CHARLESTON, Ill. -- Jordan Johnson is ready to let loose.
The Quincy High School senior thrower qualified for the finals in the shot put and discus at the Class 3A state track and field championships with quality marks, eliminating the pressure to chase a championship during Saturday's finals at O'Brien Stadium on the Eastern Illinois University campus.
It allows Johnson to take his shot at setting a state record, specifically in the discus.
"On Friday, it's just to get a good mark and get into the finals," Johnson said. "Saturday is to go for the big distance. That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to open it up."
That could very well lead to one of the biggest throws in state history.
Johnson qualified first in the discus with a throw of 197 feet, nearly 21 feet further than the second longest toss of the day. Neaqua Valley junior Matthew Appel threw 176-9, while only two others -- Romeoville senior Amiri Buchanan and Cary-Grive senior Jason Petko -- topped 170 feet.
The preliminary marks carry over to the finals, so Johnson has a huge edge without even throwing again.
"That should relax him," QHS coach Matt McClelland said. "He just needs to go let loose and who knows what's going to happen. He could easily top 200 if he does that."
Johnson is the reigning Class 3A state champion in the discus, having won last year with a toss of 196-9. But his season-best throw this year is 206-1, which would top the state meet record of 205-11 set by Edwardsville's AJ Epenesa in 2016.
"He wants that record so bad," McClelland said. "He has the chance to go after it."
His first throw Friday afforded him that chance. Johnson hit 194-7 on that attempt.
"The idea is getting one out there and make everyone chase you," McClelland said. "It's a matter of getting one inbounds, and he did that."
Maintaining the same approach as any other meet helped.
"I just try to stay calm and do what I do," Johnson said.
That wasn't as easy in the shot put. On his first attempt, he stepped out of the ring.
"I had to go a little more conservative after that," Johnson said.
His toss of 57-10.75 left him in fifth place, but right in the middle of a dogfight for the title. Deerfield senior Sam Liokumovich set the top mark at 60-8.5.
"It's completely wide open," McClelland said.
All it takes is one big throw to supersede everyone. Johnson is comfortable and confident enough to go for it.
"The main goal is out of the way, that's getting to Saturday," he said. "I feel pretty good."