High School Sports

Granite City’s Andrew O’Keefe finishes in style with state title in 1,600-meter run

Andrew O’Keefe wins state championship

Granite City senior Andrew O'Keefe won the Illinois Class 3A state championship in the 1600-meter run at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
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Granite City senior Andrew O'Keefe won the Illinois Class 3A state championship in the 1600-meter run at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.

As Granite City senior Andrew O’Keefe came down the straightaway in the final 15 meters of the Class 3A 1,600 meter final at O’Brien Stadium Saturday, he took a quick glance behind him.

There was nobody there this time.

Beaten at the wire last year, O’Keefe took the lead early in the second lap and took off from there as he became the Warriors’ first male state and field champion in 46 years on the campus of Eastern Illinois University.

An Adams State (Colorado) University recruit, O’Keefe finished with a time of 4 minutes 13 seconds, five seconds faster than Antioch’s Charlie Smith who finished in 4:18.4.

But it wasn’t that close.

“It feels good.,’’ O’Keefe said. “Losing last year the way I did was tough. But I just tried to keep up, stay positive and keep working hard. It wasn’t good start today. The pace was so slow and I heard one of the runners say ‘really guys, 1 minute 7 seconds for the first lap?’

“I decided to make some noise after that.’’

The sound was overwhelming as O’Keefe took off and ran away with the Warriors first IHSA state track and field championship since Brad Hiles won the discus state title in 1973.

Multiple medal winners

While O’Keefe turned in one of the highlight performances for metro-east area athletes on a hot afternoon, several other local athletes turned in medal winning efforts.

In some cases, make that a two-medal winning effort.

Cahokia junior Steve Harris placed second in the Class 2A 110 meter hurdles and third in the 300 hurdles while Madison senior Kendall Kennedy was sixth in the Class 1A 110 hurdles and fifth in the 300 meter hurdles.

Columbia junior Ronnie Hunsaker placed sixth in the long jump, seventh in the triple jump and ran on the Eagles Class 2A 400 meter relay team which placed eighth. Hunsaker is also a running back for the Eagles football team.

“It was a good day,” Hunsaker said. “My goal was to make it the finals in both jumps and I did that and it was also good to be on the team that earned a medal in the 400 relay.”

Mascoutah junior Devin Wills also earned two medals. Wills placed ninth in both the 100 and 200 meter dashes. The Indians also placed sixth in the 800 meter relay and got a sixth place finish from Matt Wilson in the shot put.

Triad, Freeburg excel

The Freeburg Midgets and Triad Knights claimed top 20 efforts in the Class 2A state finals Saturday. The Midgets placed 14th with 16 points and were led by senior Zack Pluff’s second place finish in the high jump.

Ranked No. 1 in the state for much of the season, Pluff cleared 6 feet 8 inches and was over the bar on his second attempt. But after landing in the pit, Pluff couldn’t believe his eyes as the bar fell off its holder.

“I thought I was over. I must have barely touched it,’’ Pluff said. “It’s a good finish but when you come here with the goal of winning and then come so close, it’s tough.’’

The Midgets also got a ninth place finish from Corbin Schwable in the 800 meters, an eighth place from Noah Williams in the 300 hurdles and a fifth place medal in the 800 meter relay.

Triad was led by senior Jadon Elliott who was third in the pole vault. The University of New Mexico recruit cleared his second best jump at 15 feet. The Knights were also fourth in the 400 relay to finish in a tie for 16th place witgh 13 points.

Other local medal winners included Waterloo’s Jackson McAlister, who was seventh in the Class 2A 800 meters.

In Class 1A, Gavyn Lietz of Nashville was sixth in the triple jump, Dupo’s Bryce Chadduck was eighth in the discus and Althoff’s 800 meter relay team placed ninth.

Dean Criddle has worked at the Belleville News-Democrat for 32 years as a sports writer. Dean graduated from SIUE with a double major in journalism and English, is married and lives in Belleville.