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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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Boys Track: West Aurora Captures First Place At Oswego Outdoor Invite

West Aurora’s Royce Golembeck prepares to launch in the pole vault.

Paced by a dominant performance in the field events, West Aurora’s boys track and field team took first place at the Oswego Outdoor Invite on Friday.

The Blackhawks tallied 161 points while Aurora Central Catholic finished in second place with 129. Host Oswego followed close behind in third place with 110 points while East Aurora ended up in fifth with 45.

“The field events got us off on the right foot and the track followed up with some really good performances,” said West Aurora coach Cortney Lamb. “Overall, it was a real good night for us.”

The Blackhawks won seven individuals events, including five of the six field events.

Aaron Kennebrew finished on top in both the high jump (6 foot, 1 inch) and triple jump (40-09.5). The junior jumper set a personal record in the high jump.

“I want to get better every single meet. I listen to my coaches, I trust them completely,” said Kennebrew. “My philosophy is to get better every single practice, every single meet so I’m ready for the big meets coming up.”

The Blackhawks swept the top three spots in both the shot put and the discus with Lijah Spears finishing on top in both events. Spears was followed by David Aleman and Shaq Redmond in the discus. Jorgeluis Ramirez and Aleman finished second and third in the shot put.

With a final jump of 12-06, pole vaulter Royce Golembeck finished first in his event for the second straight meet. Golembeck also took first in the pole vault at the Peterson Prep at Kaneland last weekend.

“I didn’t do well the three weeks before Kaneland, so I went in to practice and worked hard,” said Golembeck. “I’m trying to break in a new pole, and it’s turned out nicely for me these last couple meets.”

On the track for the Blackhawks, Vontrel Hawkins took first in the 400 meter dash (50.78) and while Greg Roache won the 110 meter hurdles (16.01). Roache also finished third in the triple jump.

Lamb hopes the Blackhawks’ success on Friday carries over into next week’s Kane Country meet, which will be hosted by West Aurora.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with what happened tonight. They came out and made a good showing,” said Lamb. “We accomplished what we needed to. That’s going to give us confidence going into next week and the following weeks.”

Despite being the smallest school at the six-team event, second-place Aurora Central had a strong showing, winning three individual events and two relays (4×400 and 4×800).

Matt Meyers took home first place in both the 800 meters (2:00.40) and 1600 meters (4:31) while sprinter Joseph Fese won the 100 meter dash (10.84). Chargers athlete Patrick Lefevre finished second in the triple jump and 110 meter hurdles and third in the 300 meter hurdles.

“We have a lot of courage on our team,” said Meyers. “Even though there were 3A teams here, we weren’t intimidated. We really wanted to go after it.”

Third-place Oswego was paced by long-distance runner Caleb Beck, who finished first in the 3200 meters (9:31.10) and jumper Alain Dixon, the champion on the long jump (21-00). The host Panthers also won the 4×100 and 4×200 relays.

Beck blew past his competition in the 3200, finishing 45 seconds ahead of second place Ricky Barajas of East Aurora (10:16).

East Aurora rounded out area teams in fifth place. Blazing sophomore Desmond Gant once again led the Tomcats, finishing first in the 200 meter dash (22.58) and third in the 100 meter dash (11.11).

“I wanted to run under 22.5 in the 200, obviously I didn’t do that, but I still felt I ran good tonight,” said Gant. “I can do better though, so I’ve still got work to do.”

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

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Boys Track: Host Kaneland Takes First Place At Peterson Prep Invitational

Workers get the pit ready for the triple jump final at Peterson Prep.

Sixteen teams came to Kaneland High School on Saturday in hopes of winning the Peterson Prep Invitational, but it was the home team that finished first.

The Knights placed in 15 of 18 events, won two relays and had three individual champions on their way to capturing first place with 84 points.

“This was a nice win for us on our home track,” said Kaneland coach Eric Baron. “All these programs are very good. To finish in the top five or top ten here shows you’re a strong competitor throughout the state of Illinois.”

Geneva, who held the team lead going into the final event, ended up in second place with 75 points. Burlington Central, paced by their intermediate runners, captured third place.

West Aurora finished in fourth place with 64 points, Yorkville took fifth with 45 and Oswego East followed closely in sixth with 42. Elgin came in ninth with 30 points, East Aurora finished in 12th place with 16, and Dundee Crown ended up in 14th with 9 to round out area teams.

Kaneland rode anchor Sean Carter to first in the 4×100 (43.78) and 4×200 (1:31.31) relays. The Knights also finished second in the 4×400 (3:26.62).

Dylan Nauert (300 meter hurdles) and Nate Dyer (discus and shot put) won individual championships for the Knights.

“Taking first at a home invite is a lot of excitement,” said Dyer. “Doing it twice, it was definitely a good day.”

Geneva’s Ben Rogers launched himself into first place in both the long jump (21 feet, 8 inches) and triple jump (43-11).

The Vikings’ senior was held back last season by a nagging hamstring injury. This year he’s fully healthy and performing at an exceptionally high level. His mark in the triple jump on Saturday was a new personal best.

“I’d like to keep getting better every meet, I think that’s the goal,” said Rogers. “I think if I can keep getting better each meet, I’m going to end up where I want to be.”

The Vikings also got a big boost on the track from Justin Davis, who finished first in the 400 meters, third in the 200 meters and seventh in the 100 meters.

“We covered the events well, which is what we always preach,” said Geneva coach Gale Gross. “We had to fight through some injuries, but overall the kids did awesome.”

Burlington Central runners Mike Gulik and Clint Kliem both finished in first place in three events. The two were part of the Rockets’ first-place 4×400 (3:25.43) and 4×800 (8:01.69) relay teams.

Gulik captured first in the 800 meters (1:57.28) while Kliem was the champion of the 1600 meter race (4:24.38). Kliem ran the third leg of the 4×400 relay just 25 minutes after setting a personal record in the 1600.

“That last one was just all guts,” said Kliem. “After finishing that mile, I just kept my legs up for five or ten minutes, did a little jog, and tried not to think about the next race. It’s just all basically a mental game.”

Central athletes Ben Damisch (400 meters) and Johnny Reuter (pole vault) both took home second place in their events.

Fourth-place West Aurora was paced by pole vaulter Royce Golembeck, who jumped 13-06 to capture first in his event.

The Blackhawks also got strong performances in the field from Aaron Kennebrew (second place in the triple jump and fourth place in the high jump), Lijah Spears (second place in the discus) and Jonny Gosong (third place in the long jump).

“We came in with a good focused attitude and we did a real nice job today,” said Blackhawks coach Cortney Lamb. “It’s not our best meet, but we have a lot things we can build on.”

Fifth-place Yorkville had no individual champions but runners Jake Callahan (800 meters), Chris Kellogg (1600 meters) and Eric Baker (3200 meters) all finished second in their events. The Foxes also got third place finishes from Jake Hoffert (3200 meters) and Joe Haske (pole vault).

Sixth-place Oswego East was paced by senior Kalmon Stokes, who finished second in both the 110 meter hurdles (15.77) and 300 meter hurdles (40.84). The same Wolves team of Dakoda Skenandore, Andrew Holm, Rene Salinas and Chase Skenandore took home third place in 4×800 relay (8:09.19) and fifth place in the 4×400 relay (3:32.24).

Elgin’s Dennis Moore was definitely the standout athlete for the Maroons. The senior sprinter blazed his way to first place in the 100 meter dash (11.46) and fourth place in the 200 meter dash (23.72).

Moore, along with teammates Terrell Campbell, Derek Moorman and DeVante King, also took home second place in the 4×100 and 4×200 relays.

East Aurora sprinter Desmond Gant accounted for all of the Tomcats’ points. The electrifying sophomore earned first place in the 200 meter dash (23.07) and third place in 100 meter dash (11.61).

“In my opinion, this was the fastest competition I’ve had,” said Gant. “If I’m winning against these guys, I know I can go out at other meets and come in first with a bigger lead. So, that’s my goal now.”

Dundee-Crown’s highest finisher was shot putter Joe Meixner, whose throw of 137-09 earned him third place. The Chargers placed in two relays, earning fifth in the 4×200 (1:33.27) and sixth in the 4×800 (8:14.33).

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon, Elgin Courier and yourseason.com. It appears here and here. I wrote separate stories for the Beacon and Courier and combined them for the blog.

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East Aurora Ends Regular Season On High Note, Knocks Off Steamwood In OT

East Aurora 68 Streamwood 65

It hasn’t been the easiest of seasons for East Aurora, but the Tomcats were able to finish the regular season with a 68-65 overtime victory over Streamwood in an Upstate Eight Conference Crossover game in Streamwood Thursday night.

“We haven’t been in a lot of close ballgames this year, that was just our third win tonight,” said East Aurora (3-22) head coach Wendell Jeffries. “We lost a very close ballgame Saturday against Batavia where we had a 14 point lead and let it get away, and lost by one point. I think that experience on Saturday, the kids learned from it and they were able to prevail down the stretch. It’s a great thing going into the playoffs Monday at Oswego.”

The game went into overtime after East Aurora sophomore Jonathan Villezcas (8 points, 5 rebounds) made a lay-up as the fourth quarter buzzer sounded.

After DaJon Talbert (19 points, 6 rebounds) missed a three-point attempt, Villezcas grabbed the rebound and put in the lay-up to tie the game at 59-59.

“I knew we were down two, so I just grabbed it and put it up there,” said Villezcas

Talbert made a three-pointer on the Tomcats’ first possession of overtime. East Aurora then did the rest of their scoring from the free throw line, making six of their seven attempts in the extra frame. Streamwood’s Brent Kiesel missed a three-pointer as time ran out, clinching the Tomcats’ third victory of the season.

The Tomcats trailed 27-20 at halftime, but came out of the locker room on fire. East Aurora went on a 16-2 run to take a 42-35 lead midway through the third quarter.

However, Streamwood (4-21) fought back. Brandon Larkin-Guilfoyle (24 points, 6 rebounds) knocked down two free throws to tie the game at 48-48 with 4:20 left in the fourth quarter.

The Tomcats immediately responded with a 6-0 run to take a 54-48 lead, matching their largest advantage of the contest.

The Sabres came right back with a 7-0 run, capped off by a jumper by Jacob Siewert that gave Streamwood a 55-54 lead with two minutes remaining.

After East Aurora recaptured the lead, Siewert hit another go-ahead basket, this time a three-pointer that put the Sabres back on top, 58-57, with just 30 seconds left in the fourth. Ace Agdagdag later split a pair of free throws to extend the Sabres’ lead to 59-57 with 10 seconds remaining.

On the ensuing Tomcat possession, Talbert missed a three-pointer before Villezcas made the game-tying lay-up.

The Tomcats frustrated the Sabres with a pressure defense all night, forcing 21 Streamwood turnovers.

“We’ve got to execute better on offense, that’s our big thing,” said Streamwood coach Tim Jones. “I know we did some decent things, but we need to rebound better and be aggressive. We can’t turn the ball over like we did, it’s not acceptable”

Zach Harris (18 points, 12 rebounds) was able to notch a double-double for the Sabres, who face South Elgin on Monday in the St. Charles North regional.

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