Eastern runner in familiar place at state track meet

Dillan Schorfheide, Sports Editor

If it were during the academic year, he probably would have been on the other side of the starting blocks.

Even then, he actually may not be using the blocks, seeing as how he runs middle distance events for the Eastern Track and Field program.

Also a member of Eastern’s men’s cross country team, Nick Oakley did not find himself running on the track at O’Brien Field Saturday.

Instead, he was sitting on the track, holding the starting blocks in place for a high school runner competing in a relay.

Oakley was one of the couple-hundred IHSA and non-IHSA workers keeping the flow of the IHSA State Girls’ Track and Field Championships.

While hundreds of family and friends filled the bleachers on either side of the track, more so than fans did during the Eastern football season, Oakley stuck with his own friend group, other track and cross country athletes at Eastern, in between their work for the high school competitors.

Oakley said that holding the blocks was the first thing he had helped out with Saturday. He also said he was not roped into helping out for the state events: He volunteered to help.

“I like the sport,” Oakley said. “It’s kind of a bonus to get to learn and see what is coming, the competition, get to see good people run, and be in a good atmosphere.”

Oakley is familiar not only to the atmosphere of a track event, but specifically the state track event, which he competed in during his high school years.

Oakley is home-grown in Charleston, and he said all four years in high school, he advanced to the state competition for cross country; for track and field, he said he advanced to the state competition two years.

He did not come up empty-handed, either, as he finished in third place his senior year in the IHSA Class 2A State Championships in the 800-meter race.

Overall, Oakley said he thought his state experiences went well, but not quite as well as he wanted.

Even so, according to the Eastern athletic website, his 800-meter time of 1:54.45 in his third-place performance was a school record time.

He said he was also all-state three times in his high school career.

With his resume, he was not out of place at all at the state meet, though he was participating in the part of the meet he would normally not be a part of.

He also is no stranger to the heat the high school runners endured all three days.

Temperatures were in the 80s, and the turf of the football field added more heat to the mix with the sun beaming down on it.

Oakley did have some advice for the competitors, should they have needed it.

“Stay out of the sun, until you’re ready to race,” he said. “Hydrate, just relax, be smart. Don’t do anything crazy before you race.”

Watching the plethora of high school competitors was somewhat also somewhat nostalgic for Oakley, sort of calling back the times when he was in their shoes: Sweating as he pushed himself down the last 100 meters, standing in the top-three on the podium with a medal around his neck.

Dillan Schorfheide can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].