Brandon Battle can still feel it more than four years later.
The cold. The rain. The misery.
“It was the worst conditions,” he said.
A freshman at the time, Battle made his debut for the Edwardsville High boys track and field team on a late March day in 2018. Racing in the 100-meter dash he was assigned lane 1, which is reserved for the second-slowest entry in a heat. Only lane 8 is slower.
One of four freshman in the field of 17, Battle finished sixth in 11.91 seconds. He was the fastest freshman that day and outperformed his lane assignment. He would avoid lane 1 the rest of his time at Edwardsville.
Well, nearly the rest of his days at Edwardsville. He was thrown back into lane 1 when he ran in the 100 of this year’s Class 3A state meet at Eastern Illinois University's O’Brien Field.
Sprinters covet the middle lanes of the track. That’s where the fastest athletes are placed and it allows them to have a firm grasp on what’s going on around them.
“When you’re in the middle you can look to both peripherals,” Battle said.
If the competition is creeping up, getting a peek out of the corner of your eye can be the difference between victory and defeat. Running in lane 1 means you’re running without much of an idea of what your competitors are doing.
That’s how Battle began the final meet of his high school career.
“It was a little challenging,” he said.
The 6-foot-1 and 150-pound Battle had plans for the state meet. He didn’t want to win his first championship, he wanted to win three. The only way that was going to happen was if he managed to outperform his seed and claim victory in lane 1.
In one of the tightest finishes you’ll ever see, Battle won the 100 in 10.604 seconds. just ahead of Wauconda’s Javerius McGuinn. who finished in 10.606. Photos of the finish show McGuinn’s head crossed the finish line first as he leaned in to try and take the title. However, Battle’s torso was the first to break the line and by rule that made him the winner.
It was his closest race of the season, his toughest race of the meet and served as a springboard for a remarkable afternoon.
“That set the stage for a historic day for Brandon and our program,” Edwardsville coach Chad Lakatos said. “Kudos to Brandon. He pushed his shoulders forward. That was him having the intelligence of the sport.”
Battle went on to win titles in the 200- and 400-meter races to join Plainfield Central’s Kahmari Montgomery as the second sprinter from a large school in Illinois history to sweep his way to the “triple crown.”
Battle is the Post-Dispatch All-Metro boys track and field athlete of the year.
It’s not just that Battle scored all 30 of Edwardsville’s points to give it a fourth-place finish in the team standings, its sixth top-four finish since 2012. The way he went out and crushed the 400 field was pure domination.
Battle, 18, raced to victory in 46.48 seconds. It’s the third-fastest quarter mile in state meet history and the No. 3 performance in the nation this spring according to Milesplit.
He was nearly three full seconds ahead of the runner-up. That’s a lifetime in a race that often comes down to the final stride, but it became the norm this spring for Battle as he made the 400 his best event.
“He was faced with that all season,” Lakatos said. “He didn’t have anyone close to him all year.”
Battle had his second state title, but hoped to break the state record of 46.2 seconds set by Wheaton Warrenville South’s Jermar Collins in 1996. He nearly did it running by himself, which is one of the hardest things to do in the sport.
“I’ve pretty much dominated every race I’ve run this year,” Battle said. “I went through the 200 and I started to pull away. I had to get to the finish line.”
Battle allowed himself a peek at the clock and saw he was close, but when he finished he had just missed his goal. If there was disappointment it didn’t last long.
“Running a 46 isn’t easy,” Battle said. “Only a few guys in state history have run a 46.”
With his second gold medal secured, Battle’s focus shifted to the 200. He was so raring to go that he didn’t bother leaving the track to rest or stretch. The meet was running ahead of schedule and he didn’t want to miss the first call for his final race so he posted up near the check-in tent and waited. It was there he sipped on Gatorade and his favorite drink — pickle juice.
Introduced to the magical brine by his mother after he had a rash of cramps as an underclassman, Battle swears by the rehydrating properties of the elixir.
“At first I was like ‘Mom, are you serious?’ ” Battle said. “My cramp went away in like 10 seconds. I thought, ‘Did I just get super powers or something?’ I’ve been drinking that after my 400.”
With his pickle juice guzzled, Battle was ready to finish the meet with one more victory. He’d thought of what it would be like to win all three races. He went so far as to prepare a celebration should his dreams become reality.
“Since the start of high school I thought, ‘What am I going to do if I win state?’ ” Battle said. “I had to unleash everything. The last week I was envisioning myself winning the triple crown.”
Battle posted the fastest 200 time in Illinois this spring when he went 21.46 at the Belleville West Invitational on May 1 in his first meet of the season. He wasn’t able to best it, even with all the adrenaline pumping through him at state.
Instead he finished with his third-best time of 21.65 to beat Minooka’s Tyler Colwell, who was the runner-up in 21.97. As he came through the finish line Battle extended his arms to the side and displayed three fingers on each hand.
“I threw up the threes,” he said.
Battle’s historic day was the buzz of the 3A state meet. Spectators were enthralled by his triple crown chase and then awed by his near record-setting 400 performance. Battle was the biggest star on the brightest stage in the state.
“I could hear his name being mentioned,” Lakatos said. “We had the fastest sprinter in the state of Illinois. That was pretty special for everyone to witness. He embraced that opportunity and ran with it.”
Where Battle runs next is to be determined. He’ll compete at the next level — it’s just a matter of where.
Battle had committed to run at Eastern Illinois University and expressed gratitude to the Panthers’ coaching staff for sticking with him early in his high school career when the only schools chasing him were Illinois State and the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.
“EIU has been with me since my sophomore year,” Battle said.
On Thursday, however, Battle decommitted from Eastern Illinois and will explore his options. He should have no shortage of suitors after his remarkable senior season — a senior season that secured Battle’s legacy as an Edwardsville standout. That is no simple feat a program that routinely turns out some of the finest athletes in the area, the state and the nation.
Battle only reached this lofty perch because he took a maniacal approach to his training during the pandemic. When COVID-19 turned the world on its head last March, Battle was forced to work on his own. There was to be no contact between coaches and athletes until there was a better understanding of the virus.
Battle spent his days where he felt most comfortable.
“I went to the track every, single day,” he said. “Every day I was out there I felt happy. Going to the track put a smile on my face.”
It was during this time Battle found the next gear that helped him reach this spring’s historic heights.
“He would crush every workout. He embraced everything and gave it his best effort,” Lakatos said. “Brandon is just as good a person off the track as he is on it. It was pretty awesome to see it unfold.”
2021 All-Metro boys track and field first team
Athlete of the Year: Brandon Battle, senior, Edwardsville
The Class 3A state champion in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races and just the second sprinter in Illinois’ largest classification to sweep state titles in those events. His 400 time of 46.48 seconds is the third-fastest ever in the Illinois state meet and is the third-best in nation this season. Personal best time of 21.46 seconds is the fastest 200 in Illinois this season. Announced he has reopened his recruiting options for a college home.
Sprints: Issam Asinga, sophomore, Principia
The fastest man in Missouri, Asinga swept his way to Class 2 state titles in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races. His personal best times in the 100 (10.62 seconds), 200 (21.55) and 400 (48.17) are the best in the state for all classifications this season.
Middle: Jimmy Milgie, junior, Whitfield
Won the Class 3 400-meter state title in 48.46 seconds. It’s the third-fastest half mile in Missouri this season. Also ran legs on Whitfield’s 3200 relay, which finished third; and its 1600 relay, which was fifth.
Distance: Johnny Martin, senior, Ladue
Finished third in the Class 5 state meet 1600 meters in a personal-best time of 4 minutes and 18 seconds. It was the seventh-fastest 1600 in Missouri this spring. Also qualified for the state meet in the 800.
Hurdles: DeVontae Ford, senior, East St. Louis
Won the Class 2A 110-meter hurdles state championship in a personal best time of 14.07 seconds. Raced to the fastest 300 hurdles time in Illinois this season of 37.31 at the Mascoutah Sectional meet. Finished seventh in the 300s at state after falling over a hurdle during the race. He’ll compete this summer at the Nike Outdoor Nationals in Eugene, Oregon.
Vertical jumps: Sully Gleason, junior, Fort Zumwalt North
Won Class 5 pole vault state championship by vaulting 14 feet, 8.75 inches. Set a personal best of 16 feet at the Class 5 Sectional 2 meet to become just the second area vaulter to clear 16 feet in at least the last two decades.
Horizontal jumps: Myles Norwood, senior, Trinity
Claimed Missouri’s Class 4 triple jump state title by leaping 46 feet, 8 inches. Finished fourth in the long jump by going 22-10 and finished sixth in the 110-meter hurdles. Signed with Iowa Western Community College to play football.
Throws: Barry Evans, senior, Mascoutah
Won the Class 2A discus with a personal best throw of 176 feet and 8.5 inches and finish second in the shot with a put of 54 feet, 1.25 inches. Those points were crucial as the Indians won the Illinois Class 2A team state championship, the program’s first. Signed with Alabama.
Multi-events: Bryce Kazmaier, senior, Francis Howell
Qualified and earned medals in four events at Missouri’s Class 5 state meet. He was second in javelin with throw of 189 feet, 8 inches; fourth in 110-meter hurdles (14.49 seconds); fifth in 300 hurdles (39.61); and eighth in pole vault (13 feet, 7 inches). Set state’s javelin record in April when he unleashed a throw of 211 feet at Todd Bizzell Memorial Spartan Relays. Signed with North Carolina.
2021 All-Metro boys track and field second team
Sprints: Samuel Schmidt, senior, Borgia
Two-time state champion as he won the Class 3 100-meter title in 10.79 seconds and the 200 title in 21.68. His personal best 100 time of 10.7 was second-fastest in Missouri this season and his 200 time (21.66) was fourth.
Middle: Baker Pashea, junior, St. Louis U. High
Was the runner-up in the Class 5 state meet 800-meter run in 1 minute, 55 seconds. Set a personal best of 1:54 at the Festival of Miles for the fourth-fastest half mile in Missouri this season.
Distance: Justin Mumford, senior, Wesclin
Closed career by winning Illinois Class 1A 3200-meter state championship in 9 minutes and 18 seconds. Also finished fourth in the 1600 in 4 minutes and 25 seconds.
Hurdles: Sam Wright, senior, Hillsboro
Raced to victory in the Class 4 state meet 300 hurdles in 39 seconds. Also won the 200 in 22 seconds. Finished fourth in 110 hurdles (14.96) and qualified for state in the 100.
Vertical jumps: Brandon Goellner, junior, St. Charles West
Tied for Missouri’s best high jump this season when he cleared 6 feet, 9 inches, at the Class 4 Sectional 2 meet. Took second in Class 4 state meet with effort of 6-7.75.
Horizontal jumps: Jayden Kouadio, senior, Fort Zumwalt West
Finished fourth at state meet in Class 5 triple jump with leap of 45 feet, 10.5 inches. His personal best jump of 47-3 was fifth-longest in Missouri this spring. Signed with St. Louis University.
Throws: Mason Brock, senior, Francis Howell
Claimed the Class 5 javelin state title with a throw of 194 feet, 3 inches. His personal best throw of 205 feet, 4 inches, is the second-longest in Missouri history.
Multi-events: Romon Logan, senior, Parkway North
Won the Class 4 400-meter state championship in 49.56 seconds, finished second in the 200 in 22.11 and helped North’s 1600 relay team finish second in 3 minutes and 29 seconds, just behind champion Kearney.
2021 All-Metro boys track and field third team
Sprints: Jeremiyah Love, sophomore, CBC
Won the Class 5 100-meter championship in 10.76 seconds, the seventh-fastest time in Missouri this season.
Middle: Timothy Cross, sophomore, East St. Louis
Finished sixth in the Class 2A state meet 400-meter race in a personal best of 50.16 seconds, which put him in the top 25 in Illinois this season.
Distance: Andrew Smock, junior, Ladue
Finished third in the Class 5 3200 meters in 9 minutes and 18 seconds, a personal best this season by 12 seconds. Also qualified for state meet in the 1600.
Hurdles: Jacobi Oliphant, freshman, Trinity
Fifth in the Class 4 110-meter hurdles in 15.02 seconds. Ran on the Titans’ 400 relay team, which finished fourth. Also qualified for state in the 100.
Vertical jumps: Mikel Davis, junior, Northwest Cedar Hill
Won the Class 5 high jump state title by clearing 6 feet, 6 inches. Tied for the top high jump mark in Missouri this spring when he went over 6-9 in the Fort Zumwalt North Invitational.
Horizontal jumps: Ja’Marion Wayne, junior, Parkway West
Sixth in the Class 5 triple jump at the state meet with a leap of 44 feet, 11.75 inches. His personal best leap of 45-11 was the eighth-best jump in Missouri this spring.
Throws: Malcolm Harvey, senior, Trinity
Finished second at the state meet in the Class 4 javelin with a throw of 169 feet. His personal best this spring of 183-5 was the sixth-best throw in Missouri this season.
Multi-events: Novo Onovwerosuok, junior, MICDS
Helped Rams win Class 3 state championship in the 1600-meter relay, take second in the 800 relay and fourth in the 400 relay. He also was fourth in the 200 as the Rams finished as runner-up in the state team standings.
In this Series
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