John Strickland was jumping with a heavy heart at the IHSA Class 3A Skokie Sectional meet on Thursday. Just that morning his cousin had passed away and, without a doubt, it was on his mind.
But the Glenbrook South senior still had the long jump to worry about, and a state championship berth at stake. After scratching on his first attempt, Strickland finished with a mark of 22 feet, good for second place and a chance at a state championship next weekend in Charleston.
“I wanted the gold so bad today, but can’t argue with state,” Strickland said.
The second-place finish provides a little redemption for Strickland, who barely missed out on the state championships last year. Strickland was sitting in second place before Loyola’s Shujaa Benson out-jumped bettered his mark on the final attempt.
Although the mark of 22 feet is below Strickland’s personal best, he still has a shot next week.
“Just have to go out there next week and try my best and see what happens,” Strickland said.
Strickland was the only state qualifier for Glenbrook South, which had a plethora of top-10 finishes on Thursday. Senior Kyle Kwasniewski had a solid all-around day, taking fifth in the 100 (11.16) and the pole vault (12-09). He also was part of the 4x100 relay team that took fifth (43.54).
Junior Max Leonard was one of Glenbrook South’s hopefuls for the state finals in the discus, but finished in 13th place (122-07). Leonard’s finish would’ve been better had it not been for a controversial foul call on his third attempt.
“I just stepped out the back [of the ring] before [the judge] said ‘Mark,’ and normally if you step out the back half it counts,” Leonard said. “But I guess this is a big meet so I should’ve waited for it. It’s my fault.”
The throw likely would have put Leonard into the finals, but he will use it as a learning experience, instead. His personal record set this year is 148-11, just short of the state qualifying mark of 155-0.
“I’m going to get stronger, obviously, a year from now so if I just relax more in the ring, stay loose, it’ll be a better year for me,” Leonard said. “Six feet and one inch in a year isn’t too much to ask so I think I’ll be able to do it next year, as long as I don’t pull something like this year.”
A number of Titan athletes just missed out on making it to the state championships. Gus Shipp was sixth in 110 Hurdles (14.74) while Sam Stanek was sixth in 800 (1:57.71), less than a second from automatic qualification.
Sophomore Ose Ilikehena was fourth in the long jump (20-11.5) and sophomore Stephen Lee was fifth in high jump (5-11).