VALPARAISO | Lowell junior Brendon Shanks was counting the hours until his personal state meet as soon as he boarded the bus Thursday after school.
Everyone else was preparing for Thursday’s Valparaiso Regional, but this was Shanks’ last chance this season to be all that he can be.
On Tuesday he will leave for basic training in Jacksonville, S.C., as part of his commitment to the U.S. Army. Therefore, even though he came from the No. 3 seed to win the 300-meter intermediate hurdles on Thursday, he won’t be able to join the region contingent at the IHSAA state finals on June 2 in Bloomington.
“It was more about coming out and having fun,” Shanks said. “Since I can’t run at state, all the pressure was off me. It feels pretty good.
"I can’t wait to be back next year stronger and faster.”
Others, such as E.C. Central’s Kenneth Lloyd, had the same sentiments last year and found themselves fulfilling championship aspirations on Thursday.
Lloyd, a sophomore, won the high jump a year after missing the cut for the regional. He was wearing white Beats By Dre headphones and a personally screen-printed white shirt with a silhouette of a high jumper and the phrase “Get Over It” emblazoned on it.
“This just reminds me that I need to get over the competition,” Lloyd said after clearing 6 feet, 7 inches and scraping the bar with his hand on 6-9.
“I came out with a lot to prove, but I still have a lot more work to do. This is not the end. I’m going to keep going higher and higher and staying focused.”
E.C., which had its first home meets in school history this season, also sent its 400 relay and Jacques Hall (200) to state. The Cardinals tied Lowell for 10th in the team standings with the pole vault still to go.
West Side had two champs, as Deante Mahome won the 100 hurdles.
“Coach (Gene) Johnson always teaches us to get out front and be the first one at the first hurdle,” said Mahome, a senior who won the hurdles and will make his third consecutive state trip.
Lonnie Johnson, a sophomore, was hurt by a hip injury last year but had a good pre-meet stretch Thursday to win an event in which five locals met the automatic state qualifying standard. His 23-foot leap was six inches off his best.
“My whole goal was to beat all the people that beat me last year,” Johnson said. “Now it’s time to go to state and get a medal.”
While large schools will have enough state competitors to necessitate a bus, the meet wasn’t a total loss for Class A schools such as Morgan Twp., which had junior Alec Kostelnik crowned champion of the 3,200. At about 2,000 meters, the 2011 regional runner-up surged into the lead and pulled away to win by 1.98 seconds.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting it to be easy, but I had enough confidence that I could take it,” Kostelnik said. “It makes me proud to go to a small school and show that we still can compete with the big schools.”