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Final goals set for North Lawndale's Imani Payton, Dunbar's Demoria Harris

05/30/2014, 10:47pm CDT
By Mike Clark | mclark@suntimes.com | @mikeclarkpreps

Battling through a groin injury suffered in a sectional, North Lawndale's Imani Payton eased into the Class 3A finals in two events with qualifying efforts. He hopes to be at 100 percent Saturday. Meanwhile, Dunbar's Demoria Harris has his sights set on his brother's PR in the 200.


Dunbar’s Demoria Harris (center) said he wants to break his brother Darvell’s personal record of 21.44 seconds in the 200-meter dash on Saturday. | Patrick Gleason/For Sun-Times Media

CHARLESTON, Ill. — Imani Payton bought himself another day on Friday, which was all he wanted to do.

Still battling through a right groin injury suffered at last week’s St. Ignatius Sectional, Payton eased into Saturday’s Class 3A finals in two events with qualifying efforts Friday at O’Brien Stadium.

He took the 12th and last spot in the long jump with a leap of 21 feet, 9.25 inches and then won his 300-meter hurdles heat with the day’s fastest qualifying time, 37.87 seconds.

“I just wanted to make the finals so I could rest tonight and come back tomorrow full strength,” said Payton, who also helped North Lawndale reach the 400 relay final.

He ran the 110 hurdles, too, but didn’t advance.

That last race didn’t please him. “That’s when it started hurting, in the 110s,” Payton said. “And I didn’t have enough time to stretch it out. I had to come right back in the 4-by-1. But it is what it is.

“I’m like 80 percent. I want to be 100 percent [Saturday].”

Health isn’t an issue for Dunbar’s Demoria Harris, who will be trying to become the second state champ and the fastest 200 runner in his family Saturday.

Harris’ brother Darvell had a hand in three individual and relay wins in 2012, including a 21.44 in the Class 3A 200.

Demoria went 21.52 in winning his Class 2A heat and then said he’d like to get the class record, which was 21.46 by Centralia’s DeVantre Whitelaw in 2011. But in the next heat, Galesburg’s Josh Eiker ran 21.28, meaning Harris will adjust his goal down to 21.1.

Darvell Harris plans to be at the finals, and the idea of adding another 200 state first to the family trophy case has Demoria motivated.

“It would mean a lot because last year I almost had it,” Harris said. “Cole Henderson beat me and this year I’m going for my brother’s [personal] record [of 21.44].”

Also in pursuit of history are Lake Park’s Antonio Shenault and his teammates, who are going for an unprecedented fifth consecutive state title in 3A.

The Lancers are one of four teams with eight finals qualifiers, joining York, Neuqua Valley and Edwardsville. Also in the trophy hunt: Thornton and Downers Grove North with seven qualifiers each and Minooka and Schaumburg with six apiece.

Shenault won his 110 hurdles heat in 14.25 and helped Lake Park advance in the 400 relay.

“It was a little sloppy, but got the job done today,” he said of the hurdles race.

The Lancers have gotten a boost from the return of Marcus Jegede, who qualified first by two feet in the triple jump (48-4.75) and also ran on the 400 relay.

“That’s huge,” Shenault said. “We’ve missed him for just about all of outdoor season. So having him back is going to be a great big deal for us.”

Looking for a trophy in 2A is Kaneland, which qualified 12 individuals and all four relays for the finals.

“Senior year, I’m ready to finish it with a bang,” said Dylan Nauert, who advanced in both hurdles and the 400 and 800 relays. “I graduate Sunday. [Saturday’s] going to be the greatest way to end high school anyone’s ever [thought] of.”

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