Boys Track: Neuqua Valley Finishes Second At Naperville North Sectional

Athletics compete in the 400 relay at Thursday’s Naperville North sectional. 

Minooka (80) edged Neuqua Valley (78) by just two points to take first place at Thursday’s 3A boys track sectional at Naperville North, but it was still a successful night for the Wildcats who had six individuals and three relay teams qualify for next week’s state meet.

Waubonsie Valley (72.60), Plainfield North (46.60) and Joliet West (40) rounded out the top five. Naperville North and Naperville Central tied for seventh place with 31 points each. West Aurora (28) finished in eight place, Oswego East (19.60) was in 11th, Oswego (18) finished 13th and East Aurora (4) came in 16th to round out area teams.

Neuqua distance runner Mark Derrick qualified for state in two events, taking first place in both the 1,600 (4:18.30) and 3,200 (9:12.37). In the 1,600, Derrick pulled ahead of Yorkville’s Chris Kellogg on the final lap to take his second title of the night.

“I was a little worried for a second, then I saw that he wasn’t really putting me away, so I got myself back into the race,” Derrick said.

Taylor Soltys will join Derrick at state in the 3,200 after finishing in second place. Jacob Bender qualified in both the 400 and 400 relay. However, the senior pulled in his hamstring during the 400 and was unable to participate in the 1,600 relay.

Neuqua received second place finishes Andrew Peterson in the pole vault and Carlos Varela-Hernandez in the discus. The Wildcats’ 3,200 and 800 relay teams also qualified for state.

Nobody was going to out-throw Waubonsie Valley’s duo of Riley Kittridge and Jamaal Bearden on Thursday.

Kittridge took home sectionals titles in both the shot put (55-3.5) and discus (164.5), while Bearden also qualified in both events, finishing second in the shot put (54-1) and third in the discus (157-3).

“I wanted to win both events, and I accomplished that,” said Kittridge, who qualified for state last year in the shot put. “Last year I struggled in disc, but this year it’s really picked up for me.”

Waubonsie had two other individuals place first – Kyle Schafer in the 300 hurdles (38.20) and James Travis in the triple jump (44-1). The Warriors’ 400 and 1600 relay teams also qualified for state.

Naperville North was paced by sprinter James Kerns who qualified in both the 100 (10.97) and 200 (22.24). The senior finished second in the 100, and third in the 200 with a time exactly at the state qualifying standard.

Kerns will be joined in Charleston by long jumper Kareem Midani and pole vaulter Nick Lyon. Midani set a personal record in the long jump with a leap of 22-7.5.

“I honestly had no idea that I’d do this,” said Midani. “It was one heck of an accomplishment. I just went out there and did it. I was so psyched.”

Naperville Central will be well represented in the field at Charleston next weekend. Pole vaulters Mike Juretschke and Kevin Rzepczinski and shot putter David Goodalis all qualified for state.

The Redhawks also had three relays qualify for state – the 800 team of Brandon Lau, Tyler Haines, Kevin Kulling and Sam Bransby, the 1,600 team of Haines, Bransby, Kulling and Brad Kouchoukos and the 3,200 team of Kouchoukos, Forrest Thayer, Ethan Brodeur and Christian Schafer.

Hanies, a senior, got a week added to his high school career by qualifying for state in two relays.

“It’s not over for us,” Haines said. “It feels good knowing that I can continue seeing my friends even though tomorrow is the last day of school. We still get to hang out during practice.”

West Aurora will be represented at state by triple jumper Aaron Kennebrew and its 3,200 relay team of Calvin Robinson, Zach Truckenbrod, Vontrel Hawkins and Brandon McKay.

Kennebrew overcame an injured heel to finish second in the triple jump with a leap of 43-6.

“I had a lot of support from my coaches and my family. They just told me mind over matter,” Kennebrew said. “I just went out there and jumped. The adrenaline kept me going and it didn’t hurt anymore.”

Oswego East had two individuals qualify for state– Kalmon Strokes in the 300 hurdles and Chase Skenandore in the 800. The Wolves’ 3, 200 relay team of Dakoda Skenandore, Andrew Holm, Rene Salinas and Chase Skenandore also qualified.

For Stokes, a senior, qualifying for state meant a four-year dream realized.

“It feels amazing. It’s what I’ve been trying to get my whole four years of high school,” Stokes said. “To finally accomplish that, it makes me happy.”

Long jumper Alain Dixon was the lone qualifier for Oswego. The senior placed third (22-7), but he out-jumped the state qualifying mark 0f 22-3 by four inches.

East Aurora sprinter Desmond Gant was .14 seconds away from qualifying for state in the 200. The Tomcats’ sophomore placed fourth (22.38).

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon, Naperville Sun and yourseason.com. It appears here.

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