SCHOOL HISTORY IS MADE. The Mt. Zion boys track and field team win the second place trophy at the IHSA 2A Boys Track and Field State Meet held at O’Brien Field at Eastern Illinois University on Saturday night. Pictured (front row): Brayden Trimble, Sam Atkinson, Chiren Petty, Assistant Coach Michael Patrick, and Assistant Coach Bill Harbeck. (Back row): Head coach Joe Fritzche, Brock Trump, Karson Bollhorst, Bryson Richardson, Lawrence Trimble, Matthias Adams, Christian Keyhea, Kemper Koslofski, Kyle Hensley, Julian Baker, Ryne Buttz, Cade Seeley, Josh England, and Makobi Adams.
By BLAKE FAITH
The Mt. Zion boys track and field team faced adversity all year. Injuries, weather and a first year head coach all culminated into an odd season. The Braves finished the season with the best performance in school history with a second place finish at the IHSA 2A Boys Track and Field State Championship this past weekend at O’Brien Field at Eastern Illinois University.
“Matthias (Adams) came in with a torn ACL coming into season, we didn’t even know if we were gonna have him and we didn’t know what he was going to be able to bring to us,0 Head coach Joe Fritzche said. At one point I didn’t think we were gonna get him till April and then we had Christian dealing with injuries all year long, pushing through battling through, getting stretched out constantly putting in extra hours of just working with our athletic trainers, Dustin Fink. Sam Atkinson coming into the season. He didn’t run at all during the indoor season either with Matthias and Christian were very limited. Those were three key guys and to have their toughness is key.”
With two events remaining in the IHSA 2A Boys Track and Field Championship, senior sprinter Christian Keyhea faced pressure that could tip the Mt. Zion team’s finish having to finish in the top-three to secure a second place finish for the team.
It came down to the 200. Now granted, I told him like the rest of the team whatever happens happens,” Coach Fritzche said. “I’m extremely proud of you and you’ve put so much work into this and it’s not just coming down to you, because other people could have done other things and don’t blame yourself. but he went out on the 200 and put the team on his back and that’s what sealed the deal for us.
Keyhea sprinted to a third-place finish with a time of 22.16 seconds. The Braves tied with Mt. Vernon with 34 points and had to wait for the final event. His teammate Matthias Adams sn
“What was going through my head was to try to stay in the top three,” Keyhea said. With my back I was just trying to hold that at least the last 50 meters to get us in a good place for some hardware.”
Coach Fritzche was an assistant for the program and served his first year as the head coach this year.
“It shows how great of a coach he is and how much he pushes us every day at practice,” Keyhea said. And I’m really happy that he was my coach and one of my favorites in high school.”
Bartonville and Marion had chances to spoil the Braves coronation. All they had to do was win the 4×400. Kankakee helped out the Braves by winning the 4×400.
The Braves competed in 12 events and medaled in 10 of those 12 events.
“I was telling these guys in the huddle, it’s just being on the other side of things,” Coach Fritzsche said. From going to winning a state title with a great team that we were coached by Coach Harbeck and being able to coach a team and see their success. It really wasn’t me , Coach Patrick, and Coach Harbeck. It’s these kids that did all the work. They know, they listened to us, they were bought into what we were trying to program and they had to buy into the fact that they were a special team and they could do a lot, but we know that to come together. It’s gonna take everybody you know, like today’s results. If one guy messed up and got a place lower, we wouldn’t we wouldn’t be here right now.”
The relay team of Chiren Petty, Matthias Adams, Kemper Koslofski and Keyhea came in hoping to get two medals in the 4×100 and 4×200. The Braves team came away with a fifth place finish in the 4×200, but failed to qualify for the 4×100 final after finishing 11th in the semifinals.
“I think it’s kind of cool, especially like freshman year, not really being fast enough to make the varsity team even then losing ourselves basically with a few other guys who are just trying to get a medal, but now having a legitimate metallizing team,” Adams said. “I think that’s a really good opportunity for us to grow and show that the program has grown.”
Adams, Keyhea and Koslofski were all seniors. Keyhea battled injuries throughout the season and Adams tore his ACL during football season and the hopes of track were slim at the time.
“We’ve faced adversity all year and we broke it down and knocked it out,” Koslofski said. “We had this guy out with an ACL (Adams) and this guy is battling injuries (Keyhea). This guy (Petty) is new to our system and adapted and bought in and it all paid off.”
Petty transferred into the Braves school as a junior and had to learn a new program.
“It honestly feels great,” Petty said. I’d say the hardest part was going from a 1A school to a 2A school. I’ve seen a lot of faster times, a lot faster people who can actually compete. But this is a special group of kids I’m running with. They’re gonna go off to do great things. We’re an all-time team that broke a bunch of school records.”
Julian Baker got the Braves going when he medaled and finished in eight place with a time of nine minutes and 46 seconds.
“It feels good all around, but I’m only a sophomore and it says that I really have time and shows what I need to do to be able to get on the one through three spot maybe next year and if not senior year,” Baker said.
Kyle Hensley medaled next for the Braves. Hensley jumped a three-way tie for third jump of 4.50 meters.
“I didn’t jump exactly what I wanted today, but that’s okay,” Hensley said. “I pretty much have the exact same people next year to compete against. So it’ll be just as hard but like, if I get out of my head, it will help quite a bit.”
Freshman Brayden Trimble medaled next for the Braves in the triple jump. Trimble came into the weekend ranked 13th overall, but broke a school record when he jumped 13.28 meters and finished in fifth place.
“I feel good,” Trimble said. “I didn’t think I would get 13 because of all the practice I’ve been doing all the last few weeks, so I thought I could jump how I jumped in and close to the fifth in the state.”
Keyhea ran in the 100 meter dash and finished in seventh place. Sam Atkinson broke a school record in the 800 meters. Atkinson finished with a time of one minute and 54 seconds and a fourth place finish after qualifying for the 800 meters and just barely missing the cut for the 400 meter final.
“It feels really good.” Atkinson said. “I know at the beginning year I said I wanted to be in the top-three, but you can’t always decide how you want it to go. And considering first place got a new state record I can’t be that disappointed.”
Ryne Buttz finished twelfth in the shot-put in the semifinals and then finished 12th in the finals. Josh England competed in the discus throws and finished in 16th. The Braves graduate Adams, Buttz, England, Koslofski and Keyhea.
“Not only with just their performances, athletically, but just with their performance as leaders,” Coach Fritzche said. All of the seniors that we have had been phenomenal leaders and role models. They helped our guys beginning a practice they would get huddled up and we’d have our seniors get them pumped up and ready to go for practice and ready to go for our workout. They worked hard, athletically, but also they were great leaders, they were great. All the credit goes to them for helping turn this team around. Last year we finished, we tied for 14th place. I don’t know if we’ve had any higher places in that and it’s just a testament to these guys.”
The future for the boys track and field program is bright as they’re returning medalists and have eight graders coming off of a third place finish at the IESA Boys State Track Championship.