With only one lap to run in the Illinois High School Association Class 1A 3,200-meter run, the question was not whether Beecher's Grant Nykaza would win the state championship, but if Winnebago harrier Jeremy Stevens record in Class 1A, 9 minutes, 10.56 seconds, would hold up.
It did, but it was very close.
Much as Stevens had done seven years earlier, Nykaza finished all alone, breaking the tape in 9:10.92. Champaign St. Thomas More junior Nick Hess finished second in 9:26.03.
"The weather is the same on everyone," said Nykaza. "I just trained for four years for this moment. The conditions was part of the reason that the record did not fall. If the weather was nicer or if someone was right on my shoulder, I think I would have done it."
Entering the final lap at 8:04, Nykaza began to sprint in order to get the record.
"I felt like I was going pretty fast," said Nykaza.
After the race, Nykaza cooled down for about seven minutes, before retiring to Lantz Fieldhouse next door to O'Brien Field. He had another state title to win and the weather was not going to stand in his way. The second victory was by over four seconds as he won the 1,600-meter title in 4:23.28. Fithian Oakwood freshman Jon Davis was second in 4:27.84.
"The record in the 1,600-meter run (4:09.33) is something special," said Nykaza. "In the future I think the runner that breaks that will probably not have run the 3,200-meter run before."
With the pair of victories at the state finals, Nykaza is a four-time state champion. Not only did he win the cross country state title in the fall, but he was the 1,600-meter champion one year ago.
Nykaza was not the only state champion of the day. In the Class 3A 400-meter relay, Thornton dashed to the title as well. The foursome of Cavion Clanton, Tifonte Hunt, Maurice Buchanan and Jauan Wesley finished in 42.24 seconds.
"We believed we could win and we switched the line-up a little bit," said Buchanan, the third leg of the relay. "The handoffs were really good. We tweaked the handoffs a little bit. Our normal second leg (Wesley) ran anchor today. Hunt ran second. It gave us something a little extra."
Wesley crossed the finish line and threw up a number one within a few steps. The Eastern Illinois scoreboard, hooked to the fully automatic timing system, confirmed it. Belleville West finished in 42.50. The only relay member that will be lost to graduation will be Buchanan. Clanton, Hunt and Welsey are all juniors.
"It feels good to leave here with a state title," said Buchanan. "The weather did not bother me at all. I live in Chicago, I am used to this."
Thornridge senior Phillip Thompson also left with gold around his neck. In the Class 2A triple jump, Thompson jumped 47 feet, 5 inches to earn a 2.5 inch victory. Fellow Thornridge jumper, senior Rashad Barber, took seventh in the triple jump, leaping 43-8.75.
William Williams ended his long jump career at Bloom Township with a second place medal in the Class 3A triple jump. His leap from Friday's prelims of 23-8 carried over to the finals. He was topped only by Pekin junior Cole Henderson, who went 23-11.25.
"Second place is just the first loser," said Williams, who has been jumping less than two months. "My footing was off during the first two jumps. On the third jump, my legs just froze."
Illiana Christian finished third in the Class 2A 3,200-meter relay. The team of Kevin Vroegh, Jordan Dekker, Nick Wondaal and Tony Wondaal finished in 7:54.45.
Thornridge's Yemi Ogunbamera left Charleston with a pair of individual medals and one relay medal. In Class 2A Ogunbameru finished fourth in the 110-meter hurdles (:14.88) and seventh in the 300-meter hurdles (:40.80).
"My game plan was to come out of the blocks hard and win," said Ogunbamera. "That is always my plan. But, it was cold today."
In Class 3A, Thornton Fractional North sprinter Marvell Thompson left with a pair of medals as well, but was not happy. The senior sprinter took seventh in the 200-meter dash (22.67) and eighth in the 400-meter dash (50.70).
"He did a good job," said Moses Hulbert, the coach at Thornton Fractional North. "I know he is disappointed now, but in the future, this will mean a lot to him. He is one of the best sprinters in the state.
In Class 2A, Thornridge finished sixth in the 400-meter relay. Ogunbameru, Kevonte Fox, Deonta Moses and Nicholas Fizer finished at 43.28.
In the Class 3A 110-meter hurdles, Thornton Fractional North junior Nikita Smith and Thornton junior Tifonte Hunt finished eighth and ninth respectively. Smith finished in 14.81, while Hunt finished in 15.09.
Bloom Township's Micah Frazier took eighth in the Class 3A 200-meter dash, finishing in 22.71.
Thornridge was fifth in Class 2A. They scored 26 points. They missed a trophy by a mere 11 points. Cahokia easily won the team title with 99.5 points. East St. Louis (40 points) and Bloomington (37 points) were second and third respectively.