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posted: 3/8/2012 10:33 PM

Round Lake's Farley commits to Illinois State

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When noted to him on the day of his letter-of-intent ceremony at Round Lake this week that he and his mother, Latrice Dudley, were color coordinated, sharply dressed Antonio Farley didn't hesitate to reply.

"She coordinated with me," he said, laughing.

Antonio Farley: The kid is fast.

The signing of the speedy senior with Illinois State University to compete track and field makes him the latest Round Lake student-athlete to announce to his plans to run in college.

Two years ago, Isaiah Thomas inked with Mississippi Valley State (he has since left and might transfer to ISU), and last year Juan Carrerra signed with Southern Illinois. Panthers cross country and track coach Kevin Brady said another Round Lake graduate, Nick Lange, is going to jump at Carroll University after going to the Wisconsin school to play basketball.

Must be the water. Or the shoes. Or something.

"We just know how to work hard here," Farley, wearing a black vest, red shirt and red-black-and-white tie, said with one of his all-American smiles. (His mom was wearing the smile, too.)

Grambling State, Jackson State, Illinois-Chicago and Illinois also were on Farley's radar. But he chose Normal, in part because the town seemed, well, normal.

"I just like the environment (at ISU)," Farley said. "It's a mid-major school that basically has a small-town feeling. I feel like I can produce the most there, like I won't just be a number."

Freshman year, Farley was just a kid on an oval. The raw athlete focused on jumps. It wasn't until his sophomore year that he tried sprints, and in his first meet, at Buffalo Grove, he sped to a first-place finish.

The Panthers had found themselves a sprinter. Farley earned a berth downstate in the 400 meters, and he qualified for state in the event again last May. Both years, he failed to advance to Saturday's finals.

His sophomore season also saw him break the school record in the 400.

"It wasn't very good," Brady said of the old school mark. "But it was pretty old.

"Now it's respectable."

Now, Farley's best is 49.3, which he clocked at the sectional meet last year, and he has no plans on slowing down, so to speak. Last spring he opened the outdoor season by breaking his own school record in the 400 and kept busting it in ensuing weeks.

"We're hoping this year he can progress like he has the last two years," Brady said. "We're hoping that he can crack into the finals at the state meet."

Farley's speed has also been evident on the football field, where last fall he played "any position my coach wanted me to play," he said. The 5-foot-11 senior started off playing cornerback and by the end of the season was playing linebacker and defensive end.

Thank goodness for Round Lake that from far away came Farley. Born in Chicago, he moved here in sixth grade from the Quad Cities.

"He's one of those kids that can joke around, but when it's time to go to work, he goes to work," Brady said. "To see him warm up before his races is really cool because he does everything you ask him to. You don't even have to ask him anymore. He's so focused when it comes to race time."

Farley has had quite a run. So, too, has Brady's program.

There's your Panther Pride.

"I think what it's done is it's shown kids that track is an option (for college)," Brady said. "I think it's shown kids that there are opportunities out there for you if you have the work ethic and drive to do it."

Antonio Farley is proof.

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