Illinois: What happened in boys track last week

For the week ending February 25, 2012

The first major invitational competition happened last weekend throughout Illinois. Even though it is the indoor season and the state meet is 3 months away, there were some great performances at some of the venues.

Leading up to the state meet, I will highlight some of the action on the boys side. The action will start to pick up heading towards Bloomington for the IPTT Classic on the weekend of March 23.

So here is what I saw this past weekend of note:

~~ Have the defending state champions lost their touch? ~~

2A champion Cahokia and 3A Lake Park saw their first major invitational action this past weekend with Illinois only competition.

Cahokia has competed in some major invitationals in Arkansas & Missouri throughout January. They competed at the Normal West Invitational last Friday and actually look like the team to beat in 2A. I know it is only the end of February, but this team has the depth and quality to capture a team championship.

For example, in the Frosh/ Soph 4 x 400 Meter Relay, their first two runners split 51.9 & 52.5. Coach Leroy Milsap does have the athletes to spread around to get the points at state meet time. Trey Story placed 3rd in the 55 and won the 200. Marlin Bradywon the 400 by 3 ten thousandths of a second. The Comanches showed their strength in the field events with Antonio Pierce won the High Jump and Chris Moore in the Long Jump. Moore would have been in contention for the Triple Jump, but he tweaked his foot on his first jump and did not compete.

We talked about Lake Park in the recap of the Proviso West Invitational. Time will tell if this team will get their third in a row, but the prospects looked good after last week's meet. Even with super soph jumper Marcus Jegedle on the lower level in this meet, the Lancers still fell 1 point short to Neuqua Valley for the team championship at Proviso.

Kevin Spejcher won the High Jump with a clearance of 6' 8" with 3 good attempts at 7'

There is depth in the Pole Vault where Tim Ehrhardt placed 2nd and Sean Lang placed 7th. Junior Derek Smith did not compete. He cleared 13' 9" in a dual meet earlier in the week at Oak Park.

Lake Park has more depth in the jumps they've had the last two years. The thing is that they are all underclassmen! Junior Shawn Koch had a breakthrough in winning the Triple by improving his PR by 2 feet. Scott Filip won the Long Jump with a state best 23' 4". Then you have to think about Jegedle, who jumped 22' 4" in the Long and 45' 6" in the Triple.

"With the depth in those events, that gives us better options to spread guys around in other events," Lake Park Jay Ivory said during the meet.

~~ The Jump that did not count ~~

How would you like to jump 6' 4" in the High Jump and place third in a dual meet? That is what happened to Lake Park's Scott Filipand Oak Park's Harrison Gay last Thursday at a dual meet in Oak Park's Fieldhouse. It was a crazy High Jump competition where at least 6 jumpers went 6' 0" or higher.

But the story of the night was about the jump that did not count.

Kevin Spejcher of Lake Park and Carl Heinz of Oak Park-River Forest had a great competition in this event with Heinz winning at 6' 10" and Spejcher right behind at 6' 8".

Heinz asked the bar to be raised to 7' 0". He missed on her first two attempts. On the second attempt, he looked into the stands and said, "Sorry mom!" Carl had cleared 7' last April at a meet in Hinsdale, but his parents were not there.

On his third attempt, Heniz messed up his steps and tried to stop before the bar. Unfortunately, his momentum took him under the bar. That was his 3rd attemt. The competition was over...or was it?

Heinz looked over to his coach Danielle Dobias-Wagner and asked if he could try one more time. She nodded in approval.

Good approach. Good plant. Good clearance of the bar. 7' 0" was his. It would have to be a confidence thing because it was his 4th jump and you only get 3 to clear a height.

What was amazing is that he had not had a good practice in the last 2 weeks. At his first meet of the year on February 3, he hurt his foot and was out. With little work coming into this meet, it will be fun to see what he will do in the upcoming weeks.

~~ For you stat geeks...like me ~~

Here are the 200m splits for Garrett Sweatt of Edwardsville in the 3200 Meter Run at the Normal West Invitational last Friday. Sweatt's 9:07.25 is currently ranked #3 in the United States.

33.7, 67.9, 1:42.4, 2:16.3

2:51.4, 3:25.9, 4:01.7, 4:35.6

5:10.3, 5:44.6, 6:19.5, 6:53.6

7:28.5, 8:03.0, 8:37.2, 9:07.2

~~ This weekend ~~

Most of the action this weekend will be at some of the universities throughout the state and away from the Chicago area.

The boys edition of the SIU Invitational will be held on Saturday in Carbondale. The Illinois State Invitational at Normal is also being contested on Saturday.

A new meet, the Centennial Invitational at the University of Illinois, should be highly contested with Garrett Sweatt and Cameron James of Edwardsville scheduled to compete.

If you are in the Chicago area, there are a couple of meets that could check out. On Friday, the York Invitational will include the season debut of Palatine in the distance events on this spacious 200 Meter Track in Elmhurst.

On Saturday, the Joe Scarpino Invitational will be held in Buffalo Grove.

On Sunday, the ICOPS Invitational featuring some of the top Catholic Chicago area schools in the area will be held on the campus of Lewis University in Romeoville.

If you are in the Naperville area on Monday night, stop by the Al B. Carius Track on the campus of North Central College. The Mustang Relays will be held starting at 6 PM. If you like relay action, that is the place to be!

~~ And Finally... ~~

I think as someone who covers track & field, you kind of wonder what the big thing will be at that meet. You come to the meet looking for spirited competition and great performances. You like to see young athletes see what they can do.

I did see that on Saturday at the Proviso West Invitational.

Right before the start of the first heat of the Varsity 1 mile run, I looked down the starting line. There was an athlete there that I thought did not belong. Before the start of the mile, you expect to see athletes with the distance runner body...some short, some tall and gangly.

There was an athlete there that towered over the rest. Calvin King of Proviso West was about 6 ' 3" and close to 280 pounds. (That is just an estimate). I looked at the meet program and he had a seed time of 14:00. I made a remark to a coach near by that we might be here for a little.

The gun went off. In my mind, I was thinking that I hoped that this young man would make it through 400 meters.

Boy was I wrong!

The lead runners crossed the finish line and King still had 4 more laps to run. But he kept going. Just each step he was taking was closer to finishing.

He was not alone. The entire attention of the Proviso West Fieldhouse was on this young man. All the athletes and coaches were standing around the track cheering King on.

In my mind I was thinking, "Come on---you can finish. You can do it."

When on my drive home, I was getting phone calls from people asking if I had seen what was said about this race online. I had not.

There were comments of why was this athlete allowed to compete in a major invitational and more that I prefer not to talk about.

Sometimes we want to see the spectacular at a track meet. We want to see the meet record broken or something note worthy.

For those of you who did not think it was right of this young man to run, well I hope seeing this young man's effort towards the finish line changed your thinking about that.

We did see something spectacular happen and this athlete provided it. King finished nearly 3 minutes ahead of his seed time running 11:11. He competed and achieved. That is what I look for at a track meet.

He may not have the body of a distance runner, but does have the heart of one.

King received the loudest ovation of the day. He deserved it.