Knoll medals in long jump

Kayci Woodley
Matt Knoll of Orion competes in the triple jump preliminaries at the state track meet on Thursday, May 28, in Charleston.

Advancing to the IHSA state track meet was nothing new for Orion senior Matt Knoll, but making it to the finals was. For the first time in his career, Knoll earned a spot in the state finals and a spot on the podium.

After qualifying for the IHSA state track meet with a season-high 21 foot, 5-1/2 inch jump at sectionals, Knoll matched that feat in the long jump finals on Saturday, May 30.

He finished seventh, wrapping up his high school career on a high note.

“I had never made it to finals before so I was pretty excited when I made it,” Knoll said.

The weather in the preliminaries didn’t stir the senior jumper in Charleston. Through the rain and wind Knoll soared 20-11 in long jump on Thursday, May 28, to put him into the finals.

“I just kept thinking about how this is my last year and could be my last jump in high school,” Knoll said.

Knoll was unable to advance to the finals in triple jump, but won his flight with a length of 41-8 1/2. Knoll missed the triple jump finals by just three inches, as 41-11 was the shortest jump that qualified for finals.

In the long jump finals, Knoll knew his jumps would have to be better than his preliminary attempts in order to place. The Orion senior jumped 20-8 1/4 on his first attempt, scratched the second and jumped 20-11 in his final jump in the prelims.

“I was seeded fifth so I knew I would have to get a big jump in order to maintain that position or place,” Knoll said. “Getting a bigger jump was my main focus.”

In the finals, Knoll’s primary attempt was the difference-maker yet again. At the sectional meet, his first jump was his best and enough to send him to state. Knoll’s second jump in the state finals was 20-10.

After all the finalists had made three attempts, the official announced the results and Knoll was on the podium with the first medal in his career.

“I’m really happy that I peaked at the right time this season,” Knoll said.

Over the years, nine Charger boys have collected 10 medals at the state track meet. Knoll’s medal is only the second in a field event. Justin Norberg placed seventh in pole vault in 1995.

Orion junior Kennen Hutchison placed 25th overall in the 400-meter dash with 52.53 seconds. Hutchison started out strong in the race, but after leading the first 250 meters he fell back to place sixth in his heat.

Orion’s Kennen Hutchison, right, races in the 400-meter dash preliminaries at the state track meet on Thursday, May 28. Eastern Illinois University hosted the meet at O’Brien Stadium in Charleston.