O’Fallon senior Chris Conrad won an elusive state championship in the 800-meter Saturday and helped longtime head coach Ron Koch end his career with a state medal around his neck at O’Brien Stadium.
Getting out to a quick start that was never seriously threatened, Conrad ran a personal-best time of 1 minute, 49.91 seconds to help lead the way for metro-east area athletes during the final day of the 2017 IHSA track and field season. A University of Missouri recruit, Conrad posted a time nearly four seconds faster than runner-up Brian Kuehl (1:53.88), of Geneva, as he led from start to finish.
Conrad placed third in the 800-meter a year ago.
“I wanted to go under 1:50, but I wanted to win the state title more,” a relaxed Conrad said following the race. “I wasn’t pushed, so it was just a matter of keeping focused on myself and staying at an even pace.”
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Conrad also combined with Panthers teammate Nathan Rainge to lift O’Fallon to a second-place finish in the combined championship, which included results from athletes in wheelchairs. Rainge, who won the 100- and 400-meter wheelchair titles Saturday — his seventh and eighth career state championships — teamed with Conrad to give O’Fallon 29 points, six less than champion Homewood-Flossmoor (35).
Waterloo, which got a pair of wins from sophomore Donovan McBride in the 200- and 800-meter wheelchair events, earned the third-place trophy with 18 points.
The second-place trophy and first-place medal are firsts for the O’Fallon boys track program and coach Ron Koch, who is retiring after 36 years as a track and field coach, the last 29 of which he spent at O’Fallon.
“I coach all these years, and I have to wait until my last year to win a trophy,” Koch said, laughing. “I’m very proud of both Nathan (Rainge) and Chris Conrad.”
Granite City senior Will O’Keefe ended his career with a ninth-place medal in the 800-meter (1:55.17).
Collinsville freshman Jermarrion Stewart placed fifth in the 400-meter (49.17).
The Cahokia Comanches’ string of six-straight Class 2A state championships came to an end Saturday as coach Leroy Millsap’s squad finished in a three-way tie for fifth place with 30 points. Freeport and Normal University High School tied for the championship with 37 points apiece.
The Comanches, who suffered through a miserable preliminary round Friday, were led by their 800-meter relay team, which placed second (1:28.84), and the duo of Andra Ward and Shunn Grace in the triple jump. Ward placed third (45-feet-4.5-inches), and Grace was fourth (45-3 1/2).
Also in Class 2A, Freeburg senior Drew Wilkinson placed fourth in the 800-meter (1:55.99), while teammate Charlie Parrish was seventh in the 3,200-meter (9:35.08). Triad sophomore Jadon Elliott was fifth in the pole vault (14-0).
The Mascoutah Indians placed seventh in the 400 relay (43.82) and 3,200 relay (8:00.84), while Mississippi Valley Conference rival Waterloo was ninth in the 1,600 relay (3:25.89).
Althoff senior Jaylon Bester and Madison High School standout Dontez Pittman both earned medals in two events to lead the way for local Class 1A athletes.
Bester, headed to Miami University (Ohio) on a football scholarship, was fifth in the triple jump (44-2 1/4) and seventh in the 100-meter (11.10). Pittman placed ninth in the 300 hurdles (40.70) and was fifth in the 110 hurdles (15.32).
Nashville junior Brandon Schnitker was second in the 800-meter (1:53.53).