Don Swearingen has been a track coach at Morton Junior High School for 14 years, five as the head coach. Never has he had a class as decorated as this year’s team.
At this weekend’s IESA Class AA state track and field final at EastSide Centre, Morton will send 12 students for a chance to earn a medal.
Eighth grader Dalton Kuhn leads the charge for the Junior Potters. After taking a pair of third-place medals last season, Kuhn enters the state final meet fresh off of a first place finish in the in the long jump with a distance of 20 feet, 3 inches at the IESA Class AA sectional meet on May 14 at Morton High School. He is the top seed at the state meet.
The distance would have tied Pekin High Community High School’s Trey Bailey’s second-place distance at the Mid-Illini Conference Meet on May 10.
When he enters high school, Kuhn will be at a crossroads. Swearingen said the eighth grader also plays baseball — the two sports conflict during the spring season under the IHSA schedule.
“He’s just that athletically gifted,” Swearingen said.
Last season, Kuhn finished third in the state meet as a seventh grader in the long jump with 18-04.5.
“He’s kind of started to kick it up a notch in terms of how he’s working,” Swearingen said. “I know he’s got a coach he’s working with.”
Lauren Doerr leads the way for seventh grade girls at the event, participating in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, 4x200-meter relay and the long jump.
At state, Doerr is the third seed in the 100-meter dash, third in the long jump and 11th in the 200-meter dash.
Doerr is the first athlete Swearingen has had to qualify for the state meet in four events. At the May 14 sectional, Doerr took first place in 100-meter dash with a time of 12.58 seconds. The time would have placed her in third place at the IHSA Class 2A Macomb sectional on May 12 and qualified her for the IHSA State final meet.
She also won the 200-meter dash with a time of 28.34 seconds. Doerr, Elly Crider, Tori Lee and Addi Shurman qualified for the IESA state meet in the 4x200-meter relay with a time of 1:54.50, tops at the sectional and the top-seed in the state meet.
“They’re a pretty tight-knit group. Addi and Elly played basketball together,” Swearingen said. “They get along pretty incredibly well in the different things that they do.”
Doerr finished second in the long jump, 1 inch in behind Allie Scrivner of Washington Middle School. Doerr jumped 15 feet, 7 inches; compared to 15-08 for Scrivner.
“She’s got a whole bunch of natural ability and she’s a real hard worker,” Swearingen said. “She’s got a real quick turnover and probably has room to get better as her stride gets better.”
Crider will race against Doerr in the 100-meter dash after she finished just behind Doerr at the sectional meet with a time of 12.95 seconds.
“Elly was a little bit of a surprise. It’s the first that I can remember that we’ve had two people in the 100. She’s run well all year,” Swearingen said.
Tori Lee advanced to the state final meet in the 400-meter dash, running 1:04.31 at the sectional meet to earn first place. Lee is seeded third at the state meet.
On the eighth grade girls team, Kelly Schaffnit finished in second place at the sectional meet and qualified for the state meet in the long jump with a distance of 16-02, 1 inch behind first place winner Peyton Dearing of East Peoria (16-03).
Schaffnit entered the sectional meet as the top seed, jumping 17-04 midway through the season. The 17-04 distance would have qualified her for the IHSA state final meet and placed her in fourth at the IHSA Class 2A Macomb Sectional.
Last season, Schaffnit qualified for the state meet and finished 41st with a leap of 14-02. Since then, she has added over 3 feet to her personal record.
“She’s worked real hard all year, fine-tuning her steps and things like that,” Swearingen said.
Eighth grader Abe Collins qualified for the IESA state final meet in the 100-meter dash, finishing third in sectionals with a time of 11.61 seconds. That time would have netted Collins a fourth-place finish in the Mid-Illini Conference meet.
Collins and Kuhn are also a part of the 4x200-meter relay team that qualified for the state meet. The team, that also includes Kyle Davis and Robert Hines, finished second at the sectional meet with a time of 1:41.01.
Christian Schlehuber qualified in the seventh grade long jump and is the 13th seed in the state event.
The seventh grade 4x100-meter relay team of Ashton Everding, Parker Kuhn, Schlehuber and Brady Moser qualified for the state meet and are seeded 19th in the event.