Boys track break records at state


courtesy of Jim Westfall

Senior Dan Watcke won the 800 meter run at the state competition at Eastern Illinois University May 25-27.

You’re approaching the final curve of the 800. You’re in the last leg of the relay. The anchor. Only 200 meters left to run. You can hear the other runners on your back. Fatigue can’t get you now. You reach the final straightaway and begin to hear the screams of your supporters. You recognize them all- your Hinsdale Central teammates who drove three hours to watch you compete. It pushes you even more. With only a few meters left to run, you sprint, putting in all your energy to reach the finish line first. You’ve just won first in the state. 

On May 25-27, members of the Hinsdale Central Boys Track & Field team competed at the State Final Meet at Eastern Illinois University. 

Out of the runners who competed in the finals, the 4×800 meter relay, with runners Michael Skora, Grant Miller, Kyle Doorhy, and Dan Watcke took first place; Watcke took first place in the 800 meter run, and Aden Bandukwala took first place in the 1600 meter run and third place in the 3200 meter run.

Central’s 4×400 meter relay, expected to do well at the meet, drew attention on social media after a messed up handoff affected their performance. Coaches and fellow teammates started the hashtag #letthemrun as they believed the situation was an infraction. The relay was ultimately not allowed to run in the finals. 

The team felt confident and excited about going into state. The 4×800 meter relay team had previously placed top two in Illinois and top three on the national level. Last year, the relay ran the fastest time in the country, 7:32:14. Many of the runners are used to doing well in high-level meets.

“This year is different because we have a lot of returning guys who have state meet experience. Whereas in the past, we really didn’t have a whole lot of guys with state meet experience,” said Jim Westfall, head track & field coach. 

Some of the runners had some experience competing at this level.

“I went [to state] last year for the high jump. I was just a sophomore, so I felt very confused on what to do and where to go at times. I’m excited about this weekend,” said Michael Prieto, junior who competed at state in the high jump. 

As well as high jump, the team had state running entries in the 4×800 meter relay, the 4×400 meter relay, the 800 meter run, the 1600 meter run, and the 3200 meter run. 

Because these are mainly distance events, most of the runners have been practicing since the beginning of the cross country season last summer. 

“Starting in the summer and the fall, it’s just a lot of work. It’s practicing every day, making good choices, getting sleep, good nutrition and staying healthy,” Westfall said. 

The runners echoed the same sentiment. 

“It’s about knowing your priorities, your goals and dreams. We’re a good team and we know that by giving it our best we can make state, make nationals and really accomplish something memorable,” said Watcke, senior distance runner. 

These efforts aren’t limited to distance runners; sprinters and field events also have had daily practices throughout the season. They practice every day from winter up until before the state meet. 

“Through the cold and the rain, the runners are always out getting the miles in. As for the sprinters, they have to do extremely hard workouts two to three times a week. And for the jumpers, we jump about 2 times a week, with recovery days in between,” Prieto said.

Watcke added, “Little choices, day in and day out make  state champions, not a single practice or month or even a whole season. I think one thing people misunderstand about our sport is that it takes years of consistent effort to get to where we are now. Ultimately, there is no substitute for putting one foot in front of the other over and over and over again.”

Even as a jumper, Prieto said he recognizes the teamwork component of the track team. 

“This season, it truly has felt like a team effort at every meet. Everyone cheers each other on, and watches each other’s events,” Prieto said.  

Heading into the 2023-2024 school year, given that the majority of runners in the relays are currently seniors, the school will see new faces compete in the years to come.