CHARLESTON | Crete-Monee's Rashad Hulbert was the king of the third preliminary heat of the 300-meter hurdles.
Today, Hulbert will once again have the chance to prove he is the overall king in the event, but, while there are many contenders for the gold, there is one who is far from a pretender.
Hulbert dashed to the finish line in 37.40 seconds in Friday's preliminaries at the IHSA Class 3A Finals.
But the defending state champion was not alone in breaking 38 seconds in the event. In the next heat, the final of the day in the 300 hurdles, Rock Island junior Derrick Willies ran a 37.16.
It is not the only event Hulbert qualified in. In the 110 high hurdles, he is the top athlete, running a 14.25. Willies checked in with the second-fastest time, a 14.31. Hulbert won the third and final heat of the day, while Willies finished first in the second heat.
"I want to win both hurdle races," said Hulbert, after helping Crete-Monee earn a final berth in the 1,600-meter relay. "If I run up to my capabilities, and God allows me, I will be walking away with three golds."
Crete Monee finished the 1,600-meter relay in 3:20.14.
In the final event of the day, the 1,600-meter relay, Bloom Township dashed to the finish line in 3:17.47. Its time was the fastest of the day as no other team broke 3:18.00. The Bloom team was comprised of James Harriel, Justin Banks, Kaleb Williams and Micah Frasier.
Fourteen local individuals qualified, while another four relay teams punched their ticket to the state finals. In the triple jump, both Thornton's Thomas Taylor and T.F. South's Jalen Woods earned spots in the final. Taylor finished with a leap of 47 feet, 0 3/4 inches, while Woods recorded a jump of 45-6 1/2.
Besides Hulbert, Thornton's Jonathan Anderson also advanced in the 110 hurdles with a time of 14.48.
Thornton teammates Demitri Smith (10.97) and Jalen Banks (11.06) both advanced in the 100.
"I am excited to be here and competing," said Banks. "We had some challenges, but we fought through it. I always shoot for first, otherwise your settling to be a loser. I am going to run my best and hope that is enough to win it."
Thornwood's Kenneth Allen and Bloom Township's Kaleb Williams earned qualifying spots in the 400. Williams finished in 48.82, while Allen finished in 49.34.
Smith also advanced in the 200-meter dash, finishing in 22.30. Romeoville's Perez Ford finished in 22.62.
Bloom Township's Jacob Hernandez finished the 800-meter run in 1:54.73.
In the field events, Bloom Township's Calvin Cross finished with a qualifying leap of 21-9.5 in the long jump. Patrick Bolton, a Thornwood senior, went 6-5 in the high jump to earn a spot in the finals.
Three of the nine qualifying 800 relay teams are from the area. Thornwood (1:27.23), T.F. North (1:27.77) and Bloom Township (1:27.80) will all be chasing the 800 relay title. T.F. North has nabbed a spot in the 400 relay, finishing in 42.21.
"We just want to put it all on the track tommorow," Thornwood's Tommy Wilson said. "We were happy to get in the finals, but I wanted to win our heat, not get second. We can tweak our hand offs, before tomorrow (Saturday). The other plan is to stay out of this sun and stay hydrated."
In Class 2A, Illiana Christian's Ernest Gardner won his flight in the triple jump, going 44-11. He qualified for today's finals and has third-best jump overall.
Teammate Tony Wondaal ran 4:38.08 in the 1,600, but did not qualify for the finals. Matt Hall will run in the 3,200 today. The Vikings' 3,200 relay team ran 8:05.62, but did not make the cut for today's finals.