Watts Takes Two Individual Titles And Help The Tigers To A Second Place Team Finish

CHARLESTON – For the Iowa State-bound long-distance runner Ryan Watts, He had a not-so-normal track career at Edwardsville but after this weekend he closed out his senior year on top.

Watts was getting ready for his sophomore year at Edwardsville when COVID-19 hit the area and shut down all the high school sports in Illinois. Then came his junior year, after training and getting ready he broke his foot which sidelined him his whole junior season.

That did not stop Watts his junior year though he was on the sideline with a medical boot and crutches cheering on his teammates. Several times you could see Watts holding onto a timer yelling out times and motivating his teammates to finish strong. When teammate Geo Patrylak made it last year to state you could see Watts from the stands smiling and encouraging Patrylak to finish strong.

Then came Watts’s senior year, Watts and Patrylak usually finished one and two in whatever events they ran in which was mostly the 1600-meter and the 3200 – meter races.

Watts cruised through his senior year and as he was focusing on making it to state his senior year, he also focused on his teammates helping them prepare and encouraging them to make it to Charleston with him.

In the sectional meet to qualify for the state meet in Charleston at Eastern Illinois University, the sectional meet was held at O’fallon High School, Watts, and Patrylak was ready. Watts had two events that he wanted to qualify for state which was the 1600 meter and the 3200 meters and Patrylak ran the 1600 meter.

In the 1600-meter race, the top two qualified for the state meet, and like throughout the year the top two were Patrylak and Watts. Patrylak finished 1st with a time of 4:20.26 and Watts was behind him and finish with a time of 4:23.44 which meant that they both were moving onto Charleston. This was Patrylak second chance at state.

Watts then got ready to run the 3200-meter race in O’fallon, Watts took first in that race with a time of 9:16.84 followed by Dylan Ybarra of O’fallon. Throughout the O’Fallon Sectional Edwardsville did really well they advanced 10 athletes to Charleston to compete.

On Friday afternoon at Eastern Illinois University, it was prelims day for 3A to qualify for the finals day which was held on Saturday. As the meet was getting ready to start here came the rain and at times it was heavy but that did not stop the meet, the athletes ran in the downpours.

When it was time for the 1600-meter run Watts and Patrylak lined up and as the gun went off it was time to qualify. For the first three laps, the pack of 14 pretty much stayed together, then Watts went ahead and never looked back, as he came around the final turn he glanced back a few times but nobody was around him. He came across the finish line with all smiles, but his celebration was on hold because it was time to get his teammate Patrylak to finish with a fast time so he could qualify for Saturday. Watts had the top time of the three heats with a time of 4:12.97 which made him the top seed in the finals. Patrylak was able to get into the finals in the 7th seed with a time of 4:14.36.

In the 3200-meter race, Watts had an automatic bid to the finals. They split the 3200-meter runners into two groups and the top time of both heats would win 1st place.

On Saturday Watts had the 3200-meter race first, Watts stayed with the pack for most of the race then as the end was nearing he kicked and it was all Watts down the final turn and across the finish line. As he crossed the finish line he smiled and held up his shirt to show he was proud to be an Edwardsville Tiger. He then kneeled down and kissed the blue track. His time was 8:56.66 and in second place was Luke Wiley of Gurnee Warren with an of 9:01.01. That was Watts’s first individual championship of the day.

Watts had to get ready though for the 1600-meter race which was just a few hours away. Watts went back to the dorms and took a quick nap and rested till it was time for the race.

In the 1600 Watts had Patrylak lined up and as the gun went off they were off, The 1600 meter race was 4 times around the track which equals a mile. The first two laps stayed pretty even then the lead pack went out and Watts stayed behind, The group came around again and Watts was behind more than on the final lap Watts started moving closer but he was still behind. As they came down the final stretch it was neck and neck it looked like a sprint race and not a long distance.

” With three hundred meters left I thought I was dead in the water, I was overheated and my legs weren’t feeling good and with 200 meters to go I decided to kick it in and see what happens and I had just enough to catch it and win,” Watts said

As they crossed the finish line Watts stuck out his chest and with that, it was good enough for a first-place finish and his second championship. Watts had a time of 4:11.16 and right behind him was Roy Llewellyn with a time of 4:11.22. Watts was all smiles and even flashed a two meaning he won two medals today.

Patrylak crossed the line at a time of 4:14.43 which made him in 9th place which was good enough for a medal.

With Watts and Patrylak finished and the other Edwardsville athletes doing good it helped the Tigers to tie for second place in the team standings which they tied with Gurnee Warren with 30 points and the winner was Batavia with 37 points.

Edwardsville has had good luck at state in the team titles over the last several years. They won the team titles in 2017 and 2015. They took second in 2022,2016,2014,and 2012.

Chris Rhodes
Author: Chris Rhodes

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