The words from Evergreen Park boys track and field coach Ray Mankowski rang loud and clear, serving as if a personal testimonial.
"This year, Chris (Cheatham) achieved what every track athlete strives for," Mankowski said in a news release following Cheatham's run to a second-place finish in the 300 hurdles at the Class 2A state meet.
Cheatham was clocked in 38.79 seconds. He returned home from Charleston with a silver medal hanging around his neck and the admiration of Evergreen Park coaches, teammates and fans filling his heart.
"As a coach, all you can do is ask for a kid like him," Mankowski said. "He worked hard every year and for the second straight year is a MVP for the Evergreen Park track team."
Cheatham, a four-year state qualifier, was edged out in his bid to win the gold by Glenbrook South's Elven Walker. Walker was clocked in 38.41.
No matter. Cheatham's place in Evergreen Park athletic lore is secure. He is the first Mustang to win a boys state-meet track and field medal since 2002.
"He ran a great race, and his hard work paid off," Mankowski said.
Mankowski also coached Cheatham during Evergreen Park's stirring run to the Class 4A football state quarterfinals last fall. The Mustangs finally were ousted by Richmond-Burton (7-0).
"Not only is Chris a great track athlete but Chris is a great football player," Mankowski said.
Cheatham was a defensive back for the Mustangs during the football season. He won conference championships in the 110 and 300 hurdles during both his junior and senior seasons. And he holds school records in the 110 hurdles (14.6) and 300 hurdles (38.5).
Ralph Schultz was the last individual to place second in the IHSA boys state track meet. Shultz finished second in the 880-yard run in 1965. Okeyolade Agbaje-Williams (third) and James Lewan (eighth) were state medal winners in the triple jump in 2002.
"After four years of track and field for the Mustangs, Chris has been an important part of the program," Mankowski said. "(He) will be greatly missed."
Cheatham has plans to run on the men's track and field team next school year at Illinois State University.