Neuqua Valley wins team title at Bob Cohoon; Munar steps into sprint spotlight


One year ago, Jordan Munar was competing on his local soccer club team. On Friday night, the Downers Grove North senior established himself as one of the favorites in the 3A sprints in Charleston with convincing wins in both the 100 & 200 Meter Dashes at the Bob Cohoon Invitational in Downers Grove.

He did have help from a 20 MPH North wind at his back. But after his preliminary performances, this night was destined to be special for him. He had the fastest time in the prelims of the 100 with a time .35 ahead of Jon Aldrin of Downers Grove South running 10.78. He came back 15 minutes later in the 200 prelims and laid down a spectacular 21.62, the fastest time so far this season in the state.

Munar broke out of the blocks even with Tavaris Binion of Hinsdale South. At 50 meters, he pulled away to run a wind aided 10.64, another state best in all conditions.

Later in the evening, Munar took the blocks against Neuqua Valley’s Jacob Bender, who had defeated him 45 minutes earlier in the 400. Both runners came out of the turn even and were together with 25 meters to go. Munar, the novice in the event, got a step up on the veteran Bender and nipped by the line by .05 seconds, 21.96 to 22.01.

Still after the 200 race, Munar had not grasped what he had done. He was excited that he won. “When guys come and tell me this track lingo, I don’t understand it,” Munar said.

The coaching staff of Downers North was raving about the performance of this sprinting “rookie” on this brisk Friday night. “I wish we could have got him out of club soccer 2 years ago” was the consensus of the group.

Neuqua Valley made a big statement in the team competition and stamped themselves as one of the team favorites next month at the state meet. The Wildcats scored in 14 out of 18 events and ran away with the championship on Friday night by 39.75 points over Oak Park-River Forest.

The team is deep. But regardless of how it looks, the spotlight is on Bender, who placed second in the 400 in 2011. The senior was a part of the victorious 4 x 1 relay. In the 400, he bided his time on the back stretch heading into the strong headwind and broke away from the pack in the last 150 meters to defeat South Elgin’s Jeff Broger and Munar. It was the 200 that had the Neuqua star shaking his head.

“What I wanted to do in the 400 is set myself up for the last 100 where I knew I could outkick a lot of people in the whole state. Especially with this wind, I did not want to risk going out that hard,” Bender stated. It was still the 200 that had him shaking his head.

“I really want another chance at it now,” Bender continued. “That was my first open loss of the year so it’s going to sit in my stomach. I want another shot at it, but I’ve got to live with it I guess.”

While the wind benefitted the sprinters on this cold April evening, it wreaked havoc on a star studded field in the distance events. Some fans were hoping for fast times in the four distance events, the tough north wind would not allow it. It was standing runners up as they ran into it on the back stretch, so tactical racing was the order of the day.

In the 4 x 8 relay, Downers South with Harry Miles had a slight lead heading into the final 800 meters over Minooka’s Dan Popek and Oak Park’s Malachy Schrobilgen. Popek tried to move away from the Oak Park all-stater but Schrobilgen was stuck on Popek’s shoulder. Schrobilgen broke away in the final 20 meters for a quarter of a second win over Popek and Minooka. Downers South ended third. One thing to take note of in this race was that Neuqua Valley placed fourth in this race running freshmen and sophomores.

In the 800 Meter Run, no one wanted to take the lead which left Oak Park’s Evan Fisher to take the lead with an opening 62.6 400. On the back stretch, Fisher felt Popek and Whitney Young’s Logan Means on his shoulder. He covered the last 200 in 26.9 seconds to win in 2:01.39, not the time he was hoping for on this night.

“I felt them coming up. I always judge that by the crowd or how the other team is cheering when I come by,” Fisher said. “I had enough energy to kick. I ended up coming in with not a bad time in these conditions.”

The 1600 & 3200 Meter Runs figured to be the spotlight races with fast times, but hopes of that went out the window with the strong winds.

With no one wanting to take the lead in the 3200, Beecher’s Grant Nykaza was the sacrificial lamb for the first half of the race as the pace crawled through a 4:49 first mile. At that point, Neuqua’s Mark Derrick took command of the lead with Leland Later of New Trier, Kevin Proffitt of Downers Grove North, Nick Kirk of Downers Grove South and Taylor Soltys of Neuqua Valley close behind.

With 700 meters to go, Soltys passed his teammate with Later following close behind. The gun lap went off at 8:25 and Later charged to the lead with Derrick close behind. Later’s speed was no match for Derrick on this day. With a last 400 of 58.3 seconds, the New Trier senior had a 4 second win.

The wind had gotten stronger as the gun went off in the 1600. This meant…no one wanted to push the pace, which was fine for Later. He took the lead at 300 meters into the race with Schrobilgen, Derrick, Minooka’s Joey Santillo, and Neuqua’s Drew Smith close behind.

The 2:18 that they passed at the half way point was a pace that was falling into the hands of Later on this night. Schrobilgen seemed content to stay on his rival’s shoulder. 3:27 at the gun and then the sprinting began. Later took off and Derrick, Schrobilgen, and Smith followed close behind. At 300 meters to go, Derrick passed Later catching the New Trier runner by surprise. With 200 to go, Later made one final move that no one could keep up with. His final time: 4:26.23 and another finishing 59 second quarter.

“I knew today there was not going to be a lot of fast times. Definitely not a PR in the works probably. It was satisfying to come down here and race against some of the elite guys in the state,” Later said after his 1600 win. “I figured since I was coming back in the mile that I did not want to do any unnecessary work. It just played out very well for me.”

He continued to describe his 1600. “Before the race I asked coach (David Wisner) about my plan. He told me I could do what I want but I do not want you to do all the work up front. But if that is what it takes to get a decent time then that is what should be done. I knew Derrick was very strong. He is a true distance guy. I knew I needed a good final 200 meters to catch him.”

Besides the double wins of Munar and Later, the only other double winner was Carl Heinz of Oak Park River Forest. He won the Triple Jump with an effort of 44-7. He moved over to the High Jump and dominated the pit winning with a clearance of 6-7, which was not bad on a night like this.

View the 1600 Meter Run here.