CHARLESTON — Jameson Cluver and Isaiah Chatman each recorded the best time in their respective events at Class 1A sectional boys’ track and field meets last week.
Cluver, a Watseka senior, rated first among the 400-meter dash runners ahead of Thursday’s IHSA state meet at Eastern Illinois’ O’Brien Stadium. Chatman, a Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley junior, pulled off the same feat in the 300 hurdles.
Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin junior Eli Mojonnier didn’t achieve the same pre-state meet feat in the 800.
Yet all three area athletes headed home with a state championship.
“A shocker,” Mojonnier said after taking the 800 crown in 1 minute, 57.33 seconds and giving the Blue Devils their first-ever state track and field event titlist.
“Winning out of the second heat, I’d talk about doing it but I didn’t really think it was possible,” Mojonnier said. “I just was telling myself that I could, but I did.”
Mojonnier’s sectional clocking of 2:01.54 left him ranked 14th and not even atop the second of three state heats. But he used an aggressive surge over the final 250 meters to overwhelm his group and post an impressive time.
“It bothered me all week,” Mojonnier said of his sectional time. “I was just kicking myself every time I thought of it. But I guess it worked out.”
The final flight’s leading athletes turned in a lead lap around 57 seconds, throwing into doubt whether Mojonnier would even medal as a top-nine finisher.
They couldn’t maintain that intensity. Elgin Harvest Christian Academy’s Hayden Colclasure crossed the line first in 1:57.76 to finalize Mojonnier’s upset win.
Colclasure actually walked back to Mojonnier after catching his breath and asked, “Did you beat me?”
Yes he did.
“I didn’t even know yet. It just hadn’t hit me,” Mojonnier said. “I’d heard people saying I had won, and it just didn’t register. And then it kind of kicked in like, man, I did do that. I did just win.”
Cluver and Chatman, meanwhile, backed up their sectional seed times to top their respective events.
Cluver was the only competitor to break 50 seconds in the 400, turning in a time of 49.89 as the Warriors’ first state champion since 1987.
“My coach kind of told me, ‘Relax. Don’t try to go in too fast. Just try to do me,’” Cluver said. “So that’s what I did.”
Cluver admitted he didn’t get off to the best start in a race that features little room for error.
“I kind of got off a little slow, and the 150 mark I had to play the catch-up game,” Cluver said. “But I think I ended up really strong.”
Adopted as an orphan out of Haiti at a young age, Cluver dazzled spectators back in 2019 when he closed the 1A meet by passing multiple opponents late in the anchor leg of Watseka’s 1,600 relay. He helped the Warriors to 14th place in that event on Thursday as well.
“I really missed this feeling and missed being out here and having the crowd kind of cheer me on,” Cluver said. “Just me being here was just a lot for me and my family, and it’s going to be very emotional whenever I see them.”
Chatman’s Falcons family should have had a bigger say in the 1A team trophy chase. But juniors Aidan Laughery and Awstace Grauer were scratched from the 100 and 400, respectively, because of injury, and GCMS’s 400 relay also was scratched as a result.
So Chatman was alone on the track representing his school.
But only on the track.
“They’re all here. They came to support,” Chatman said. “Gives me more time to focus on my two events, in the least selfish way.”
Chatman rebounded from a rough 110 hurdles race to win the 300 hurdles in 39.11. He’s the Falcons’ first state champion since Nick Schultz won the 2016 1A high jump competition.
“It was very important, because we had six people seeded in the top one or two (heats),” Chatman said. “So just to be able to bring home something for the school, for the team, (it) means a lot.”
Chatman certainly wasn’t pleased by taking 16th in the 110 hurdles despite racing in the last heat. Yet he didn’t let that spoil a state outing that also represented his injured friends.
“It took a while,” Chatman said. “But I sat in the locker room and tried to put that behind me. Control what I can control and move on to the next race.”