CHARLESTON — Melcon deJesus ran the fastest 400 meters in Kewanee High School history on Friday morning and earned a spot in the Class 2A state finals.

DeJesus was the school’s only entrant in the Illinois High School Association track and field championships held at O’Brien Stadium at Eastern Illinois University.

The 400 finals are scheduled for 2:55 p.m. Saturday.

DeJesus, a sophomore, ran in the third heat during Friday’s prelims. It also proved to be the fastest of the three heats. He finished in 49.66 seconds.

Willie Johnson of East St. Louis won the heat in 48.47 seconds. He was the fastest qualifier in the field. Aden Sears, a sophomore from Eureka, was the heat’s third qualifier. He came in 49.99 seconds.

Kewanee coach Jeff King said deJesus’ strategy was to pace with Johnson for as long as he could. “It worked out very well for him,” King said.

DeJesus’ time beat his personal best by more than a half-second. He entered the competition having placed second at the Plano Sectional in 50.19 seconds.

DeJesus had the fifth-best time entering the finals.

Johnson’s East St. Louis teammate Marcus Lampley won the first heat in 48.97 seconds. Jerry Harper of Rantoul won the second heat in 49.04 seconds. Davon Bolden of Dolton Thornridge finished in 49.12 seconds.

Jesse Casas of LaSalle-Peru, who beat deJesus to the finish in the Plano Sectional, was sixth overall aftering going 49.97 in the second heat. Logan Sullivan of Murphysboro qualified with a finish in 50.66 and Clayton Cramsey of Effingham qualified in 51.19.

“Tomorrow will be fun now that the stress of making the finals is over,” said King.

The school record deJesus eclipsed belonged to Ron Saey, who set the mark in 1969. He ran 440-yard dash in 49.6 seconds, which when converted to 400 meters, is 49.8 seconds.

Kewanee High School has two state champions in the event, a feat achieved in 1908 and again in 1914.

Emerit Hodge ran the 440 in 53 seconds in 1908. Hodge shares the state championship with John Martin of Oak Park River Forest, who took first in a separate heat in 51 ⅘ seconds. Dual champions were awarded because of the imprecision of manual timing.

Hodge was inducted into the KHS Sports Hall of Fame class of 2004.

In the Class B finals of 1914, Raymond Washburn is shown having won his heat in 54 ⅘ seconds. George “Cubby” Cuthbertson of Harrisburg won the other heat in 54 ¼ seconds.