Tag Archives: track and field

Boys Track Preview: Neuqua Valley’s Derrick And Bender Among Local Contenders At State Meet

Runners get ready for the 400 relay at last week’s Naperville North sectional.

When Neuqua Valley seniors Mark Derrick and Jacob Bender step onto the blue track at the boys track and field state finals in Charleston this weekend, they will be looking to improve on their top-six finishes at last year’s state meet.

Both have a good shot.

Derrick – who finished sixth in the 3,200 last year – comes into this year’s meet with the third best 3A qualifying time (9:12.37). And Bender – last year’s runner-up in the 400 – enters with the second highest qualifying time (48.94), just .04 seconds behind Stepfan Thelemaque of Plainfield East.

The North Carolina-bound Derrick could place in two individual events.  He finished first in the 1,600 at the Naperville North sectional with the 11th best 3A qualifying time (4:18.30).

“Running both, it’s always tiring, but it kind of depends on the day. I ran a double at DGS and felt great after both of them,” Derrick said last week. “After the mile (at last Thursday’s sectional), it was like ‘Oh my God, this second race is going to be rough,’ but I was able to pull through.”

Derrick and the Nebraska-bound Bender are among the 20 individuals and 11 relays from local schools that will be competing at this weekend’s 118th annual boys track and field state finals.

Neuqua Valley will have three other individuals competing in Charleston: Senior Taylor Soltys in the 3,200, senior Andrew Peterson in the pole vault and junior Carlos Varela-Hernandez in the discus.

Varela-Hernandez – who qualified for state in the discus last year but didn’t place – will be a contender to place this weekend after having the 10th best 3A qualifying throw (164-1).

The Wildcats also qualified three relays for state: The 400 team of Bender, Joseph Younis, James Sampson and Eric Metoyer, the 800 team of Younis, Nick Rafacz, Dennis Thurow and Metoyer, and the 3,200 team of Andy Martinez, Kevin Skrip, Xander Jacobson and Rolan Dewgard.

Waubonsie Valley thrower Riley Kittridge has a good chance to place in both the shot put and discus. The junior placed first in both events at the Naperville North sectional with the fifth best 3A qualifying throw in the shot put (56-6) and eighth best in the discus (164-5).

“My goals down there are maybe not to win, but at least get personal records and do my best,” Kittridge said.

Warriors senior Jamaal Bearden also qualified in both throwing events.

Waubonsie senior Kyle Schafer won the 300 hurdles at sectionals and is a contender to do the same at state. His sectional run of 38.20 was the third best 3A qualifying time, just .08 seconds behind Derrick Willies of Rock Island.

Schafer also qualified for state as part of the Warriors’ 400 and 1,600 relay teams. He will be joined in the 400 by Austin Ameri, Tony Durns and Demitrius Gray and in the 1,600 by Ameri, Gray and John Burke.

The Warriors’ 1,600 relay qualified for state with a time of 3:19.07, the third best mark in 3A.

Waubonsie triple jumper James Travis will also be competing at state after placing first at sectionals with a jump of 44-1.

Naperville Central will be led in Charleston by its three state-qualifying relay squads: 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.

The 800 and 1,600 relays qualified for state despite entering sectionals with seed times above the state standard.

“We weren’t seeded at getting any qualifying state times and we weren’t in good lanes, but we didn’t let that discourage us,” Haines said.

The Redhawks also had three individuals qualify for state – Mike Juretschke and Kevin Rzepczynski in the pole vault and David Goodalis in the discus.

Naperville North had three individuals qualify for state – senior James Kerns in the 100 and 200, senior Nick Lyon in the pole vault and senior Kareem Midani in the long jump.

Midani earned second place at sectionals by jumping 22-7.5, more than a foot farther than his previous personal best.

“I wasn’t expecting to jump that far. I was expecting to get close to qualifying, but jumping that far, I honestly had no idea,” said Midani, who was only jumping 19 feet indoors earlier this spring. “I didn’t just make it to state, I passed that. It was awesome.”

Metea Valley had four individuals and one relay qualify out of the St. Charles North sectional. Twin brothers Joe and Matt Stewart both qualified in the 3,200. Joe won the race with a time of 9:15.27, the sixth best 3A qualifying mark, while Matt came in third (9:28.16).

The Stewart twins will be joined in Charleston by junior Colin Yorke (1,600), senior Ben Hulett (300 hurdles) and 1,600 relay team of Tre’sean Mackey, Alan Williams, Aaron Laskey, and William King.

Benet junior Anton Vershay qualified for the 2A state meet by finishing second at last Friday’s Lisle sectional. The Redwings’ 1,600 and 3,200 relay teams also qualified for state.

I wrote this story for the Naperville Sun. It appears here.

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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 Feature: Oumaru Abdulahi Makes His Mark At Mooseheart

Mooseheart’s Oumaru Abdulahi set a high jump record at the Mooseheart Relays on May 5, but you would never have guessed it by looking at the junior in the moments after the competition was over.

Abdulahi walked to the edge of the Mooseheart end zone where a cheering section had gathered. Visibly dejected, the junior sat down, put his back to the ground and covered his face with a shirt — and stayed that way for several minutes.

Abdulahi had won the event with a meet-record jump of 6 feet, 8 inches – a mark good enough to earn him the 1A state title last May – but he missed three attempts at clearing 6-10.

The 5-foot-8 high jumper has set lofty goals, on the track and beyond.

“This season I expected to hit that seven-foot mark. So I’m definitely disappointed, especially getting 6-8, that’s something I did last year,” Abdulahi said after the Mooseheart Relays. “But I know that I’m going to work hard to get my goals.”

Abdulahi’s journey to a state championship stretches from the west coast of Africa to eastern Iowa to Mooseheart, where he came at age 7 to start the second grade.

Abdulahi was born in Sierra Leone and lived in Liberia until he was 4. After his mother died, his family fled the war-torn country and moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, only to find their neighborhood riddled with violence and gangs.

His father, Gassimu, was searching for a way to protect his children when his girlfriend at the time discovered Mooseheart. Abdulahi was the third of his family to go there, following his brother Karidu and sister Manseray.

He is not sure whether he would even be attending high school, let alone excelling in track meets, if he had not been sent to Mooseheart 10 years ago.

“In my old neighborhood, I wouldn’t be able to think that I could graduate. I probably would have been involved with gangs and stuff like that,” Abdulahi said.

“I’m glad that I got the opportunity and I’m learning from this and taking full advantage of it.”

Mooseheart coach Curt Schlinkmann remembers the meet four or five years ago when he realized Abdulahi had special talent.

Schlinkmann was talking to his long-distance runners when someone told him Abdulahi was clearing six feet in the high jump.

“I was like, ‘No way,’ because he was only in middle school,” Schlinkmann said.

The Ramblers head coach dropped what he was doing and rushed over to the high jump mats to watch Abdulahi.

“From then on, he’s just gradually gotten better and better and a lot more confident in what he can do,” said Schlinkmann.

Abdulahi was successful at the high school level from the start. He finished third in the 1A state high jump finals as a freshman and then won the event as a sophomore.

He had to recover from off-season surgery before he could begin defending his state championship as a junior this spring.

A tailback on the Ramblers football team, Abdulahi suffered four dislocations of his left shoulder last fall. He decided to sit out basketball season and had shoulder surgery on Dec. 8.

His doctors said he would need at least three or four months of physical therapy but Abdulahi was back after two months and did not miss a single track competition. He set a new personal record with a jump of 6-10 at an indoor meet at Batavia earlier this spring.

“For me to bounce back like that and be able to compete at every meet without any problems with my shoulder, I think I’m really blessed for that,” Abdulahi said. “That just shows that I’m meant for something.”

Standing just 5-foot-8, Abdulahi succeeds in a sport most often dominated by athletes at least four or five inches taller.

“I’ve never seen anybody that size that high,” said Schlinkmann. “I never thought I’d see that or have an athlete who would be able to do that. It’s amazing.”

Abdulahi is often greeted with quizzical looks from tall high jumpers who wonder what he’s doing among the trees.

“It makes me want to prove that I can compete with them and even do better than them,” said Abdulahi. “I love their faces when they’re like, ‘Oh, he can jump, wow!’ ”

Rather than falling back on his background as an excuse, Abdulahi says he draws inspiration from it.

“I never let my family issues, my background bring me down,” said Abdulahi. “I just carry that with me, basically a chip on my shoulder, that I have to prove something.”

He hopes his track success will help other Mooseheart students realize they can accomplish great things, no matter what life has dealt them.

“No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, you can still be a good person, you can still do something in life. Don’t let that bring you down,” Abdulahi said.

Abdulahi hopes to attend college on an athletic scholarship and study theater. He is part of the newly founded Mooseheart drama program and is interested in playwriting and acting.

“If I end up doing acting, I want to be in comedies. That’s the kind of person I am,” said Abdulahi, who also writes poetry in his spare time.

Abdulahi was the first Ramblers track athlete to win a state title since 1958, but the impact he’s had on Mooseheart does not just come from the jumps he’s cleared, the touchdowns he’s scored or the baskets he’s made.

He is involved with the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Mooseheart and is the leader of the junior platoon. He has also taken on a leadership role on the track team. Schlinkmann describes him as a natural leader.

During the Mooseheart Relays, Abdulahi took breaks from his warm-ups to offer advice and words of encouragement to fellow Mooseheart high jumper Sam Strickland.

When he leaves Mooseheart after next year, Abdulahi hopes he is remembered as more than just a great athlete.

“I just don’t want to leave with people knowing me as the highest jumper,” said Abdulahi.

“I want to leave with people knowing that I want others to succeed. I want to impact the Mooseheart society as much as possible and have younger kids know what they’re supposed 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: Wheaton North Wins DVC Meet In Dominating Fashion

Wheaton North stole the show at Friday’s DuPage Valley Conference track meet at Naperville North.

The Falcons won five individual championships and two relays on their way to taking first place with 175 points. Wheaton North had more than twice as many points as second-place Wheaton Warrenville South (81).

Naperville Central (78), Glenbard East (71), Naperville North (65) and West Aurora (57) rounded out the top six.

The Redhawks had two individual champions – Mike Juretschke in the pole vault and Sam Bransby in the 400.

Juretschke, a senior, won his first outdoor DVC title by setting a personal record in the pole vault (14-3).

“It feels great to win conference, especially because I’ve been jumping all four years,” Juretschke said. “It was a really big goal of mine to improve as much as I could this year.”

Bransby, a sophomore, defended his DVC indoor championship in the 400 (50.09) and finished third in the 200 (22.10).

“Indoor is a completely different monster, everyone gets faster outdoors,” Bransby said. “You feel like you have to step it up with everyone else, and I was proud to do that today.”

The Redhawks’ 3,200 relay team of Ethan Brodeur, Christian Schafer, Brad Kouchoukos and Forrest Thayer placed second (8:01.56).

Hurdler Michael Jopes placed third in both the 110 and 300 races. Central also got a third place finish from shot putter David Goodalis.

Fifth-place Naperville North was paced by sprinter James Kerns. The senior finished first in a very competitive 100 with a time of 10.86. Kerns also took second place in the 200 (22.08) and ran the opening leg of the Huskies’ third-place 800 relay.

Kerns had his mind set on next week’s sectional as soon as the DVC meet ended.

“This is the last meet before we go to sectionals, so the goal right now is to make sure you have the right time,” said Kerns, whose 100 and 200 times on Friday were below the state qualifying standards. “Winning conference is nice, but as long as I have the time I need to make state, that’s the primary goal.”

The Huskies got third place finishes from Nick Lyon (pole vault), Kareem Midani (long jump), Nick Drendel (3200), Adam Milsap (400) and Jimmy Qiao (1600).

Despite finishing sixth in the DVC, West Aurora coach Cortney Lamb saw a lot to get excited about heading into next week’s sectional meet.

“Overall as a team, we were really good. As far as we’re concerned, we came out and did what we needed to do,” Lamb said. “Great momentum going into next week, I think we’re peaking at the right time. The kids have confidence, the kids are having fun. It’s awesome.”

Aaron Kennebrew delivered the Blackhawks their only individual championship in the triple jump. The junior jumped 44 feet, 2¼ inches on his second attempt in finals, leaping almost a foot further than his previous personal best.

“I had a lot of adrenaline going, so I knew it was going to be a big jump,” said Kennebrew, who also placed fourth in the high jump (5-11). “I just trusted myself and my coach told me to just go after it. I wanted to get first, and that’s exactly what I did.”

Lijah Spears placed in both throwing events for the Blackhawks, taking second in the discus (150-1) and fourth in the shot put (49-4½)

After setting a personal record in the discus at Kane County last week, Spears did so in the shot put on Friday. The senior thrower said he’s peaking at the right time.

“I’m finally doing things right and it’s looking good for me,” Spears said. “I’m going to give it to them next week (at sectionals).”

Despite both running in the “slow heat,” Blackhawk sprinters Benny Prunty (22.28) and Tony Oros (22.82) placed fifth and sixth respectively in the 200.

“I just told them they’ve got to run like they do in relays because they kick butt in those relays,” Lamb said. “They finally did it in the open today.”

The Blackhawks got fourth-place finishes from Charles House in the triple jump and Josh Robinson in the 800, and fifth-place finishes from Parrish McGhee in the long jump and Omar Gomez in the 1600.

Wheaton North, also champions of the indoor DVC meet in March, could not be stopped on Friday. The Falcons won seven total events and had two athletes finish in the top-six of nine individual events (100, 400, 1600, 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles, pole vault, triple jump, shot put and discus).

Wheaton North athlete Zach Gordon won the 200 (21.79), long jump (23-5) and ran anchor on the Falcons’ first-place 40o relay team. The Falcons also got titles from their 800 relay team (1:30.31), Brett Kohler in the 300 hurdles (38.35), Mac Spaulding in the shot put (56-9) and Christian Hollinger in the discus (160-4)

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

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Boys Track: Mazanke Sets Record, Geneva Takes First At UEC River Meet

St. Charles North’s Oshay Hodges clears 6 feet, 5 inches in the high jump.

The budding rivalry between St. Charles East’s Jake Mazanke and Geneva’s Peter Archibald continued to grow on Thursday as the two runners dueled in the 800-meter race at the Upstate Eight River track meet in Geneva.

Mazanke got the better of Archibald this time around, winning in an Upstate Eight Conference record time of 1:53.47. Archibald (1:54.84) also ran under the old record time of 1:55.0, set by Brian Johnson of Glenbard East in 1965 and Rick Bell of Naperville Central in 1971.

Archibald set a meet record of his own in the 800 last week when he topped Mazanke at the Kane County meet.

“We’re so close. Peter is an awesome competitor, awesome athlete,” said Mazanke, who also won first place in the 400 (48.90).  “We’ve got a five-round fight. County, conference, sectionals and two rounds of state, hopefully.”

The two seniors say their rivalry is a friendly one, and they may even be teammates next season. The Loyola-bound Mazanke is trying to convince Archibald to join him on the Ramblers track team.

“It’d be fantastic to go there (Loyola) and be fantastic to run with him next year,” said Archibald, who took first place in the 1600 (4:25.81). “To carry on this and work together, it’d be awesome

The two won’t have to wait long to face-off again as both St. Charles East and Geneva will compete at the St. Charles North sectional next Thursday.

Archibald and Geneva captured the UEC River title on their home track. The Vikings led with 162.33 points, while Batavia (135), St. Charles North (103.33), St. Charles East (79) and Elgin (44) rounded out the top five. Streamwood (25.33) and Larkin (2) followed.

Geneva had two double-champions in Ben Rogers (triple jump and long jump) and Kyle McNeil (shot put and discus). Rogers also took second place in the 200.

“Our corp group of seniors can really get the job done,” Rogers said of the Vikings. “Along with our juniors, sophomores and our two freshman jumpers, we seem to be peaking at the right time here. We’ll see what happens.”

Second-place Batavia had two individual champions – Brandon Clabough in the pole vault (14-3) and Marquise Jenkins in the 200 (22.92).

St. Charles North athlete Oshay Hodges ran anchor on the North Stars’ first-place 1,600 relay. The senior also placed first in the high jump (6-5), second in the triple jump (45-1) and third in the long jump (20-3).

“I’m happy with everything, but I know I can do a lot better,” said Hodges, who has been battling a heel injury in recent weeks. “I expect to do better next week come sectionals.  Hopefully I’m 100 percent and see a lot more p.r.’s out of me.”

St. Charles East’s Nick Devor claimed UEC crowns in both the 110 (15.21) and 300 (40.70) hurdles.

Elgin sprinter Terrell Campbell edged out teammate Dennis Moore to take first place in the 100. Campbell teamed up with Moore, Devante King and Derek Moorman to finish first in the 800 relay and second in the 400 relay.

“I was just trying to beat my teammate,” Campbell said of the 100. “We’ve been having a week-to-week competition to see who can win the 100 when we both make finals.”

Streamwood’s 400 relay team of Blake Holder, Art Beese, Sean Patterson and Austin Mugnai took first place with a time of 43.04 seconds.

Larkin’s highest placer was Ernesto Garcia who finished sixth in the 800 (2:07.05).

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

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Boys and Girls Track: Oumaru Abdulahi Sets Record At Mooseheart Relays

Mooseheart’s Oumaru Abdulahi competes in the high jump on Saturday.

With conference and sectional meets looming, the 37th annual Mooseheart Relays offered athletes one last chance for preparation on Saturday.

Mooseheart’s Oumaru Abdulahi took first place in the high jump with a meet-record leap of 6-8. Despite the solid jump, the defending 1A state champion high jumper was not satisfied.

“I’m definitely disappointed, especially getting 6-8, that’s something I did last year,” Abdulahi said. “This season I expected to hit that seven-foot mark, but I’ve still got three more meets to try to do it. I’ve just got to work hard in practice.”

On the track, Abdulahi qualified for the finals of the 100 and was part of the Ramblers’ first-place 400 relay and second-place 1,600 relay teams.

Mooseheart also got individual championships from Noel Yarngo in the 11o hurdles (15:43) and Sahr Mahoney in the 200-meter dash (23:50). Yarngo was also the runner-up in the 100.

Aurora Christian’s Jonathan Harrell broke a meet record in the 400 meters with a first-place run of 50.46 seconds. Harrell was also a member of the Eagles’ first place 1,600 relay team.

“After breaking that record I’ll be feeling pretty confident going into the rest of the season,” Harrell said.

Eagles thrower Quienten Boston had the top distance in both the shot put (40-11) and discus (142-0), while C.J. Schutt finished first in the triple jump (40-5) and second in the high jump (5-8) and discus (128-8).

Aurora Central Catholic sprinter Joe Fese took first place in the 100 with a time of 10.94 seconds, less than 24 hours after winning the same event at the Kane County meet.

Fese said running on back-to-back days will help prepare him for sectionals.

“The more races you get in now, the more endurance you have later for sectionals,” said Fese. “I’m sore, I have a lot of muscle fatigue, but it felt good to come out and race.”

The Chargers also got a first-place finish from Matt Meyers in the 800 (2:04.1).

Aurora Christian’s girls team had first-place finishes from Payton Wade (high jump), Mackenzie Bollinger (triple jump), Natasha Brown (100 meters) and Becca Wert (800 meters). Wert also took second place in the 1,600 meters and third in the triple jump.

The Eagles had strong showings in each of the relays, taking first in the 400 and 1,600 and second in the 800 and 3,200.

Megan Hagerty ran in the first-place 400 and 1,600 relays and took second individually in the 400.

“God gave me great gifts, and I’m putting them to use,” Hagerty said.

Rosary also had a strong showing in the relays, winning the 800 and 3,200 and finishing second in the 400 and 1,600. The Royals’ time of 1:47.93 in the 800 set a meet record.

“We wanted to win the seniors some of those relay trophies and we managed to do that,” said Rosary coach Vic Mead. “We had two seniors running today (Helen Offerman and Grace Petry), and we dedicate those trophies to them.”

The Royals had two athletes take first place in their events, Nicole Basile in the long jump and Anne Duhig in the 100-meter hurdles.

Ashley Wilk took second place in the high jump and Kendall Adams took third place in the 100-meter hurdles to pace Aurora Central’s girls team. The Chargers also took third place in 400 and 800 relays.

Mooseheart athletes U-Conjay Nelson (200 meters) and Madison Hart (800 meters) both placed fifth in their events.

Teams scores were not kept.

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

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Boys Track: St. Charles North Tops Area Teams At Kane County Meet

While most of this spring’s outdoor track season has taken place in weather more fit for indoor competition, warm temperatures and blue skies greeted athletes at the Kane County boys track meet held at West Aurora on Friday.

Geneva and Kaneland both came out on top, tying for first with 74 points each. West Aurora followed in third place with 65 points.

St. Charles North had the best showing among area schools, finishing fourth with with 56 points. Burlington Central took sixth place with 44 points while South Elgin followed close behind in seventh with 40 points.

St. Charles East took tenth with 32 points, Elgin finished 11th with 31 while Streamwood ended up in 12th with 10. Larkin finished 14th with four points, while Dundee-Crown came in 15th with one point to round out area schools.

Declan Duggan was the North Stars’ lone individual champion, finishing first in the 3,200 with a time of 9:39.04.

“To win this meet as a senior, it’s a big deal,” said Duggan. “It feels good, I really can’t put it in to words. It’s a good feeling.”

Oshay Hodges placed in four events for the North Stars. The multi-talented athlete took second in the high jump (6-7) and triple jump (43-08.75), fifth place in the long jump (20-09) and was a part of the North Stars’ third place 1,600 relay.

Hodges, who has been battling a heel injury, said he was surprised by his high jump performance.

“I almost got 6-9 which would have been a personal best. I know I can make that jump, I’m pretty sure I can get it next week,” said Hodges, who finished second in the high jump at last year’s 3A state meet.

Burlington-Central’s Clint Kliem set a Kane County record in the 1,600 meters, winning the race with a time of 4:18.76. The senior broke the old record, set by St. Charles North’s Matt Desilva in 2006, by just .08 seconds.

“We’ll see a lot of these teams in the state series, so it was just great prep for that,” said Kliem. “The best of the best will be there and this is how I’ll need to preform.”

Kliem was also part of the Rockets’ second-place 1,600 and 3,200 relays teams.

Seventh-place South Elgin was paced by Jeff Broger, who took first in both the 200 (22.41) and 400 (49.67). The junior was pleasantly surprised by his double championships.

“My goal was just to win the 400. I was really nervous about the 200, I had no idea what to expect from that,” said Broger, who set a personal record in the 400.

St. Charles East’s 1,600 relay team of Carter Reading, Jake Mazanke, Danny Newman and Nick Devor finished first with a time of 3:22.35.

Mazanke also took home second place in the 800 (1:53.56), finishing behind Geneva’s Peter Archibald who set a Kane County record in the race.

“Racing against Peter is always fun, he’s a great athlete,” said Mazanke. “It’s a little bit of blow not to win, but it’s not the last time we’ll race. I’m sure come state finals, we’ll be neck and neck again.”

Elgin’s Devante King was the champion of the 110 hurdles race and the anchor of the Maroons’ first-place 4×200 relay team. King was also a part of Elgin’s second place finish in the 400 relay.

King said he had spent most of his time in recent practices focusing on relay races, not the hurdles.

“I just winged it. I hadn’t practiced the hurdles for two weeks straight,” said King.

Streamwood’s 400 relay team of Blake Holder, Art Beese, Sean Patterson and Austin Mugnai took first place (42.67). Holder, the Sabres’ anchor, ran for the first time since sustaining a hamstring injury on Apr. 14.

“We won this race last year, so it’s not a surprise,” said Holder. “But it’s definitely a big goal that we had, and we got it. Now we just need stay hungry so we can get a conference, sectional and state championship.”

Holder, the 2011 Kane County 100 meter dash champion, did not run any individual races on Friday but said he plans on running the 100 at sectionals in two weeks.

Larkin’s Cyrus French made the finals of the 400 and finished fourth (50.88). Dundee-Crown’s top-finisher was R.J. Schmidt who placed sixth in the 110 hurdles (16.26).

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times and Elgin Courier. 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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4/22 Photos: Peterson Prep Invitational At Kaneland High School

Athletes preparing for the long jump finals with the Kaneland water tower in the background.

Is there anything more patriotic than an American flag flying between football goal posts? I didn’t think so (You might have to squint to see that).

As someone who can’t run fast or jump at all, the hurdles races have always mystified me.

An artsy shot of Kaneland’s scoreboard and the triple jump runway/pit.

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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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