The Parker Junior High 8th grade boys track team secured the program’s first-ever Class 4A state championship last weekend at East Peoria High School.
The Falcons finished with 47 team points, 16 ahead of second-place Winston Junior High from Palatine.
Myles Ellis was the champion in the 400-meter dash and with the 1,600-meter relay team of Caden Dixon, Kourtney Smith and Jamir Ratliff.
Parker athletes were on the podium after five other events, as well.
“I knew we had some special pieces coming back that were contenders for a state title,” Ellis said. “But I was really surprised when I seen the full team come together and win.”
Ellis, the team captain, was also third in the 110 hurdles and with the 800-meter relay team. His 54.43 in the 400 may be a school record. The 1,600-meter relay team’s 3:47.62 might be, as well.
They’re at least the fastest times at Parker since 2015, the furthest back online records go.
Coming into the meet, Ellis was expected to win the hurdles but only place in the 400. Coach Joe Butler said after Ellis finished a disappointing third in the hurdles race, he saw something in his star athlete’s body language.
Ellis came from behind to take both the 400 and as the anchor in the 1,600 relay race. He donned a Superman cape after the meet.
“After the hurdles, I told myself I wasn’t leaving without an individual state championship,” he said. “I like to chase. I like to see who’s in front of me and chase them down at the end. It’s pretty fun.”
Butler said Ellis has taken his leadership role seriously, moving from the back to the front of practice drills and keeping things positive with his teammates. He’s authoritative without being overbearing.
That demeaner was key to the Falcons’ state championship hopes.
“We had one regular season full meet. We had a lot of rainouts and I was concerned that we wouldn’t be battle tested,” Butler said. “A kid like Myles, he makes sure he’s ready and he makes sure that his teammates are ready.”
Stephen Brown was another key to the Falcons’ big day. In only his third-ever long jump, he flew 20 feet, 4.75 inches to finish second. That’s another possible school record.
Parker doesn’t have a long jump pit, so Brown was never able to measure his steps or get much real practice in. On the way to the sectional, he was coached up by 7th grader Kaiya Collier.
Whatever she said to him paid off.
“The first time early in the season, he went 13 feet. The next time was sectionals a week prior to state and he went from 13 feet to 19 feet,” Butler said. “He’s a raw, raw talent and will just get better and better.”
Brown also finished fifth in the 200-meter dash and sixth in the 100-meter dash.
Butler said he knew he had the kind of team that was capable of winning a state championship after last season’s sectional. Ellis ran with the 8th grade team and competed well. Ratliff, a talented distance runner, also showed promise. Throw in a few other athletes, like Brown, and the recipe was there.
“It feels amazing. We had a great group of kids, great student athletes and it felt good to see the potential become reality,” Butler said. “We had some hiccups along the way but to put it all together and grab a state title was pretty amazing.”