‘We’re going to remember this forever’: Illini West’s Bentzinger, Liberty’s Sunde share track for final time


Illini West's Ian Bentzinger, left, takes the baton fromk Liberty's Keegan Sunde during the 4x100 relay at Friday night's Illinois/Missouri Senior All-Star Track Meet in Palmyra, Mo. | Shane Hulsey photo

PALMYRA, Mo. — Illini West’s Ian Bentzinger and Liberty’s Keegan Sunde spent all season as rivals.

On Friday, they were teammates, and they made sure to have some fun.

During the Illinois/Missouri Senior All-Star Track Meet at Palmyra High School, the state-qualifying sprinters made up the first two legs of the Illinois boys 4×100 meter relay team — Sunde first, Bentzinger second. After the official’s starting gun malfunctioned several times, Sunde hesitated coming off the blocks.

“You could hear (the official) pulling the trigger like five or six times for each one,” Sunde said. “Then on the last one she pulls it like six times, and I’m like, ‘OK, she’s going to make us stand up,’ so I start standing up, and then it goes off, and we all look at the official and she just shrugs her shoulders, and we’re like, ‘OK we’re doing this,’ and we took off.’”

Then, it was time for the handoff, which Bentzinger and Sunde had only practiced twice about an hour before they ran.

“I put (the baton) in (Bentzinger’s) hand, and I thought he was going to grab it so I let go, and he didn’t grab it when I thought he would,” Sunde said. “I had to grab it again and I slammed it in his hand and I was like, ‘Take the baton!’ and he went.”

Bentzinger had a good laugh afterward.

“We’re going to remember this forever,” Bentzinger said. “Just stuff like that to hang onto. We’re going to joke about that, remember the start and all that.”

In addition to this relay, which their team won with a time of 44.16 seconds, Bentzinger and Sunde went head-to-head for the last time in the 100-meter dash. Bentzinger outran Sunde for the eighth time this season and won the race at 11.05 seconds — his first 11-plus second showing since the QHS Invitational on March 30.

Bentzinger attributed his sub-par — by his standards — performance to his week off since the Class 1A state championships.

“I’ve been up all night gaming, drinking soda, eating terribly,” Bentzinger said. “I’ve enjoyed it, but it’s definitely time to get back in the gym and stay in shape.”

The last week has also been a time of reflection for Bentzinger, who finished fourth in in the 100 dash and fifth in the 200.

“It’s been nice to have a break and just look back at all the things I’ve accomplished,” Bentzinger said. “That’s really helped because state didn’t go the way I wanted it to. I was pretty upset at the time, but just looking back on it, I’m grateful to have competed there.”

Sunde, who had finished second to Bentzinger in the 100 meters five times prior to Friday, said Bentzinger’s emergence as a state contender gave him a new target.

“All the fun people, as in all the people who were faster than me or as fast as me, all graduated, so I was like, ‘This is going to suck. I have no one to run it with except at state,’” Sunde said. “Then Ian comes out of nowhere and just smokes me and I’m like ‘OK, this is what I wanted. This is going to be fun.’ Getting second over and over kind of ticked me off, but I was like if I keep getting second, I’m going to have to work harder, or else I’m going to keep getting second.”

While Sunde — a top 20 finisher in Class 1A in the 100 meters — eased up on his training after state for a few days as well, he couldn’t stay away for long.

“I took a break for about half a week,” Sunde said. “I’ve been waking up at decent times recently and getting stuff done, but it’s been a fun, relaxing time. I’m ready to get back into training because I don’t know what to do with myself when I’m not training and doing everything else.”

Now, the two rivals-turned-teammates go their separate ways — Sunde to John Wood Community College and Bentzinger to a school still yet to be determined — but their final night competing on the same track was one they will never forget.

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