my preferred race."
Perry took fifth in the 400-meter dash, which was held only 45 minutes later. She finished in 1:00.22.
"I was tired in the 400-meter" said Perry. "I wanted to do a bit better. I need to work on my breathing a little bit and work hard in practice."
In the shot put, Mye’joi Williams recorded a throw of 41-7 to earn second place. Jayden Ulrich of East Alton Wood River recorded a toss of 42-5.5 to win the title.
"Mye’joi just does her thing day in and day out," said Hankes. "She is really becoming a student of the sport. That is really important for high-level athletes especially if she wants to compete and the next level."