PALOS HILLS | Jauan Wesley says he can tell when he wins a race, even though he’s looking straight ahead and the fellow next to him is nearly even with him.
Call it a runner’s intuition. The good ones have it.
Wesley put it to use twice in Saturday’s windblown Stagg Invitational. Both times, the Thornton junior was right, even though he won by the narrowest of margins.
The first example came in the 100-meter final. Both Wesley and teammate Jalen Banks breezed in their heats, and when starter Pete Shreck fired the gun for the final, they were side-by-side from start to finish.
When they came back to the line to get their times, Wesley said to Banks, “I gotcha.” And Banks said, “But I almost caught you.” Each knew their placing before they were told their times: 10.51 gale-aided hand-timed seconds for Wesley, 10.52 for Banks.
“I just finish through the line,” Wesley said. “He (Banks) pushes me every time we race; I’m like a younger brother. So it feels good to accomplish something, beating big brother.”
It happened again 90 minutes later in the 200. Wesley beat Mount Carmel’s Matt Domer to the line by a hundredth of a second – 22.06 seconds to Domer’s 22.07. Once again, Wesley knew the score immediately.
Wesley’s two wins accounted for 20 of Thornton’s 130 points, which earned second place and fell six points short of Oswego East’s 136. While the Wildcats dominated the sprints and hurdles, the Wolves took control in distance races, including the distance medley relay, which took the place of the pole vault. Oswego East and Thornton each won six events, with third place Joliet West winning four.
It was the first outdoor meet for Thornton, but that was hard to tell, as was the recent rejoining of the team by the always-busy Wesley and Banks. They came in blazing, and know where they want to go.
“Our goal is to win a state championship, and it starts right here,”Banks said. “This is Day 1. We did a lot of workouts in weather, and didn't take days off like a lot of other teams. We came out here and put the work in and are showing the people what we’ve got.”
The Wildcats have plenty. Tifonte Hunt won the 110 hurdles and took second, behind steady Matt Starasinich of Joliet West, in the 300 hurdles. Maurice Buchanan won the long jump, Sal Ramiera the discus, somehow throwing it 129 feet, 1 inch into the teeth of gusts that hit 30 miles per hour. And Thornton runners combined to win the 400 and run second to Oswego East in the 800 and 1,600 relays.
Hunt won the 110 hurdles in 14.71, a decent time considering the lack of outdoor practice time for hurdlers.
“I’m not that much behind last year,” Hunt said. “I need a little more work, but I’ll be there.”
Marian Catholic’s Howard Cameron took second in the 1,600, running 4:46.07, behind only the 4:43.80 of Oswego East’s Thornton Charles.
The wind was at its strongest by then, kicking up dust devils and hurting running south more than it helped running north.
“When I tried to do my kick at 300 (meters to go), it was really hard, because the wind’s just blowing right at you,” Cameron said. “But I did my best to stay near that guy.”