On Saturday, the Rantoul boys track team got off to a fast start at its fourth indoor track meet, to say the least.

The 2019 First to the Finish Rantoul Indoor Invite got to a hot start for the Eagles when they obtained first place in the second section of the 4x800-meter relay, finishing with a time of 8:32.44, which broke a school record. The previous record was 8:39.

Elijah Hall, Jerry Harper, Jonathan Gossett and Kayon Cunningham ran in the relay.

"We saw our time coming in, and we figured that we had a good shot of winning that event," said Mitch Wilson, Rantoul’s head coach. "We’ve had a lot of guys run the open 800. In these last few weeks, we thought we should put them all together in the relay and see how they do. They showed up and ran well today."

A key moment in the relay was when Harper, who was Rantoul’s second runner, closed the gap between the two runners in front of him, giving his team a small lead when he handed the baton to Gossett. Hall took care of the rest and dashed to the finish line with room to spare, as second place went to St. Teresa, which finished nine seconds later with a time of 8:41.89.

"I was just trying to run as fast as I could because I knew there was a guy between me and the next guy," Hall said. "I was just trying to put as much distance as I could between us. We all do what we need to do, which is work together."

The wins didn’t stop there for the Eagles, as the team went on to win first place in both of its sections for the 4x200-meter relay (1:35.93) and the 4x400-meter relay (3:38.04). Rantoul completed a total sweep of all three relay races, making it the first for this year.

"We talked all week that our top-tier guys are going to have to compete well in order for us to score a lot of points," Wilson said. "They have been coming out and doing pretty well."

Dillion Harper, Tayon Swift, Treven Lewis and Robert Buford ran in the 4x200 relay. Both Harper and Buford also broke their personal records running in the relay, Harper finished his round at a time of 23.5 seconds, and Buford finished with 23.3 seconds.

Harper said his teammates got him through the right place at the right time, when he was given the baton and able to take the lead from Danville runner, Eric Turner. Danville ended up finishing third in the meter relay at a final time of 1:36.72. "In my mind, I was like I got to catch him; he is right there," Harper said. "So, I just went around him and took first place right there. I’m just glad we got first for it."

Hall wasn’t done after the 4x800 relay. He ran in both the 4x400-meter relay, helping Rantoul finish first, and the 800-meter run, where he finished fifth. Hall’s final time for the 800-meter run was 2:05.13, which barely beats his previous personal record of 2:05.94.

"I’m happy with it," Hall said. "I just want to keep on cutting down time. My goal for the end of the season is to get down to 1:59 or faster."

Another notable performance was Rantoul’s Juan Aguayo, who ran the 800-meter run along with teammate Dahinte Thompson. Aguayo finished second (2:26.24), and Thompson came in fifth place for the race. For Aguayo, it was his first 800-meter run.

"The coach was giving me advice on how to start, and I followed it," Aguayo said. "He puts us in events he thinks that we will score points on. He bases that off of how we perform in practice." Rantoul finished second as a team with 57 points behind Thorton Fractional (68). Danville finished third (55) and Centennial, fourth (50).

Wilson is proud of how his team performed and coming away with a second place finish, especially since they were going up against schools such as TF South that are bigger than RTHS.

"Their school is almost 1,900 kids, so it was good to be able to compete with some of those bigger schools," Wilson said.

Wilson was also thankful for the work that the Rantoul community put in to host the event, with volunteers assisting in anyway that they could.

"I’m so thankful that we have the support that we do and thankful for all the volunteers that came down there to help out," Wilson said. "We had guys on the team helping out in different spots, some guys finished their race and they took on a job to help the meet run smoothly. I think it was just a great community effort overall, to put on an event like that."

The girls also competed at the same time as the boys and put up a number of honorable performances as well. Mye’Joi Williams wonirst place in the girls shot put, with a distance of 40-feet and 5 inches. TF South’s Wilson Trinity was the closest behind Williams, with a distance of 40-feet and 2.75 inches.

"Normally she wins every single event fairly easily, but now she had to battle this time," Ben Hankes, girls coach said. "She won that on the last throw, so that’s good for her to kind of feel some competition and come out on that last throw to win it from there."

India Emery also was victorious in her section of the 60-meter dash, finishing first place with a final time of 8.28 seconds, which bested her previous record of 8.47. She beat it by about approximately .19 seconds. Emery was not expecting to beat her previous record, especially by only that much.

"I didn’t expect to get first or break my personal record," Emery said. "I was just thinking I got to win."

The girls finished second in its section of the 4x200-meter relay, coming in at a final time of exactly 1:51, which beats their previous record of 1.53.66. First place belonged to Danville which finished at a time of 1:49.18.

Despite not winning the 4x200-meter relay, Hankes was proud and encouraged by his team’s performance, given where they were placed and who they were competing against.

"To go 1:51 flat is something we haven’t done as a team in the past couple of years," Hankes said. "Doing it now in March is awesome. It shows a lot of promise for the rest of this year.

Lovenya Perry also got in on the success of the team by finishing first in her section of the 400-meter dash. Perry finished at a time of 1:00.91 which beats her previous record (1:01.14) by just milliseconds.

"I barely beat it," Perry said. "The finish is what counts."

As of right now in the overall standings, the Rantoul girls are in fifth place with a score of 53 points.

Next up for the Rantoul boys will be its meet at the Eastern Illinois Invitational on Saturday. The event will start at 1:30 p.m. The Rantoul girls will also be competing on Saturday at the 41st Gene Armer Invitation hosted by Urbana High School at the University of Illinois Armory. Starting time for the event will be 9 a.m.

Contact Ben Theobald at btheobald@rantoulpress.com