CHARLESTON, Ill. — Bryce Holesinger wasn’t going to let an injury stop him.
Holesinger, a junior at Fulton High School, qualified for Saturday’s finals in the 300-meter hurdles by winning his heat Thursday in the preliminaries at the Illinois Class 1A track and field state meet at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium.
Holesinger won by the slimmest of margins — two-thousandths of a second over Steve Gualandri of Peru St. Bede — and advanced with the fifth-fastest time overall (40.414 seconds) in the event.
“That close? No,” Holesinger said when asked if he had ever been in such a close race. “Never down to the (thousandth) of a second like that. Coming into the race, he beat me in sectionals pretty good. When I saw him hit that hurdle, I gave it all I had and it looks like we’re both going to the finals.
“As a junior, (making the finals) means everything. Track is like the biggest thing for me, and I love doing it. I’ve wanted to be an Olympic athlete since I was 4, so it means just about everything to me.”
Holesinger also ran in the 110 hurdles Thursday but didn’t advance. He was sixth in his heat in 15.76 and needed a time of 15.59 or better to move on.
Moving at all hasn’t been all that easy lately.
“I just recently pulled my hip flexor and strained my TFL, so I couldn’t get my hip to rotate fast enough,” he said. “I was determined to do something at state. It felt good to make it in the 300 hurdles.”
The athletes from Erie/Prophetstown had to be feeling pretty good, too. The Panthers advanced in all but one of theirs event to enhance their chances of a top-10 finish. The only event in which they didn’t move on was the pole vault, where Jared Cole went 12 feet, 6 inches and Kyle Pannier went 12-0. A leap of 13-0 was needed to move on.
Senior Devin Johnson will compete in four events in Saturday’s finals.
He had the second-best long jump of the day (21-11), was third in his heat and seventh overall in the 400 in 50.57 and anchored a pair of relay teams that won their heats.
“Both my top two jumps would have put me in first for a while until the Chester jumper (Kyle Landon) went an inch farther,” Johnson said. “I want to go 23-6. That’s what I want do on Saturday. I just need some rest, some nutrition and some sleep. I was able to jump 22-6 for most of the year, and 22-7 is my farthest. So, I know I can go that far.”
Darius Owens, Nate Andreas and Chris Bauer joined Johnson in qualifying third overall in the 400 relay in 43.65 and fourth in the 800 relay in 1:30.77.
“We just wanted to get into the finals and save me some energy for the 400,” said Johnson, who took third in his heat and qualified seventh overall in the 400 in 50.57.
Andreas said the Panthers could do better in the relays.
“The four-by-1(00), we had a bad handoff, but we’ll get fixed for Saturday,” he said. “It felt good, but I know we can run a faster time. It didn’t go exactly how we planned, but it’s something we can fix. We know that if we make a mistake and still run that time, that when we fix that, we’ll be in good shape.”
Owens earned a spot in Saturday’s finals in the 200, running it in 22.58 to qualify eighth.
Both of the Panthers’ throwers also stayed alive in the competition.
Ethan Oleson had the ninth-best shot put toss (47-9), while Jon Butts ranked 11th in the discus (140-6). Ryan Pearce of Villa Grove led both events, throwing the discus 162-1 and he shot 58-6.75.
“Last year, I was ranked 15th and got up to eighth,” Oleson said. “I kind of like being behind. In all of our sports this year, we’ve been the underdogs. I kind of like being in that position.
The other area qualifier, Ryan Mayberry of Morrison, took seventh in the first heat of the 400 (52.56) and did not advance.
Chad Dare of the Danville (Ill.) Commercial-News, a CNHI sister publication, contributed to this report.