The milder than normal winter weather has been a benefit to the Illinois high school track and field athletes this season. Performances that we have not seen in close to 30 years have been evident in the distances. There is more depth in all of the events this year. It leads us to the possibilities of a great state meet this weekend in Charleston.
I am so much looking forward to the relays. Last week in sectional competition, we saw the times drop dramatically. The times will continue to drop this weekend and we could see some national class times in the 4 relays.
The temperatures at O’Brien Stadium should be oppressively hot with temperatures climbing towards the triple digits by the time we get to the finals on Saturday. It could affect some of the distance performances but I hope not. There is quality in all 4 of those events that could make this weekend extra special.
Here is a look at each of the individual events and what you can look for on Friday and Saturday at the big blue oval.
Outlook: Should be a great jumping competition with some great athletes in this event. Zach Gordon (North, Wheaton Ill) took the season lead in the Long Jump (24-2.5) at the sectional and will be the guy to beat this weekend. He has been over 23 feet three times this year and the only jumper over 24. Matt Harris (Lyons Township, LaGrange Ill) has been the list leader most of the season and jumped 23-8 last week at Concordia University. The one flaw on Harris is that he fouled out at his conference meet and fouled on his first two attempts at Prospect before he hit it. He will need to have his steps down this weekend..
Scott Filip & Marcus Jegede (Lake Park, Roselle Ill) will provide big points for this school in the Long Jump this weekend. Filip placed in this event last year with a fifth place finish. He will look to go higher and longer. Jegede is in his first big meet, but is a big meet performer.
Other horizontal jumpers to watch include Antwon James (Glenbard East, Lombard Ill), Thomas Taylor (Thornton, Harvey Ill), Ethan Cane (Minooka, Ill), Ose Ilenikhena (Glenbrook South, Glenview Ill), and Jamal Payton (Proviso West, Hillside Ill). Could Mid 24’s win this event this weekend?
Outlook: This is a fascinating event to analyze. It could even better in person this weekend. We could see some epic jumps on the blue runways of O’Brien Stadium. Shawn Koch (Lake Park, Roselle Ill) had the longest performance at sectional competition last week. Koch’s performances have improved by every meet this summer. He has gone from 44 feet at the beginning of April to the 47-8 that he jumped in sectionals. This junior could be tough to beat.
Josh White (Edwardsville, Ill) had a PR of 43-4.5 that he jumped when he was a sophomore two years ago. The senior has stepped up in a big way for the Tigers jumping 46-10.5 and will be a factor in this event. Jamion Nash (West, Belleville Ill) was behind White at sectionals but jumped 47-1.25 at Collinsville three weeks ago. Scott Filip (Lake Park, Roselle Ill) is in the mid 46’s right now and could also win this event.
A deep event with so much potential. Keep an eye also on Thomas Taylor (Thornton, Harvey, Ill), Carl Heinz (Oak Park-River Forest, Oak Park Ill), A.J. Scarborough (Barrington, Ill), James Shields (Maine East, Park Ridge Ill), and Jalen Woods (Thornton Fractional South, Lansing Ill). 48 feet or better could win this on Saturday.
Outlook: Danielle Dobias-Wagner, the High Jump coach at Oak Park-River Forest High School, told me in February that it is so hard to get a PR in the High Jump at the state meet because there is so much action going around and the pressure of the situation. Yet, the potential for some great jumps could happen on Saturday with the high quality in this event.
Carl Heinz (Oak Park-River Forest, Oak Park Ill) is the defending champion in this event. So far this year, he jumped 7-1 at an invitational at Darien. He has one loss this season, that to Kevin Spejcher (Lake Park, Roselle Il) at the IPTT Indoor Classic in March. Spejcher jumped 6-11 two weeks ago and is ready to go higher on Saturday. It was a great competition in March. It should be great between the two this weekend.
Do not forget about Peter Stefanski (Marmion Academy, Aurora Ill). Last week at St. Charles, he cleared 7-0 for the first time. He is entering this event with a big confidence boost, He could be the big surprise in this event.
Other jumpers that may threaten this trio include Oshay Hodges (North, St. Charles Ill), Ben Bowers (Conant, Hoffman Estates Ill), Kurtis Zumbahlen (Minooka, Ill), and Matt Wilson (Granite City, Ill). It would be fun to see these guys go over 7-0 for the win.
Outlook: This year, the Pole Vault in this class has produced 10 vaulters over 15 feet which is quite amazing for Illinois. This will make this event fun to watch on Saturday.
Nick Sgarbossa (York, Elmhurst Ill) is the only vaulter to go over 16 feet this spring. He has been over 15 feet four times this year with one slip up, a fourth place finish at the DuPage County Meet. He will need to be on his game this weekend. The same can be said about Eric Gordon (Community West, Normal Ill). He was the overwhelming favorite at the IPTT Indoor Classic, yet he finished fourth in what he called a bit of over confidence. Gordon went over 16 feet twice indoors, and he is undefeated outdoors going over 15 feet at every major invitational. He is primed to go higher this weekend.
Luke Winder (Central, Plainfield Ill) may be the surprise of them all. Coming from a great vaulting family, this sophomore may be the best of all his brothers. Last week at the Naperville North Sectional, he cleared 15-9 for the first time. He is on a hot streak that may continue on Saturday.
This event is loaded. Others that will contend include Nick Bednarek (Fremd, Palatine Ill), Derrick Smith (Lake Park, Roselle Ill), Joe Ward (Jefferson, Rockford Ill), Cirron Clark (Danville, Ill), Shawn John (York, Elmhurst Ill), Tom Schuette (Edwardsville, Ill), and Brandon Clabough (Batavia, Ill).
It will take at least 16 feet or higher to win this event. And we may have more than one vaulter over that height.
Outlook: Josh Freeman (Cary-Grove, Cary Ill) has been the man in the spotlight in this event all year. It started at the beginning of March where he went 60 feet and it just grew from there. He did not have his best performance at sectionals (60-11.75), but he has more performances (10 ) than any other athlete this season in this event. It makes him a huge favorite.
Freeman cannot afford to keep his guard down this weekend. Mark Balmes (Hersey, Arlington Heights Ill) has been coming on strong the last few weeks and could be Freeman’s biggest threat. Balmes best this year is 60-0 three weeks ago. Riley Kittridge (Waubonsie Valley, Aurora Ill) has improved seven feet at the beginning of the outdoor season. He could go farther this weekend.
Other athletes to watch include Kyrin Tucker (Community West, Normal Ill), Vincent Valentine (Edwardsville Ill), Christian Hollinger (North, Wheaton Ill), Paul Golen (York, Elmhurst Ill) and Kevin Bauers (Bartlett, Ill).
Outlook: This perhaps could be the most wide open field event in 3A. Brandon Lombardino (Grant, Fox Lake Ill) has quietly climbed his way up the 3A leaderboard in this event. The junior’s best performance this year was 190 feet at a home dual meet. His best invitational performance was last week at his sectional meet at Hononegah. He only has one loss this year, that to Josh Freeman (Cary-Grove, Cary Ill) in April. Freeman could push Lombardino to the limit.
Max Leonard (Glenbrook South, Glenview Ill) went 178-7 at his conference meet two weeks ago. He could be a big surprise this weekend. Christian Hollinger (North, Wheaton Ill) popped an eleven foot PR last week at his sectional. He could surprise like Leonard on Saturday. Paul Golen (York, Elmhurst Ill) threw 171-7 at his conference meet two weeks ago. He could be part of the championship discussion here.
Other throwers to watch include Mark Balmes (Hersey, Arlington Heights Ill), Nick Barrett (O’Fallon, Ill), Scott Karlis (lake Park, Roselle Ill), Riley Kittridge (Waubonsie Valley, Aurora Ill), and Alex Hansen (Oak Forest, Ill).
4 x 800 METER RELAY
Outlook: Mouths dropped after seeing the results of the Loyola Sectional results last Thursday. 8 teams under qualifying standards, 4 under 7:50. Let the fun begin on Friday. We could see some more major drops in this event.
New Trier had the fastest time in that Loyola meet and could go lower this weekend. Of course they have cross country champ Leland Later anchoring them, but watch for Peter Cotsirlos, a sophomore, that could drop his split into then 1:55’s or lower. Niles North could be the team to beat. The Vikings were only two tenths behind New Trier. They have a strong quartet led by Aron Sebhat. It could go close to 7:40 on Saturday.
Lane Tech won comfortably at the Oak Park Sectional last Thursday. Will this team step up this weekend? They have the talent to contend led by David Timlin, but in the big relays that they have been in during this season, they have fallen a little short with their best finish being second at Prospect. They could surprise this weekend.
Prospect was part of that fast Loyola Sectional. With their quartet only in this event and their past history at state, do not discount the Knights. Defending champion Minooka is back and could be part of the final top 3 on Saturday led by Dan Popek.
Other schools to watch in this relay include Wheaton-Warrenville South, Springfield, Jacobs, Neuqua Valley, Palatine, Sandburg, Belvidere North, and Lake Zurich. It should take 7:52 or better to make the finals on Saturday.
4 x 100 METER RELAY
Outlook: The schools from down south should control this event, but it may be two schools near Chicago that could pull the big surprise. Belleville West always steps up in this event when state meet time comes around. Last year, they won running 41.87. Last week at sectionals, the Maroons ran 41.79 behind a talented Edwardsville team. Both schools will go faster this weekend.
The schools to watch from Chicago are Oak Park-River Forest and Chicago Dunbar. The Huskies dropped under 42 seconds two weeks ago at their conference meet using an all underclassmen lineup. They will use the same quartet this weekend and could go lower. Dunbar is the surprise of the 3A sprint scene. They made a one second drop from the Chicago Public League Meet and their sectional. You cannot dismiss this team.
Other schools to keep a watch on include Wheaton North, Thornton, Peoria Richwoods, Thornton Fractional North, Plainfield North, Downers Grove South, and Rock Island. Do not surprised if it takes 42.2 or faster to make the finals.
3200 METER RUN
Outlook: The common theory when the weather gets hot about this event is that it will be a tactical race. Looking at the weather forecast and what it will be like on the floor of that stadium, I had the same idea. But looking at the runners that will be in this race, I am tending to think that we are not looking at a kicker’s fest.
It could be a fast pace. So much fast that the race may be in the low 8:50’s, even faster. There are several runners that could insure of this. The first is Jack Keelan (St. Ignatius, Chicago Ill), who ran 8:55 at Arcadia in April. He has been running with a purpose all spring trying to exorcise the demons of past state competitions. Saturday may be his day.
The second is Malachy Schrobilgen (Oak Park-River Forest, Oak Park, Ill). He showed that he was ready for this race by running 8:57 solo last week at his sectional. The question will be for this senior is will he save himself for the 1600 that he is planning on doubling this weekend?
Garrett Sweatt (Edwardsville, Ill) would be the third runner. Sweatt has been consistently been in the low 9 minute range all year. He has been experiencing problems with his knee but reports are that he is ready to go. He is not doubling. He will want a fast pace.
The last runner to watch is Tyler Yunk (North, Belvidere Ill). He likes the fast pace and will not shy away from pushing it.
I think the pace may lag early, but start to rev up on the second or third lap. How many will go with the fast pace will be interesting. At the same time, how many will wait and pick off those who can’t take the pace? Look at this also. If people start falling all over the place in Section 2, we could have a couple of runners from the first section that will place.
Others that I would keep an eye on include Erik Peterson (Barrington, Ill), Pat Niyork (Willowbrook, Villa Park Ill), Mark Derrick and Taylor Soltys (Neuqua Valley, Naperville Ill), Tyler Schneider (Conant, Hoffman Estates Ill), and Joe Stewart (Metea Valley, Ill).
110 METER HIGH HURDLES
Outlook: It could come down to a three hurdler affair with times under 14 seconds happening. Rashad Hulbert (Crete-Monee, Crete Ill) has run some hand timed races in the 13’s this season. Last week at his sectional he recorded a 13.99 time that will put the bull’s eye on his back.
Derrick Willies (Rock Island, Ill) made a big drop by four tenths of a second in winning his sectional last week. The transfer from Iowa could defeat Hulbert in this meet. Christian Herring (East, Belleville Ill) was right behind Willies in that sectional meet. He could surprise at this state meet.
Other hurdlers to watch include Marcus Greer (Senior HS, East St. Louis Ill), Sean Wells (Grant, Fox Lake Ill), Billy Reed and Jonathan Goins (Lockport, Ill), and Jonathan Anderson (Thornton, Harvey Ill).
100 METER DASH
Outlook: The hot temperatures + hot runners will equal some fast performances this weekend. Kennedy Mayweather (Collinsville, Ill) won that fast Belleville West sectional and could be one of the favorites here. The same could be said with Bennett Gray (Edwardsville, Ill) and Chris Wiggins (O’Fallon, Ill). They could win at this race.
Also keep an eye on Tavaris Binion (Hinsdale South, Darien Ill). He won the Lockport Sectional. He could challenge for the championship this weekend.
Other sprinters to keep an eye on include Damon Timm (Springfield, Ill), Demitri Smith (Thornton, Harvey Ill), Tyrone Echols (Collinsville, Ill), Perez Ford (Romeoville, Ill), and Cameron James (Edwardsville, Ill).
800 METER RUN
Outlook: Michal Filipczak (Maine South, Park Ridge Ill) reflected after his first outdoor 800 this spring that he ran too conservatively at the 2011 state meet, a race where he finished second. He’s had a full year to analyze and think of how he will want to run this. Last week at his sectional, he dropped a 1:51.93, the best in the state. The main thing for this senior is that he will get out fast and make his competition come and get him.
A duo that could be chasing after Filipczak are future college roommates , Jake Mazanke (East, St. Charles Ill) and Peter Archibald (Geneva, Ill). Both have been pushing each other faster and faster the last couple of weeks, They could be going for the state championship on Saturday. Also watch for Will Crocker (North, Belvidere Ill), who could be coming back from the 4 x 8. Crocker ran 1:52.66 in April in California. He will be seeking a faster time on Saturday.
Other runners to watch for include Neal Omar (Niles West, Skokie Ill), Chris Alvarez (Central, Crystal Lake Ill), Mike Fahey (Glenbard East, Lombard Ill), Dan Popek (Minooka, Ill), and Sam Stanek (Glenbrook South, Glenview Ill).
Low 1:51’s may win this race on Saturday.
4 x 200 METER RELAY
Outlook: The question for this race will either Belleville West or Collinsville (or both) will go under 1:26 in either the prelims or the finals. Collinsville cranked out a 1:26.29 time last week at the Belleville West Sectional. Belleville West was only twelve hundredths back.
After that, unless the above two schools run sub-par races, I do not see any other school getting close to them. Watch for Dunbar, Elgin, Edwardsville, Wheaton North, Thornwood, and Downers Grove North to run after the championship along with Collinsville and Belleville West.
400 METER DASH
Outlook: This could be the most wide open event on the track on Saturday. Jacob Bender (Neuqua Valley, Naperville Ill) placed second at the Naperville North Sectional after he activated a hamstring injury on the final curve of his race. He finished second behind Stephan Thelemaque (East, Plainfield Ill). Both runners have the fastest two times. Bender has the fastest 3A time this year running 48.75 two weeks ago. He’s had a week to rest his leg. With Neuqua not qualifying in the 4x4, he will want this win very badly.
Other 400 runners to watch to challenge Bender and Thelemaque include Dalton Timm & Malik Harrison (Springfield, Ill), Antonio Farley (Round Lake, Ill), Jeff Broger (South Elgin, Ill), and Tommy Rohn (Cary-Grove, Cary Ill).
300 INTERMEDIATATE HURDLES
Outlook: Rashad Hulbert (Crete-Monee, Crete, Ill) is the defending state champ in this event. In this race, he could have company. Hulbert has run 37.78 In April, but he has been around 38 seconds the last couple of weeks. He is a tough competitor that will not want to give up his title.
Derrick Willies (Rock Island, Ill) will be right with Hulbert like he will be in the short hurdle race. Willies ran 38.04 two weeks ago at his conference meet. Two other hurdlers that will be up to the challenge are Brett Kohler (North, Wheaton Ill) and Kyle Schafer (Waubonsie Valley, Aurora Ill). Kohler has run 38.35 & 38.41 the last two weeks. Schafer’s run was impressive when he won his sectional running 38.20 and winning by more than a second. He could get Willies or Hulbert.
Other hurdlers to watch include Ben Bowers (Conant, Hoffman Estates Ill), Lino Mogorovic (Lyons Township, LaGrange Ill), Marcus Greer (Senior, East St. Louis Ill), Dom Blake (Jacobs, Algonquin Ill), Bryant Lewis (Bloomington, Ill), and Conor Dunham (St. Ignatius, Chicago Ill).
1600 METER RUN
Outlook: If someone doubles back from the 3200 to win in such hot temperatures on Saturday, it could be an incredible story. I just can’t see that happen. It will be someone who is coming off of the 4x8 relay or running fresh that will take command of this race.
The last 3 weeks Mike Lederhouse (Glenbard West, Glen Ellyn Ill) has pushed the pace from the beginning resulting in three races between 4:12 and 4:13. With the weather, watch for Lederhouse to push the pace from the get go. It will be come with me kind of race. Anyone who wants a fast time will follow.
Leland Later (New Trier, Winnetka Ill) has run 4:10.7 three weeks ago fresh. If he is with the leaders in the last 400 meters, he may be the one that runs away with the title. Last week, Todd Ford (Loyola Academy, Wilmette Ill) outkicked Later to win the sectional race. Could the same thing happen this weekend?
Patrick Perrier & Alex Riba (O’Fallon, Ill) could be factors in this race if they run fresh. We could see team tactics from them where they could push along with Lederhouse the pace that could take this race under 4:10.
Other milers to watch include Patrick Juras (Lake Zurich, Ill), Easton Huch (Libertyville, Ill), Garrett Lee (North, Belvidere Ill), Malachy Schrobilgen (Oak Park-River Forest, Oak Park Ill), Jack Keelan (St. Ignatius, Chicago Ill), William Hennessy (Jacobs, Algonquin Ill), and David Timlin (Lane Tech, Chicago Ill).
200 METER DASH
Outlook: Kennedy Mayweather (Collinsville, Ill) has been the hot 200 runner all year. Last week, he had a convincing win in his sectional running 21.60. He has run under 22 seconds in four finals this year. Tough to pick against him.
The one sprinter to watch is Darvell Harris (Dunbar, Chicago Ill). In his last two meets, he has run 21.33 & 21.41. He has improved his PR by more than a second in the last year. He could be the one guy that could get Mayweather.
Other sprinters that I would watch include Calvin Edwards (West, Joliet Ill), Keontay Williams (Zion-Benton, Zion Ill), Zach Gordon (North, Wheaton Ill), and Demetri Smith (Thornton, Harvey Ill).
4 x 400 METER RELAY
Outlook: This is going to be a great finale of a great meet. Belleville West has the fastest time in the state run last week at their own sectional. They have the potential to run much faster led by their anchor Jeremy Randolph. St. Charles East ran a great sectional time as well. Jake Mazanke ran a open 400 in the 48’s this spring and could split 47’s in this meet for the Saints.
Waubonsie Valley has been in the front of the pack most of the season. Last week at their sectional, they did not run a great second leg, but still ended up running 3:19.07 behind a great anchor from Kyle Schafer.
Other teams to watch in this race include Minooka, Belleville East, Springfield, Evanston, Cary-Grove, Metea Valley, and Wheaton North. It will take under 3:21 to make the finals. It will take 3:16 to win this race.
GOOD LUCK TO ALL ATHLETES AND COACHES THIS WEEKEND!!!