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There’s going to be no shortage of competition for the Mattoon and Charleston boys track and field teams at today’s (Thursday’s) Class 2A sectional meet in Rantoul.

The top two individual finishers qualify in every event, and then there are state qualifying standards an athlete can reach. With such a loaded field, the qualifying standards could set a good benchmark for the athletes instead of relying on just a top two finish.

“Our sectional has a tremendous amount of talent in every event. In order to make it to the state meet, the kids are going to have to make the qualifying times and distances,” Mattoon coach Jarad Kimbro said. “I would not be surprised to see more than two in most events makes it to the state meet.”

The big race for Charleston and Mattoon is the 800-meter run. Charleston’s Nick Oakley comes in with the best time in 2A at 1:56.16. Oakley finished in ninth place at the state meet last season in the 800.

Oakley is hoping to also qualify in the 1,600-meter run. His best time is 4:24.41, almost 4 seconds better than the qualifying time.

“Nick has been very consistent this season. He has set himself up to really succeed by the time state rolls around next week,” Charleston coach Abigail Schmitz said. “Brian Oakley, his dad and distance coach, has done a great job with the entire distance crew this year. He pushes Nick when needed but also encourages him when he needs it.”

Mattoon’s Mitchell Kremer is one of the top contenders to challenge Oakley not only at the sectional meet but also at state. Kremer has run 1:56.99 in the 800. Last season, Kremer placed sixth in the 800-meter run in 1:57.22 at the state meet.

Kremer will also be one of the key legs in the 4x800-meter run that hopes to make it to the state meet. Kremer will run the event with Tyler Warner, Jake Ghere and Garrett Jones. The best time for Mattoon’s 4x800 relay is 8:16.92 and the qualifying standard is 8:12.81.

“In the 4x800, it’s going to take a strong effort by them,” Kimbro said. “But they have been training hard and are prepared to do what it takes to run a qualifying time.”

Charleston’s Dayton Black had a success state meet as a sophomore, clearing 14-0 and finishing in eighth place in 2A. Black has consistently cleared 14-0 (qualifying standard is 13-0) throughout the season.

“I keep talking about consistency and again, Dayton has shown that all season with 14-0 becoming a regular height for him and showing that he is capable of much higher heights,” Schmitz said. “I am excited for the chance for him to jump at state again because he is ready for the competition. Dayton has the experience with state and will hopefully use that to his advantage.”

Black and Oakley also have key roles on Charleston’s 4x400 relay team has been a strong part of the team this season. Ky’Sean Green and Josh Hoh are also on the relay, which has run a 3:29.09. Qualifying time is 3:27.92.

Schmitz thinks the team can either knock enough time off or qualify in the top two.

“I am excited about our 4x400. They have consistently run around 3:30 and are ranked first in the sectional,” Schmitz said. “They have worked on handoffs and are really ready to compete.”

Green will also attempt to qualify in the 400-meter dash. His season-best time is 50.92 and if he runs that again, it’s good enough to qualify him for state with the standard set at 51.05.

“There are three guys running faster than Ky’Sean in the 400, but just barely. He is an athlete who thrives with competition, so this race will be just what he needs,” Schmitz said. “He has yet to have someone really pushing him this season in the open 400. I’m excited to see what he can do when he’s up against guys running at his level.”

The sectional meet is loaded in the high jump and Mattoon has two athletes – Ethan Grasl and Jacob Weder – who are attempting to reach the qualifying height of 6-3. Grasl’s season-high is 6-2 and last season he qualified for the state meet. Weder has cleared 6-0 this season.

“I think that Ethan and Jacob both have the ability to jump qualifying height. I would not be surprised if both make it to state,” Kimbro said. “They have been looking forward to this meet all season.”

Both Payton Smith and Gunner Runyon have thrown over 48 feet for Mattoon in the shot put this season, but haven’t crossed 49 feet. The qualifying standard is 49-6. Smith is also hoping to qualify for the state meet in the discus for the second straight season. His best throw of the season is 152-3, which is better than the qualifying standard of 145-10.

“I told Payton and Gunner that they just need to put together one good throw and they will make it to state in the shot put. They are both within eight inches of qualifying,” Kimbro said. “They are both super competitive and enjoy the excitement of big meets. In discus, Payton has thrown well all season, but he hasn’t quite had that perfect day where everything goes right. As long as he goes out and performs the way he has all season, he will be fine.”

Mattoon’s Justus Donaldson qualified in the 110-meter hurdles last season and was struggling with his time this season until the last meet, when he ran a 15.19, which is better than the qualifying standard of 15.24. So he’s finding his form at the right time.

“Justus is right where he needs to be at this point,” Kimbro said. “He has had a great week of practice and is expecting to have a big day at the sectional.”

Charleston’s Austin Ames keeps pushing his time lower in each 3,200-meter run. The last few meets he’s been under 10:00 and has a season-best time of 9:51.61. The qualifying standard is 9:47.82.

“I am excited to see what Austin can do. He has continued to drop his time and is really pushing himself to run under 9:50,” Schmitz said. “He is ranked third right now at the sectional, so we will see what he can do with his time.”

The meet in Rantoul is scheduled to start with field events at 4:30 p.m. and running events at 6 p.m.

Contact Justin Rust at (217) 238-6856. Follow him on Twitter: @JustinRust

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