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Track & Field: Neal turns in two Top 5 performances for Bulldogs at state

  • Harrisburg's Niko Neal clears the final hurdle during the class 2A 110-meter high hurdles during the boys state track and field finals at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston Saturday.

      Harrisburg's Niko Neal clears the final hurdle during the class 2A 110-meter high hurdles during the boys state track and field finals at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston Saturday.
    JOE LEWNARD/JLEWNARD@DAILYHERALD.COM

 
By MICHAEL DANN mdann@dailyregister.com
updated: 5/30/2017 1:39 PM

There's a first time for everything and for Harrisburg's Niko Neal, the first impression was one that left a lasting impression.

Neal, a junior for the Bulldogs, shined bright at the IHSA Class 2A State Track and Field finals in Charleston over the weekend with a pair of top five performances.

Neal took fourth in the 300 Intermediate Hurdles with a personal record of 38.33 in the 2A finals and finished fifth in the 110 high hurdles with a time of 14.77.

It was a 25th overall finish for Harrisburg as a school.

In the regular outdoor season, Neal finished first in all but three races in the 110's and wasn't beat in the 300 until the state finals.

Harrisburg head coach Zach Cox said it was a great way to end the season for Neal, who got a taste of the state finals and is now ready to chew some more.

"He really took some great strides forward," Cox said. "After the races, he was happy, proud and high on his accomplishments, but he's also one of the most competitive kids I know and losing isn't really an option.

"For him to go up there for the first time and just make the finals would have been a bright spot, but for him to medal and stand on the podium, just shows the will to win. He also acknowledges now, how much work we have to do for next season."

Cox said the conversation on the way home was one where Neal understands the year-long process that he's going to be on for a shot a state championship next season.

"It was a great way to end the season and we went up there with expectations to try to make finals in at least one event. So, for us to have two top five finishes in 2A, it could not have went any more perfect."

Michael Dann covers prep and college sports for the Harrisburg Register, Eldorado Journal & Gallatin County Democrat. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.