The Rantoul Eagles boys track team will be competing in four events at the IHSA State Final at Eastern Illinois University; the 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400-meter relays and the 400-meter race

Robert Buford helped the Eagles 4x400-meter relay team finish first with a state-qualifying time of 3:25.93 at Thursday’s IHSA Monticello Class 2A Sectional. 


MONTICELLO — The Rantoul Eagles boys track team’s season was all leading up to this, and it is official after the results of Thursday’s IHSA Monticello Class 2A Sectional. Rantoul qualified for state in four events.

The Eagles 4x200-meter relay team finished in first place after running a time of 1:30.18 to qualify for state and set a personal record.

The team was comprised of Tayon Swift, Kayon Cunningham, Dillion Harper and Robert Buford, which finished ahead of Monticello (1:30.51) and Decatur (1:30.51).

“The 4x200-meter relay team has been running well all season,” Rantoul coach Mitch Wilson said. “We had some good exchanges in that race. They set a new PR in that race. It was good for them.”

Jerry Harper sprinted to the finish line for a first-place finish in the 400-meter dash, ending up with a final time of 49.17 seconds. The junior is the only individual state qualifier for the Eagles.Second place belonged to Clayton Cramsey (51.55) of Effingham.

“Qualifying for these events means a lot because it is going to wake up some college coaches,” Harper said. 

Wilson said he looks forward to watching Harper compete at state since he hasn’t had much competition in the past few meets.

“With Jerry he hasn’t had anyone to really push him in our area,” Wilson said. “When we get to the state level, he will have some good competition down at the state track meet next week. He plans on running even faster.”

The Eagles ended the meet in style by finishing first in the 4x400-meter relay at 3:25.93. The relay team composed of Buford, Kayon Cunningham, Jerry Harper and Elijah Hall was a second ahead of Decatur-Macarthur (3:26.96). The result was a PR for the Eagles.

“To end the meet in the 4x400, I thought that was fantastic,” Wilson said. “ I’m just proud of our guys the way they handled themselves last night.”

Hall credited his teammates for his performance in the race.

“My teammates are really good,” Hall said. “I knew that they trusted me. I just had to go out there and perform. Just run.” 

The Eagles had one more state-qualifying performance, which came from the 4x100-relay team. Cunningham, Treven Lewis, Buford and Harper gave the Eagles a second-place finish at 43.29. The team finished three-tenths of a second behind first place Monticello (43.26).

“I thought Buford could have gotten that guy there at the end, but the computer said different,” Wilson said. “In the 4x100 there is such a small margin of error there that one little misstep or mistake can cost you some time. We were able to rebound from our little mistake, and our anchor leg ran a great race to pull us back into second. That’s exciting for those guys.”

Buford said that the windy conditions made it harder when it came down to handing off the baton in the race.

“I thought we were going to win, but our handoff got messed up because of the wind,” Buford said. “I had started a little early, and then I got the baton a little late. We got second, but I felt good how we did overall.”

Hall wasn’t done yet for the sectional, he raced in the 800-meter run and ended up with a time of 2:01.07. 

Hall was just three-tenths of a second away qualifying for state, but he did get a PR. State qualifiers for the 800 were Decatur’s Micha Reed, who finished first (1:58.51), and Urbana’s Payton Borich, placing second (2:00.76).

“We were kind of sad that Hall didn’t go in the 800, but he is in the 4x400-meter relay,” Wilson said. “ I’ve been really proud of the way Elijah has competed this year. He has improved so much from last year.”

Rantoul’s Romeo Sanders ran 12th in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 45.49. 

Sanders, a sophomore, knows he won’t be going to state, but is confident next year will be another story. 

“It’s too bad I wasn’t able to go this year, but next year I’m sure to go,” Sanders said. “All I gotta do is drop five seconds and I’ll be good for the 300 hurdles.”

The Eagles finished fifth in the overall team scores with 48 points. First place belonged to Mahomet-Seymour (91.50 points). Last year, the Eagles finished seventh in the sectional and qualified for three state events.

“It was a big improvement, and I’m just really excited for how our guys competed,” Wilson said.

The Eagles will head to O’Brien Field in Charleston for the state meet on Friday when they run in the prelims. If they advance, they will compete on Saturday in the finals.

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