Top-ranked O’Keefe, Johnson lead locals into IHSA Sectional Competition

Big hits, kicks and jumps

Baseball, softball, girls soccer and track are in action.
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Baseball, softball, girls soccer and track are in action.

So close to a state championship a year ago, Granite City senior Andrew O’Keefe has a chance to capture an elusive title in one of track and field’’s glamour events.

So does East St. Louis junior Willie Johnson.

O’Keefe has Illinois’ top class 3A time in the 1,600 meters, while Johnson is the top Class 2A 400 meter runner heading in to IHSA sectional competitions this week.

Edged at the finish line in the 1,600 meter final a year ago at O’Brien Stadium in Charleston, O’Keef’e’s time of 4 minutes 08.98 seconds is the best in the state heading into the Bloomington Sectional on Thursday.

While O’Keefe will lead the way for Class 3A athletes, Johnson and the Flyers are returning to sectional competition after missing last year. Expected to contend the the Class 2A state championship, the Flyers had their season end when during the Southwestern Conference Meet in East St. Louis a fight broke out in the grandstands.

The meet was canceled and East St. Louis Superintendent Arthur Culver later canceled the remainder of the Flyers’ season, citing safety concerns.

This season, Johnson has been nearly untouchable in his primary event. Running national caliber times all season, Johnson’s top time of 47.34 seconds is the best in Illinois by more than a second heading into the Herrin Sectional on Wednesday.

Most of the top Class 2A metro east area teams are competing at the Herrin Sectional which begins at 3 p.m. Highland, Triad and Central are competing in the Class 2A Springfield Lanphier Sectional on Friday beginning at 4 p.m.

The Bloomington Sectional, which includes six Southwestern Conference schools, begins at 4 p.m. on Thursday with the Class 1A Nashville Sectional, set for 4 p.m. on Friday.

The top two placewinners in each event as well as any athlete reaching qualifying standards, advance to the IHSA State Track Meet, May 23-25 in Charleston.

Several other Class 2A and Class 3A metro east athletes also have performances which put them among the top two in their events heading into the sectional.

In Class 2A, Waterloo junior Jackson McAlister has the second best in the 800 meters (1:55.54), Freeburg senior Zach Pluff has the best Class 2A high jump at 6 feet 10 inches, while East St. Louis senior Terrence Hargrove Jr., has the second best high jump at 6 feet 8 inches.

Triad senior Jadon Elliott has the second best pole vault at 15 feet 2 inches, while Cahokia senior Andra Ward has the best triple jump at 47 feet 10 1./2 inches.

East St. Louis has the best time in the state in both the 800 meter relay (1:28.34) and the 1,600 meter relay (3:19,.51). The Flyers time of 42.15 seconds in the 400 meter re;lay is the second best time.

In Class 3A, Collinsville junior Jermarrion Stewart has the second best time in the 200 meters (21.,24 seconds).