For senior Salvatore Flight, the distance running success of the Fenwick boys track and field program usually is a phone call or electronic connection away.
“The guys who are gone but kind of left a legacy stay in touch with the captains of the team,” Flight said.
“I’ve always been getting Facebook messages from Martin (Grady). I’ll get calls from Ian (Barnett) asking about my season – when he’s out winning the (5,000-meter run for Illinois) at the Drake Relays. I’m like, ‘Dude, I should be calling you.’ “
On Saturday, Flight concluded his impressive resume for the Friars with a lifetime-best 4:15.96 to take second in the 1,600 at the Class 2A state finals at Eastern Illinois University.
Senior Joe Bleyer became the Friars’ first all-stater in the 110-meter high hurdles by taking eighth (15.34) after his 14.87 in Friday’s preliminaries, a lifetime best by .35.
Flight hoped for a state title after taking fourth in 2014 (4:22.88) behind three seniors. Flight finished strong Saturday but could not catch Normal University High senior Alexander Bruno (4:14.51), who won by 1.45 seconds.
On the final lap, Flight moved from fifth into third with 300 meters left and passed Waterloo senior Lance Mueller (3rd, 4:16.67) with 70 meters to go. Bruno and Flight beat the previous 2A state meet record of 4:14.97 from 2012.
“It was a great way to close out my senior year,” Flight said. “I was in perfect position the entire race until that last 400 meters. At the end of the day, it happened and you can’t come off a race like that feeling bad about yourself when you’ve done everything you could and you ran well and someone outran you.”
Before Friday’s prelims, Bleyer’s previous best was 15.22 at sectionals after another best at conference. The time was needed for all-state honors because 15.03 was the cut for the nine-hurdler finals.
“It was a sense of just pure joy. (Breaking 15 seconds is) something that’s been a goal since I started hurdling,” Bleyer said. “It’s just been a lot of practice. Just seeing all of the hard work I’ve done actually amounting to something is pretty amazing.”
Flight easily broke his previous best of 4:20.26 from indoors March 21 and joins distance coach Dave Rill as the only multiple all-staters in Fenwick history. At the 2011 3A state meet, Barnett ran a school-record 4:14.30 in prelims and fifth-place 4:14.48 in the finals.
Flight has trained straight through after returning from a broken collar bone near the end of cross country season. Flight said he was determined all along for a great 1,600 race at state and to not try also qualifying in the 3,200.
“(The coaches and I) just wanted to go after something bigger,” Flight said. “It didn’t pan out like we wanted, but, hey, it was a fantastic race, fantastic competition and it was a fantastic (personal record). We ran fast. You can’t say anything bad about it.”
Bleyer also qualified for state in the 300 intermediate hurdles (22nd, 42.56). Bleyer played baseball for two years before joining track in 2014 and placing third in the 110s at sectionals (15.94), 1.07 slower than his state prelims.
“I felt like I’d run a good (110s Friday), but I didn’t know I’d run that well,” Bleyer said. “(The finals) felt pretty good, but I felt like I could have run a little better. I hit a couple of hurdles, but overall I still got eighth.”
RBHS boys track and field
The Bulldogs’ 400 relay of seniors Matt Chapp, Otis Dortch, Mike McCabe and Marvin McKenzie was 22nd at the 3A state preliminaries (42.92), .03 shy of their school-record time from sectionals.
On his final throw Friday, senior Jordan Petronella delivered a lifetime-best 139-0 for 33rd in discus after a lifetime-best 136-10 at sectionals. Sophomore Mateo Nunez was 44th in the 3,200 (10:13.42), which only is run in two heats Saturday.