Photo by Theo Tate
Granite City seniors Zach (left) and Tyler Manion will compete at the state track meet for the first time Friday. They’re both competing in the 3,200-meter relay.
Twin brothers Tyler and Zach Manion can’t wait for Friday.
The Granite City seniors will be among hundreds of athletes at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston participating in the Class 3A boys’ state track meet. The Manions are competing in the 3,200-meter relay.
“State is definitely a dream come true,” Zach said. “Coming in the year, I didn’t really know if it was going to happen. Then, once it happens, all you want to do is keep the season going. It would be definitely nice to make the medal round and get a medal.”
Then, the Manions will have to make the 138-mile trip back west to Granite City for their high school graduation. They will go back to Charleston on Saturday if they make it out of preliminaries on Friday.
“We have to be able to speed it to home to make it to graduation,” Zach said.
The Manions will be making their first state track meet appearances on Friday. They earned a trip to Charleston after helping the 4x800 squad finish second with a time of eight minutes at the Class 3A Normal West Sectional meet on May 22.
“We really wanted to go under eight, but second place and eight flat is perfect for us right now,” Zach said.
Sophomore Will O’Keefe and junior Juwan Riggins are the other members of Granite City’s 4x800. O’Keefe, who competed in the Class 3A state cross country meet in November, also qualified for state in the 800 after finishing third with a state-qualifying time of 1:55.86. Granite City finished 13th in the 16-team sectional meet with 16 points.
Tyler, who also finished fifth in the 1,600 in Friday’s sectional meet, said he was determined to qualify for the state track meet this spring after coming up two places short of a trip to the state cross country meet in November.
“After being so close in cross country and not qualifying for state by four seconds, I just wanted to put in a good winter conditioning and get out and try to do something,” Tyler said.
The Manions helped the Granite City 4x800 turn in strong efforts in the Granite City Invitational and the Southwestern Conference meet. The relay team placed second at the Granite City Invitational and first in the conference meet.
“The 4x800 is good because we haven’t had a solid relay all four years we’ve been here,” Zach said. “Last year, our best time was 8:30 or 8:40, something like that. In our senior year, our coach said that he told us that this year is going to be about us and he’s going to help put us in what we would like to do. We talked about a 4x800 and put it together, but we never had a fourth guy until Juwan came out and we started having fun with it.”
Tyler said he started having high hopes on the relay team after its second-place finish with an 8:05.59 in the Granite City Invitational.
“That’s the time when we got serious and ran a stacked 4x800,” Tyler said.
At the conference meet on May 13 in O’Fallon, the Manions helped the relay team finish with an 8:06.49. The 4x800 was the only event Granite City won at the league meet.
With the first-place finish in the relay, the Manions earned first-team all-conference honors. They also earned all-league honors in cross country last fall.
Tyler said he’s pleased that he and his brother earned all-conference honors in two sports.
“I liked it,” Tyler said. “It’s crazy being in one of the hardest conferences in Illinois for our sports at least. Coming out and being able to compete at that high of a level, it’s pretty special to know that your hard work is paying off.”
At sectionals, Tyler ran a 1:58 split in the first leg and Zach ran two minutes in the second leg of the relay. Zach said he was thrilled that he and his brother qualified for state in their senior year.
“It was like the coolest feeling ever,” Zach said.
The Manions, both 18, joined the Granite City track team when they were freshmen. They also competed with the Granite City cross country team all four years.
“It’s nice running all four years, especially with (Granite City) Coach (Tom) Miller,” Zach said. “He’s such a good guy. He helped us out a lot.”
The Manions began running when they joined the Grigsby Middle School track team in sixth grade. They started competing in the distance events the next year.
Rich Skirball was Grigsby’s head coach when the Manions joined the team in sixth grade. He’s now the Granite City head cross country coach.
“We’ve been under his supervision for a while now,” Tyler said.
After their high school track careers come to an end this weekend, the Manions will continue to stay together for college. They will attend McKendree University this fall.
“We’ve been together for so long that we might as well keep it going,” Tyler said.
The Manions hope to end their high school track careers with a state medal. The top 12 teams in Friday’s preliminaries qualify for Saturday’s finals. The last time Granite City placed at state in the 4x800 was in 2000.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” Tyler said. “We really want to try to break the school record in the 4x800 while we’re up there. Hopefully, we can run well on Friday and get a spot in the finals and go for that record, which is 7:51. That’s what we really want to hit.”