Rochelle track and field teams shine at Assumption Invite


Boys take third place, girls finish seventh

ROCK ISLAND — Lady Hubs track and field coach Kyle Kissack had the 800-meter sprint medley relay at the Augustana College Assumption Invitational circled on his calendar before the 2017 season even began.

It was a race both Kissack and the Lady Hubs hoped they would excel in, and the girls showed once again why they’re not to be taken lightly, turning in a time of 1:53.43 and breaking a 15-year-old Rochelle Township High School to finish second in the event.

“It was something we wanted to go after,” Kissack said. “Our kids just ran their hearts out and they competed for each other. They crushed the record and I’m really excited for them.”

Juniors Cesca Vardman and Jacie Wyatt ran the final two legs of the sprint medley relay, while freshman Macey Ryan and sophomore Abby Tilton stepped up to run the first two legs. Both Ryan and Tilton have been key contributors to the Lady Hubs’ success this season, with Ryan helping the 800-meter relay team qualify for the state indoor meet and Tilton performing well as an emergency replacement for the second time this year.

“With Morgan [Baker] calling in sick we had to shuffle some kids around and Abby stepped in and delivered a fantastic leg,” Kissack said. “It says a lot about who Abby is as an individual… It speaks to her character, who she is and her ability to handle pressure situations.”

The Lady Hubs finished seventh out of 15 teams in the meet, with several young athletes setting personal records including sophomore Cheyene Watson, who ran a personal-best time in the 100-meter hurdles of 19.27. Sophomore Cam Turner set a high mark for herself in the long jump (13-3 ½), and throwers Allysa Harding and Cristina Alfano set personal records in the shot put (30-2 ½ and 29-2 ½, respectively).

“Our kids showed up and competed hard,” Kissack said. “It’s always nice when an athlete puts a personal record on the track or on the field. That’s the objective of every competition, and I ultimately think at this point in the season, that’s all that matters.”

On the boys side, the Hubs finished in third place out of 10 schools, taking first place in the 1600-meter relay with a time of 3:30.55. Seniors Matthew Drendel, Michael Drendel, Lance Huftalin and Austin Walsh contributed to the effort, with Walsh running a final leg of 50.80 after winning the 400-meter dash with a time of 51.60.

“We have a bunch of kids who want to be a part of that relay and they just keep getting better and better,” head coach John Dobbs said. “We’ve consistently dropped about 3-4 seconds every time we’ve run it so far. Hopefully that’ll continue.”

It was a big day on the track for Matthew Drendel, who finished second in both the 800-meter run (2:07.43) and the high jump (6-0) in addition to his role in the winning 1600-meter relay group. The senior is one of many who have delivered for Dobbs and the Hubs this season.

“He was responsible for about 20 points on Saturday,” Dobbs said. “He and his brother [Michael] are both great athletes, and I was expecting big things out of both of them this season and they’re delivering. It’s fun watching them compete and improve as the season progresses.”

Another senior who brought Rochelle some big points was Levi Johnson, who finished first in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 59.57. Johnson was neck-and-neck with second-place finisher Alex Keating before he turned on the jets over the last few meters of the race.

“The kid was coming up on his outside at the last hurdle, and instead of Levi waiting to put the hammer down, he took off with three strides to go before the last hurdle and just destroyed the kid coming off the hurdle,” Dobbs said. “He came off the hurdle way faster than the other kid and there was no way he was going to recover from it.”

Senior Dylan Papke set a personal record in the discus with a throw of 107-8 ½, and Papke also placed fourth in the shot put with a heave of 42-9 ¼. Huftalin finished fifth in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.55 and fourth in the 200-meter dash with a time of 23.32, while senior Edwin Infante placed third in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 17.80.

Both the boys and girls teams will gear up for a triangular meet with Yorkville and Plano on Tuesday before hosting the annual Hub Relays at Rochelle Township High School on Saturday, April 15.

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