This week in Illinois boys track & field

It’s time to erase the blackboard. Time to close the books. The track & field athletes are about ready to take their final exams: The Illinois High School State Meet. The next 9 days they will take two tests. It will show if all of their work from the past year has paid off. After the last weekend full of conference meets, it is even harder to determine the team favorites and the individual favorites heading into the state series. The sectionals on Thursday and Friday will help sort that out a little.

Tim Hasso, the head track & field coach at Oak Park-River Forest High School, put it the best. “It does not matter what we have done the past couple of months. Might as well clean the leaderboard. It’s only the next two weeks that will matter.”

~~ On the 3A front ~~

After last week’s action, it is a tossup of who will be the team favorite.

Oak Park-River Forest stepped up to the plate at the WSC-Silver Meet at Western Springs and hit a home run by dominating the meet over defending champion York. Led by Malachy Schrobilgen and Carl Heinz, this team could score some major points. The Huskies have some young sprinters that put the fastest time in the state in the 4 x 1 and could be a factor in the short relays.

Wheaton North easily won the DuPage Valley Meet without their strongest lineup. Zack Gordon will be a factor in the Long Jump and the sprint relays. Aidan Askin has come up strong in the 1600 and will be a part of a strong 4 x 8 relay. Also watch for weight men Mac Spaulding and Christian Hollinger to put up points for the Falcons.

Have we forgotten about two-time 3A state champion Lake Park? The school from Roselle looks like they will strong again in the field events led by Kevin Spejcher, Scott Filip, and Marcus Jegede. The Lancers will also be strong on the track with Filip in the hurdles and strong in the 4x1 and 4x8 relays.

Neuqua Valley placed second behind Lake Park at the Upstate Eight Valley meet, but looks can be deceiving. Coach Mike Kennedy moved athletes around in some different events looking more towards the state series. The Wildcats will be strong in the distances with Taylor Soltys and Mark Derrick and also could get big points from sprinter Jacob Bender.

Last week, we talked about the teams in southern Illinois. Edwardsville could be the team to watch out for. They are fairly deep in most of the events. Cameron James looks like he is totally back after struggling most of the outdoor season with hamstring problems. He will be a plus in the relays. The Tigers will score in the field events and don’t forget about Garrett Sweatt! He could do some damage in both the 3200 and the 1600.

Belleville West might be the big surprise. The Maroons are always strong in the relays. This year they could score in all 4. DJ Owens could be a factor in the horizontal jumps.

~~ And 2A ~~

There are three schools that have separated themselves so far from the rest of the pack. After the sectionals, we may be able to read this class a little bit clearer.

Cahokia still remains the favorite in this class. The Comanches have the fastest times in all four relays. They will also be strong with Marlin Brady in the 400 and Darren Payton in the 800. Chris Moore leads the Triple Jump.

If one team could catch them is Providence Catholic. The Celtics looked strong in winning the Chicago Catholic League Meet last Saturday. Troy Sheppard could score in both of the short sprints. Andrew Helmin may be a factor in both of the hurdle races. Do not forget Chad Weaver. He should be the favorite in the Pole Vault.

One other team to watch is Decatur MacArthur. Jonathan Boey will be the one man to watch in the short sprints having some of the top times in this class. Michael Clevenger is the defending champion in the 3200. He has the fastest times in both the 3200 and the 1600 and will enter the meet as the favorite in both events..

~~ In 1A ~~

As of right now, it is very hard to tell the favorites in this sized down class. Defending champ Leo Catholic made some noise against the bigger schools in the Chicago Catholic League Meet. Terrance Hopkins and Keith Harris Jr. looked strong in both of the sprints and could score points here. Marlon Britton so far has the fastest times in the High Hurdles. Leo always has great sprint relays. Expect the same thing next week in Charleston.

~~ What about those relays?~~

The funniest thing happened last Friday at conference meets throughout Illinois. Every time I checked my twitter account for results, I would see the results of every conference’s 4 x 8 relay. It seemed like every conference’s winning time was between 7:56 to 7:58….well, that is what it seemed like. Algonquin Jacobs made the most noise in this event running 7:54 at the Fox Valley Conference meet.

Will we see the same results this week? I seriously doubt it.

It will be faster. Definitely faster. The sectionals is traditionally were schools put together their strongest quartets and then the times take a major drop.

It will be interesting to see what O’Fallon does. The Panthers have the fastest time in 3A with both Alex Riba and Patrick Perrier part of the quartet. Keep those two in there and they could be below 7:50.

With the weather forecast very favorable, do not be surprised if we see three or four schools under 7:50 in the next two days.

~~ This week’s meets: The Sectionals ~~

All the 3A sectionals will be tough. But perhaps the toughest of them all will be the Belleville West Sectional downstate. Call it a “bloodbath or a “meat grinder”, but this meet could have the most qualifiers out of all the 3A sectionals. Watch especially in the relays. I think we could have two teams under 1:27 here. Pick an event…it will be loaded.

In 2A, keep an eye on the Jacksonville Sectional, held in Springfield. There should be some good distance races with Michael Clevenger (MacArthur, Decatur Ill), Marc Maton (Glenwood, Chatham Ill), and Jake Fritszche (Mt. Zion, Ill).

In 1A, the distance geek in me takes over. If I could I would be at Monticello. Some great distance races with some of the best distance runners in East-Central Illinois led by 1A state cross country champion Steve Schroeder (Monticello).

Also watch the Seneca Sectional in 1A. Grant Nykaza (Beecher, Ill) will only be running the 1600, but we could see if he will get close to Schroeder’s class leading time of 4:15 in that race.

~~ And finally ~~

Here is what we are looking at the next few days. I will be at two sectionals and will give you recaps on those two meets. Also watch for recaps of all the sectionals on Sunday morning.

There will be no weekly recap next week. There will be a state meet preview for all three classes next Wednesday. Okay, now I can exhale…maybe just a little.

Good luck to all the athletes competing over the next few days. Keep your heads up whether you win or lose. Do your best, have fun doing it, and you will be a success. Even if you don’t achieve your goals, just stepping onto the track or area of competition makes you successful.