CHARLESTON -- Three members of the Marion High School boys track and field team returned from the IHSA's Class 2A State Track and Field Meet with medals Saturday.
Zach Young, a senior, ran the best mile of his life and broke the school record -- previously held by Marion's coach, Eli Baker -- in the 1,600-meter run with a fourth-place finish in 4:20.77.
Jack Bunting, another senior, won a medal in the shot put for the second straight year, this time placing fifth with a throw of 53-7.
And junior Jaden Lacy placed fourth in the long jump with a top mark of 22-8.25.
"I am so proud of our team," Baker said. "I have a hard time using words to explain the feelings. They have continued to get better and continue to push one another. We aren't just a team of three All-staters in three events -- which is great -- but we are a solid all-around team. We have guys in every event that have scored for us and have contributed to our season outcome."
Sophomore Stuart Adkinson ran in two preliminary hurdle races Friday and came up just short in qualifying for the finals -- placing 12th in the 110 sprint race and 10th in the 300-meter version -- and pole vaulter Ian Gilcrist was just shy of qualifying for the second day. Senior shot putter Tucker Sullivan fouled on his three preliminary throws.
Lacy had a huge jump of 22-5.25 in Friday's prelims to not only advance to Saturday, but sit in fourth place with the marks carrying over. He increased the mark by three inches.
"On the first jump, I scratched," Lacy said. "But the last two, they were perfect."
Lacy was a track athlete in junior high but didn't participate the past two years. Coming back for his junior year was obviously a good decision.
"It was fun," Lacy said. "I wish I could have done track earlier in my career. The energy here was great. I had a lot of great competition and made a lot of friends. I can't wait to come back next year."
Bunting, who placed eighth in the shot put as a junior, didn't reach his personal-best mark of 54-4 from last season but still climbed three spots on the medal stand.
"I had an amazing career with great coaches and teammates," Bunting said. "I couldn't ask for a better group to see and hear every single day. And although I didn't accomplish all my goals, it's an honor to be an all-state athlete for the second year in a row. I enjoyed every moment of it."
And then there was Young, the senior who qualified for state as a junior but wasn't able to participate.
Given a second chance, Young nearly didn't make the finals but squeaked in with the last qualifying preliminary time of 4:25.21, nearly six seconds behind the leader.
But in Saturday's race, the final mile of his prep career, Young shattered his PR time and replaced Baker's name in the MHS record books.
"I don't think a coach can be any happier for someone to break a school record than for them to break their own record," Baker said. "I have held it for 16 years and I knew it would get broken eventually. I am very happy that it was Zach. He told me when he was a freshman that he wanted to break it and he earned it today. He ran a smart race and put himself in the position to run a great time."
Young said it was a huge change in strategy that paid off.
"In the prelims I felt very tight and out of it so going in today instead of committing up at the very front from the get-go I decided to be patient and keep moving to better positions gradually," Young said. "And then when it came to the final stretch, I gave it all I had and ended up getting fourth and the school record."
And of course he knew whose it was.
"It really meant a lot breaking Coach Baker's record," Young said. "He has made me the man I am today and he has taught me so much -- without him I wouldn't be the runner or person that I am. I am forever grateful for him."
Marion's three medal-winners compiled 17 team points. Freeport and Normal U-High tied for first at 37 points, dethroning Cahokia, which tied for fifth with 30.