Bell places 6th at state; first track medal in 76 years

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By Dave Bell

For the first time since 1933, a male Vandalia Community High School runner has placed in the Class A State Track and Field Meet. Over the years, several Vandals have placed in field events, and the girls 4 by 400-meter relay team won state titles last year and this year.

But VCHS senior Drew Bell’s sixth-place finish in the 1,600-meter run is the first running medal for the Vandals since H. Roberts was fourth in the 880-yard run 76 years ago. Bell ran a personal best and new school record time of 4:27.30 in the finals of the state meet Saturday on the Eastern Illinois University campus. In five trips to the state meet – two in junior high and three in high school – this is Bell’s highest finish. In eighth grade, he placed eighth.

In Thursday’s preliminary race, Bell came from the back of the pack to finish third in his heat, with a personal best and school record time of 4:28.95. His time placed him ninth over all, and advanced him to Saturday’s finals with the top 12 milers in Class A.

“I came here (to state) the past two years and didn’t run well,” Bell said. “This year, I was gradually improving my times at the end of the season – and even improved from the preliminaries to the finals at state. That’s what I wanted to do.

“Sixth place is pretty nice. My first goal was to get into the finals, then I wanted to place. I started to accelerate in the third lap, and then gave it everything I had in the last lap.”

Bell’s splits in the 1,600-meter race were 1:04 for the first 400, 1:08 for the second, 1:09 for the third and 1:06 for the fourth.

He currently holds VCHS records in the 800-meter run, the 1,600-meter run, the 3,200-meter run and is a part of the record-holding teams in the 4 by 400-meter relay and the 4 by 800-meter relay.

Bell plans continue his track career as a walk-on at the University of Illinois, while pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering.

This was also the best showing for the Vandal boys’ team as a whole, with three athletes qualifying for this year’s state competition.

The two other VCHS athletes competed in the preliminary round of the Class A State Meet on Thursday at Charleston, but neither was able to advance to the finals on Saturday.

Angel Osorio, a VCHS junior, competed in rainy conditions during his flight in the high jump and was only able to clear 6 feet – well under his personal best of 6 feet, 6 inches. Only four of the 14 contestants in Osorio’s rain-soaked flight were able to advance due to the inclement conditions. Overall, nine of 37 high jumpers cleared the qualifying height of 6 feet, 3 inches. Osorio finished in a tie for 18th place.

Osorio is the VCHS record holder in the high jump (6 feet, 6 inches) and the 200-meter dash (23.5 seconds). He also is a member of the record-holding relay squads in the 4 by 100-meter relay (47.9 seconds) and the 4 by 200-meter relay (1:39.1). All those marks were set this year.

In the 300-meter low hurdles, VCHS freshman Quenten Austin finished sixth in his heat with a time of 43.08 seconds. He was the top freshman finisher in the event, placing 27th over all.

In his first year of high school track competition, Austin has set school records in the 55-meter low hurdles (9.29 seconds) and the 110-meter hurdles (16.06).

Also competing from Fayette County was St. Elmo High School weightman Dillon Holloway. On Thursday, the junior had a throw of 49 feet, 4 ½ inches in the shot put, good for 13th place, but didn't advance to the final round on Saturday. The last of the 12 qualifiers threw just 4 inches farther than Holloway.

His best throw of the year was 52 feet, 10 ½ inches at the sectional meet. Last year he placed sixth in the shot put at state.

Holloway did advance in the discus, however, throwing 147 feet, 8 inches to place him 11th among the competitors in that event going into Saturday’s finals.

In the finals, he had three good throws, but all were less than his throw in the preliminary round. His throw of 147 feet, 8 inches was good enough to maintain 11th place in the final standings.

“I was shocked that I made it (to the finals) in the discus rather than the shot,” Holloway said after Saturday’s finals. “I thought I had a better chance in the shot. I didn’t throw 140 feet until a couple of weeks ago, and I never had spun in the ring (as he released the discus) until this year.

Holloway attends Brownstown High School, but participates on the coop track team that competes under the St. Elmo High School name.