They say once is luck, twice is a coincidence and three times is habit, but Waterloo’s three track elites have made qualifying for the state tournament a Class of 2013 tradition.
Friday, the WHS boys track team took fourth place out of 22 teams in what Bulldogs track coach Larry Huffman described as the hardest draw at the Class 2A Salem Sectional, thanks in large part to the efforts of medalists and state qualifying seniors Brendan Duncan, Justin Kretchmer and Josh Rodenberg.
“These three we are definitely going to miss,” Huffman said of his decorated bunch. “These three are definitely elite in the area and to have three that can score points and possibly win state championships, you don’t have that too often.”
Duncan took first at sectionals in both shot put (57’8.5”) and discus (173’06”), but didn’t quite get the throws he was hoping for.
“Brendan kind of had an average day in the shot and discus, but his average is a little bit above everybody else’s,” Huffman said with a laugh.
Duncan says he has relaxed and is a bit more confident after his sectional showing, and he is excited to compete among the state’s top throwers.
“I was off mentally I was just having a rough time,” Duncan explained. “I had some good warm-up throws in shot put but discus was a total mess, so I’m hoping to throw a lot better at state.”
As a sophomore, Duncan won the discus with a throw of 170’9” and is hoping to break the Class 2A record of 188’2” at this weekend’s IHSA state meet at Eastern Illinois University. He has beaten that mark several times this season.
“I’m seeded fourth. So some of the guys that are going to be my competition are seeded after me,” Duncan said, walking through his state strategy. “I am hoping just to break the state record on the first throw, which is likely. If I do that, then they have to wait 20 minutes to get everything out there and measure everything out. It will take them forever to do it, so it will kind of mess them up.”
He admits with a laugh that “it’s kind of a horrible strategy” but it happened to him last year, so he knows how it works.
Teammate Josh Rodenberg is gearing up for his fourth state rodeo as well, after taking second in the 3,200-meter run at Salem.
“I was upset. My best was 9:37. I ran 9:46, we went on pace for a 9:20 and then just died,” Rodenberg said, describing his sectional performance. “Hopefully if I stay at that pace I’ll feel good for the first mile and then we will run a 9:20. If I run a 9:20 I will be in the top three for sure, that is the goal.”
Rodenberg, who just signed with Bellarmine University to run track and cross country, is excited to go out on a high note his senior year.
“My goal is to (get a personal record) and just run your best race,” Rodenberg said. “I’ve still got four more years and after college you can still run.”
But the big show was over at the high jump last Friday, where Kretchmer outdid himself once again.
“Justin’s 7’1” was definitely a surprise,” Huffman said of the senior’s first place, record- breaking jump at Salem. “To add a couple inches to it before we go in (to state) is pretty big. We are hoping he just repeats it or gets a little better.”
Kretchmer’s personal record, or PR, of 7’1” would likely win him a state title and would beat the Class 2A state record of 6’9”, one he almost broke last year in his 6’8” state winning jump.
His PR jump at sectionals last week is a big hurdle for the high jumper.
“The first time I went up against seven-foot it was a big mind game, I just wasn’t ready for it,” Kretchmer described, referring to his 6’11” personal record jump earlier in the season. “But when I jumped over seven-foot I didn’t get anywhere close to hitting it, so it just feels good knowing that I have the ability to get over it.”
But the reigning state champ may have one more mental block to get over.
“You sit around and think, not too many people have two great weeks in a row. So that is the only thing I am a little concerned about.”
Not too many people can jump over seven-feet, either.
The IHSA state track meet preliminaries are Friday, with both Duncan and Kretchmer competing for the state finals to be held Saturday. Rodenberg does not have prelims and will just run in the finals.
In other local track news…
Dupo High School track athlete Matt McDonald qualified for the state tournament as well. The senior took first in the Class 1A Nashville Sectional triple jump on Saturday with a jump of 41’11.5”.
Last year, McDonald qualified for the state meet in the long jump, high jump and triple jump.