CARTERVILLE, Ill. — They may have taken different paths to get there. But, Daxton Peach and Zach Whittler are now standing together at the top.
As state champions.
Peach, in his third and final attempt at junior high glory, won the high jump at the SIJHSAA state meet in Carterville. Meanwhile, Whittler won the seventh grade 100 meter dash in his first trip to the state meet on Saturday, thereby stamping himself as the man to beat in next year’s race as an eighth grader.
MCMS sent a total of seven boys and five girls to the state meet. Other highlights included Eryn Gould placing third in the shot put, and Grady Wilkinson’s seventh-place finish in the 1600 meter run.
For Peach, who also finished fourth in the long jump, it was now or never. After missing the mark as a sixth grader, then scratching in his final attempt as a seventh grader, the high jump represented his last best chance at a medal.
After clearing 5-feet-8 inches on his first jump, he watched as only two others cleared that height as well.
“At first, I was getting over everything, but everybody else wasn’t. I started getting some confidence inside myself,” said Peach.
Then the bar was raised to 5-10. “On my last three jumps, I wasn’t doing great, but everybody else was missing too,” he said of a height no one could surmount. With that, Peach had won the state title based on fewer misses at 5-8.
Whittler ran a 12.08 second race to etch his name in the history books, though it was far from his best. He ran an 11.0 earlier this season.
While admitting he was nervous in making the state appearance, as the race itself neared, his confidence was bolstered by a solid performance on a fourth-place relay race earlier.
“When we started to lineup before the race, I felt like I could win it,” Whittler said. Then, a near disaster at the start. “I didn’t get a good start. A guy cut in front of me,” he said. He simply stepped aside and hit full stride, a clear winner at the finish.
Considering the 100 is the marquee event in track, how does Whittler feel about wearing the state’s biggest target on his back in his eighth grade year?
“I’m pretty excited about it,” he said of the chance to defend the crown in 2014.