MANLIUS — St. Bede’s Steven Gualandri, Bureau Valley’s Logan Hoffert and Hall’s Landon Piccatto have battled back and forth all spring in the 300-meter hurdles and triple jump.
Now the trio of seniors will be taking the battle to state after earning qualifying berths at the Class 1A Bureau Valley Sectional Friday in Manlius.
In an exciting end to the final heat of the 300 hurdles, Gualandri survived a late scrape with the last hurdle that nearly sent him careening to the track to win with a time 40.56 seconds.
Hoffert finished hot on his heels with an automatic-qualifying second-place finish at 40.76, while Piccatto qualified on time with a fourth-place run at 41.3.
Earlier in the triple jump, Hoffert was the first to punch his ticket to state as the Storm senior blasted out a personal-record jump of 42 feet, 5 ½ inches — past the qualifying distance of 42-3 — on his second attempt of preliminaries. But Piccatto did him one better — more precisely ¼ of an inch better — in the very next jump as the Hall senior soared out to his own personal best of 42-5 ¾.
The prelim marks held up to give Piccatto the sectional title and Hoffert second as neither athlete elected to compete in the finals, where Gualandri bowed out 6 ¼ inches away from qualifying distance, unable to better his top mark of 41-8 ¾ from prelims.
Hoffert, who earned a third state berth as the lead leg on BV’s second-place 1,600 relay, said he was looking forward to continuing to compete with Gualandri and Piccatto in the 300 hurdles at Charleston.
“I love going against those guys. They’re some of my better friends. We always talk, and we’re a close group. I couldn’t wish for a better group of guys to run against,” Hoffert said.
While he won’t get another shot in the triple jump, Gualandri — who admitted his “heart stopped” when he clipped his last hurdle and nearly spilled — is ready to rumble again in the hurdles after claiming the sectional title.
“They’re both great runners. I’m glad I’m going to see them again at state,” Gualandri said.
Piccatto was happy to earn a return trip to state in the triple jump with a new personal best.
“Long jump, I didn’t make it to state, but I PR’d (set a personal record) in that, so I knew I was jumping well today,” said the Red Devil standout, who hit 20-8 ¾ to finish third in the long jump, just 3 ¼ inches away from qualifying.
He said if history is any indication, it will be anyone’s race when he meets up with Gualandri and Hoffert for the final time in their prep careers at state.
“It’s been back-and-forth all year. Somebody will win the triple then somebody (else) will come out and win the 300s. It’s been good competition,” Piccatto said.
Hoffert and teammates Ryan Taylor, Tucker Schoff and Daniel Trone’s second-place qualification in the 1,600 relay gave BV a pair of state-bound relays.
The Storm’s 3,200 relay squad of Taylor, Andrew Smith, Colton Peterson and Kane Eastwood started Friday’s finals on the track with a second-place finish at 8:27.2.
For Taylor, who scratched out of the pole vault and open 800 to focus his effort on the relays — a strategy that resulted in a personal record split in his half-mile leg — qualifying in both relays was a dream come true.
“The relays mean more to me than an individual event, just taking guys with me. I love the team, I love teamwork and being with the team, so I’d rather be with the relay than as an individual,” said Taylor.
Also representing the Storm at state will be senior Kristian Konneck, who placed fourth in the 200 and beat qualifying time by just .01 seconds at 22.93.
Hall sophomore Al Baldonado and Henry-Midland junior Alex Pettis provided plenty of fireworks in the 3,200 as the duo battled back-and-forth in second and third place for all eight laps before Baldonado passed Pettis just before final lap and weathered a wild surge down the final stretch by just .38 seconds to take sectional silver.
It turns out the duo will have a chance to settle the score at state, as Pettis’s time of 10:00.87, less than a second off the winning pace of Riverdale’s Kevin Claus — who saw his early lead shrink down the stretch —— was well below the qualifying standard of 10:04.
“I was just wanting revenge from the Rollie Morris — where it was the exact same finish except he got a step ahead of me and beat me by like a tenth of a second,” said Baldonado. “It was my main focus to stay with him and get second. It means everything. I’ve been working so hard.”
Fieldcrest junior Dawson White will also be making the trip to Charleston after finishing second in the 110 hurdles with a personal-best time of 15.76 seconds, just .03 off the winning pace of Fulton’s Bryce Holesinger.
“I’m just glad I get to go,” said White. “I’ve worked on my form, and not letting my arms swing out crazy. It feels great (to set a new PR), I had a little help with the wind at my back.”
Notes: Erie-Prophetstown topped Newman 126-100 to take the team title. ... Locally, Hall finished third with 56 team points, Bureau Valley was fourth (53), St. Bede was sixth (38) and Fieldcrest was 11th (16).
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.