Red Devils relays sweep 4x100 and 4x200
CHARLESTON — Four Red Devils, two state championships.
The Hall Red Devil relays raced their way into the record books and school history, winning not one, but two state championships from the IHSA 1A State Track & Field meet in Charleston Saturday.
The Red Devils won both the 4x100 and 4x200 relays on the legs of seniors Steven Brust, Devin Soldati and Anthony Buchanan and junior anchor Marshall Walk.
They are the first two relays to win state titles in school history, marking Hall’s best showing (7th place, 21 points) at state in 20 years. D.J. Glynn won four state championships in 1999 to lead Hall to a state runner-up team finish in 1A in 1999 with 45 points.
“The feeling of winning state was something that cannot be matched. Being able to take two titles away that weekend was something that we will always remember,” said Walk, who also medaled with a ninth-place finish in the 100 (11.17).
“The feeling doesn’t get any better than this. I couldn’t imagine a better way to cap off my career at Hall,” Soldati said. “After deciding to switch to track this year (from baseball), my goal was to bring home hardware from Charleston, but I never imagined winning not only one, but two relays.”
The 4x100 was first on the Big Blue Track at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium. They were seeded fourth coming into Charleston, ranked No. 1 for Saturday’s finals. They lived up to that top billing, turning in the top time of 42.74, edging second-place Pana by 0.11 to take the gold medal.
The Red Devils were not done quite yet, returning to blister the track to win the 4x200 with a school record of 1:29.49. The Hall quartet was seeded ninth coming into state, but took the top seed into Saturday’s finals and nosed out Pana (1:29.89) once again for first place.
“Coming out of Thursday’s prelims ranked first for both relays was quite a bit of weight on our shoulders, knowing what we would have to do Saturday to stand up to the expectations,” Walk said. “We all stayed focused with one goal in our minds, and ended up taking the gold in both, which is just unbelievable to think about still."
Hall coach Rob Malerk said he had a good feeling going into finals about the 4x100, in which Hall placed fifth a year ago, but not as much with the 4x200 (eighth last year).
“I knew there was some great relay teams (4x200) we were competing against, and we were no longer an unknown, so some teams were switching their runners to match with ours,” Malerk said.
“In both cases when Marshall got the baton and we were in the lead, I knew we had it and we were going to be state champions. As I was texting my wife the results, my hands were shaking so much with excitement, it was hard to write anything.”
In the end, it was all about getting out on the track and running their races, Buchanan and Brust said.
“We set our goals at the start of the season. We knew what we were capable of after our first track meet. It was just a matter of executing every track meet,” Buchanan said. "Making sure we got the baton around the track without any mistakes and just practice handoffs at every practice. Shaping the little things to give us the best opportunity to win the relays at state.”
“It was surprising to us all, considering we’ve been switching out relays up back and forth the entire year, but we did exactly what we did last year and finished higher than what we were ranked to be, and it all worked out perfect,” Brust said.
Brust added that the baton didn’t seem to slow down through any of the exchanges, “which in the end worked out perfect for us.”
• Notes: Princeton senior Eli Grundman did not clear 13-6 in Saturday's 2A pole vault finals, finishing 11th. Brock Loftus, a freshman from Ohio, competed in the 3200m finals Saturdays in 1A, turning in a time of 11:18.99. ... The last state champion for Hall was current Red Devils coach Matt Hassler, who won the Class A high jump crown in 2008. Hall's first state champion came in 1952 when Keen Meek won the discus. ... Hall's first-place finishes were its best relay finishes since what was called the mile relay placed third in 1977.