Luke Smithing

After finishing fourth at last year’s track and field sectionals, Riverside-Brookfield High School sophomore Luke Smithing remained cautiously optimistic at the IHSA Class 3A Sectional at Morton West in Berwyn on May 18.

Smithing still needed a top-two finish in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles at sectionals to reach his first state meet.

“I told all of my family that I would barely get second, maybe,” Smithing said. “I told them I probably wasn’t going to make it, but I led them astray.” 

Smithing not only advanced to state on May 27 at Eastern Illinois University, he is a sectional champion. 

His lifetime best of 41.48 seconds won by 0.59 seconds after entering as the No. 2 seed at 41.87. 

“I’m real happy. That was awesome. I thought I had it and I was pushing so hard my body felt like it was numb,” Smithing said. 

“Last year, I was a step behind the third-place guy. I thought if I train hard, I might just be barely able to get second place, but I really surprised myself getting first.” 

The Bulldogs had no other state qualifiers. Smithing gained momentum from the earlier 110 high hurdles, but was third (16.84). 

In the 3,200 relay, seniors Paul Proteau and Jack Dalton, junior Zack Gaynor and sophomore Jack O’Brien (8th, 9:24.00) were on the verge of second place, but O’Brien collapsed to the track about 10 meters from the finish, lost the baton, and Lyons Township passed for second (8:05.89). O’Brien recovered and continued competing.

Proteau, 13th at state last year in the 1,600, later ran a season-best 4:29.58 but was fourth and missed the 4:23.68 state cut. 

“[The 3,200 relay] was almost like a dream. I think that just kind of set the mood. We all gave it our best. It was just one of those things,” said Proteau, the cross country all-stater who will run at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

“I’m proud of what this team has accomplished,” Proteau said. “Jackie’s going to have a big redemption in cross [country]. This team has had a lot of rough ups and downs but I know it’s going to see better days.”