Local throwers primed for top-flight hardware in 1A championships
May 26—CHARLESTON — It's possible — perhaps even likely — that The News-Gazette's coverage area will produce both IHSA Class 1A boys' track and field throwing state champions this weekend.
Salt Fork senior Garrett Taylor is part of the reason why.
So too is Arcola senior Mitchel Myers.
As is Tuscola senior Chris Boyd.
Taylor and Myers placed first and second, respectively, in both shot put and discus during Thursday's preliminaries at O'Brien Stadium on the Eastern Illinois University campus.
Boyd ranked third in shot put, but a difficult overall day left him outside of the discus state-final advancers.
"I love it, to be honest. I love just having that competition," said Taylor, who logged top tosses of 60 feet, 71/4 inches in shot put and 176-1 in discus. "I love having that pressure, that you have to throw it far. I just really like being in that situation.
"It's been fun all year going against them, and sadly it'll come to an end Saturday. But, oh well. It's been nice."
Taylor hopes what he describes as a friendly rivalry among the trio concludes with him atop both the 1A shot put and discus championship podiums.
The future Illinois State thrower and recent recipient of the 2023 News-Gazette Male Athlete of the Year award is already a two-time 1A discus state titlist having done so in 2021 and 2022. But he's also looking for his first state crown in shot put. His best finish in that event is third last year.
Taylor nearly uncorked a monstrous hurl of the shot Thursday that probably would have left all of his competition in the dust. That's because it would have surpassed the 1A state record of 63-6, held by Girard's Matt Maddox since 1997.
Just one problem.
"I stepped out (of the ring). I scratched it," Taylor said. "But it was definitely a PR by a lot of feet. I really wish I would've saved it, but I can always come back Saturday and try to do it again."
Arcola's Myers impressed himself in shot put, as well.
Arriving at Charleston with a personal best of 54-111/2, Myers launched the shot 57-11/2 in his final attempt of prelims.
"PR'ing in shot usually goes little by little, but (Thursday) it was by a lot," said Myers, who added a discus throw of 173-4. "I honestly have no idea (how the shot throw happened). Really good coaching, and adrenaline probably. Just being at the state meet, you get a lot of adrenaline going."
Myers will throw collegiately at Indiana State beginning next school year.
Even so, he feels there's something to be said about the mental and emotional effect of participating in his last meet as a Purple Rider.
"You want to leave it all out there, for sure, just because you know you're never going to do it again," said Myers, who placed third in the 1A discus at last season's state meet. "A few of us are lucky that we're going to do it in college, but you'll never get the high school experience again."
Tuscola's Boyd expressed frustration with his collective performance across both shot put (55-81/4) and discus (142-4) following his performance in the preliminaries.
"Much less than I wanted," said Boyd, a future Arkansas State thrower. "I threw about 20 meters less than I probably could in discus, which is real bad, and I didn't even break 17 meters in shot put. So it was a rough day."
Boyd said he recently was sick, but he didn't want to chalk that up as the reason for his relative lack of distance.
At any rate, he's well aware he can perform better in shot put during Saturday's title round. Getting to watch frequent foes Taylor and Myers have better preliminary sessions also serves as a bit of extra motivation.
"They're doing really well for themselves," said Boyd, who placed third in the 1A state shot put as a sophomore and finished second as a junior. "It was just a rough day (for me). Watching them throw, I know I'm able to throw the same thing. I've just got to do it in the meet."
Both Boyd and Myers expressed mutual appreciation for what the other has accomplished in throwing, despite the two operating out of longtime rival schools.
"I don't even care if he beats me," Boyd said. "If I do well and he does well and beats me, good for him."
"Me and Chris are buddies. We've been friends since we were little kids," Myers added. "It's just fun to throw together and push each other."
Taylor might not have any grudge with either guy, but he wants to prevent Boyd and Myers — as well as the other remaining shot put and discus competitors — from staking claim to this weekend's 1A throwing state championships.
"It definitely is a bittersweet moment. It's my last time throwing in high school," Taylor said. "I'm just so excited. ... I've worked really hard to get to this moment, and my coaches have, too. It's so nice to actually be here and actually do it."