Lyons Township High School senior Alex Lima had been in the Class 3A boys track and field state finals of the 3,200-meter relay twice before, but Saturday’s race at Eastern Illinois University was different.
“That’s what I was thinking in the last 200 meters. I’m like, ‘This is my last race (for LT). Let’s go,’ ” Lima said.
Junior Connor Madell, senior Ben Gawthrop, sophomore Vince Zona and Lima finished second in a season-best 7:43.08 for the relay’s fifth top-nine, all-state finish over the past six seasons.
Senior Adam Schaufelberger was second in shot put (59 feet) at his first state meet.
Lima and Gawthrop also were part of last year’s fifth-place 3,200 relay at state (7:47.28). Lima also was on the sixth-place 3,200 relay in 2013 (7:52.23).
Saturday’s finish was the sweetest for Lima because the Lions dropped another 3.14 seconds from their season-best 7:46.22 in Friday’s preliminaries. Although unable to catch Sandburg (7:42.03), Lima’s strong finish passed Barrington and senior Konrad Eiring (3rd, 7:43.39) in the final 20 meters.
“Last year, the roles were reversed. He ended up nipping me by a little bit (by .17 for fourth at state),” said Lima, who will run at University of St. Francis.
“The other ones have been bittersweet because we’ve had a few bad legs in the finals. This year, it call came together. We all came down and ran (personal records) in the finals. I’m so glad we finally ran a 4 by 800 that we’re all happy with.”
Schaufelberger was 4 1/2 inches behind winning Cary-Grove senior Ricky Hurley (59-4 3/4). It’s the Lions’ highest state finish in shot put since senior Mike Fairbairn won the Class AA state title in 2005 (58-0 1/4).
Schaufelberger entered with the state’s top throw this regular season (school-record 61-3 April 14) and a sectional best of 59-6, another throw beyond Fairbairn’s former 59-4 school record. Third place Saturday was 11 inches behind Schaufelberger.
“Second in state is a huge accomplishment. Of course, first would have been the goal, but second is good nonetheless,” Schaufelberger said. “Coming in with the top throw, there’s a lot of pressure. Everyone’s looking to you to win. But I’m not mad. Second place is great.”
Since last season, Schaufelberger has improved significantly. His 2014 best was only 49-11, but he worked twice a week during the summer with two-time U.S. Olympian Tom Pukstys and gave up football in the fall.
His best state throw came on the third and last attempt in Friday’s prelims, right after Hurley’s winning throw. Schaufelberger had three more chances to improve Saturday but his best was 58-9 1/4. Hurley’s best Saturday was 59-3.
Schaufelberger will continue throwing at Illinois State, and have Hurley (Southern Illinois) competing in the same conference.
“I’ve learned that when you put your mind to it, you can win. You can do anything,” Schaufelberger said. “If I wanted somebody to beat me, I’m glad Ricky beat me. He’s a great guy. I’ll be seeing him and we’ll be hanging out.”
In LTHS history, Lima became only the second three-time all-stater for the 3,200 relay. Eric Espinosa was part of all three of the program’s state titles in the event from 1995-97. With two more all-state medals from the 1,600 relay, Lima’s five total all-state medals are tied for fourth all-time.
In November, Madell, Zona and Lima ran at the state cross country meet. Madell was an all-state 15th for the Lions’ third-place trophy team, but was even more impressed by Saturday’s 3,200 relay effort. The same foursome ran an indoor school-record 7:56.29 March 9.
“I know we came together as a unit throughout this whole year,” Madell said. “(On Friday) we didn’t do so great in our open events so we really knew we had to do well in this and make this a memorable state meet.”