For an idea of local strength in boys track, two-time defending Class 3A champion Lake Park didn't win the DuPage County Boys Track & Field Championships in 2010 or 2011.
Lancers coach Jay Ivory is making no predictions in 2012 -- other than Friday's 80th county meet should be fun.
"It's exciting," he said. "Just the county meet in general is so loaded that any time you go into it, it's exciting to see who comes out."
Field events start 4 p.m. Friday at Lake Park's East Campus. Heading the field will be the host Lancers, York, Wheaton North, Wheaton Warrenville South, Glenbard South, Naperville Central and, after years at Lisle's Carlin Nalley Invitational, Waubonsie Valley.
Other opportunities arise, such as Montini sprinter Anthony Taylor racing against unfamiliar foes like Naperville North's James Kerns.
Coaches who have depth, like WW South's Ken Helberg, Wheaton North's Don Helberg and York's Stan Reddel, will tweak their lineups all the way up to sectionals.
But Ivory thinks they start to answer their questions at the county meet.
"I think this is the time of year when they start to put all the pieces together and show what exactly they're going to do," he said.
Some kind of wunderkind:
In March, Neuqua Valley freshman Maya Neal won two events and placed second in two others at the Upstate Eight Conference girls indoor meet.
"You're going to be hearing a lot about her," Wildcats coach Gretchen Parejko told Daily Herald correspondent Kevin McGavin. And not only in track.
Neal is also a forward for one of the top Eclipse Select soccer teams at her age level. Last summer she led Under-14 girls goal scorers at the Region II Championships and in July was listed among U.S. Soccer's Best 11 from the Youth Soccer National Championships. In August Neal was among 24 players at the U.S. U15 National Team training camp.
Now she's burning up the track.
"Probably not since Jennie Whitman have we seen a freshman who can do so many things," Parejko said of Neal. "She's definitely very rare."
In a grueling event that usually requires seasoning, Neal's 300-meter hurdles time of 47.68 seconds last Friday at Glenbard North's Weber Invitational leads the county. Neal also joined Alex Rozgony, Caitlin Blalock and Savannah Carson in a program-record 400 relay of 48.84.
Neal's adjusted manual time of 15.34 seconds at Wheaton North's Blue and Gold Invite ranks second in the area to Wheaton Warrenville South's Jessica Spera. Neal has also surpassed 18 feet, 3 inches in long jump and has broken 27 seconds in the 200.
An national indoor champion in long jump and 55 hurdles on the USATF circuit, according to Dyestat, Neal came to Neuqua as a heptathlete out of the Aurora Flyers club program, Parejko said.
She analyzes and corrects her faults, has leg strength, endurance and, as Parejko said, is utterly dependable.
"If we need somebody to be 'on,' it's Maya."
One of a kind:
The 45th annual Carlin Nalley Invitational, 9 a.m. Saturday at Benedictine University, will be the last with retiring Ken Jakalski as Lisle's coach.
The gigantic, two-class meet remains something special.
"Where else can you find a meet where you can have two pole vault pits and two high jump pits going on simultaneously?" Jakalski asked.
He works into the wee hours seeding the meet with friend and FAT guru Ray Carlson, and he always tries to do something special for the track athlete, fan and coach.
This year Christopher Glaeser, the United States representative from Freelap Track and Field, will demonstrate the Freelap Timing System. The basics are a stopwatch worn on the wrist, which sends electromagnetic signals to candlestick-shaped receivers placed right on the track. Jakalski said the system can make training more effective and consistent, and it creates timing goals that can increase speed.
"The top guys in the world are looking at this and saying, 'This is incredible,'" Jakalski said. On Saturday the two fastest sprinters in each of the Class 1A and 2A/3A 100-meter finals will utilize the system.
Jakalski has tried to offer extras like this since arriving from Aurora Central Catholic 27 years ago.
"I try to make it more than a track meet," he said.
Initially known as the Lisle Relays, when Jakalski succeeded Lisle coach Carlin Nalley, the name was switched to honor the hall of fame coach despite his initial resistance. (Nalley now jokes that he's glad "it's not a 'memorial' -- yet.")
"That meet has provided me with a lot of great memories," Jakalski said. "Even before I came to Lisle it was a meet you had to be in."
Jakalski is slated for retirement as both teacher and coach after this school year. Still the "keeper of the tradition" does not believe Saturday will mark the end of his relationship with the meet.
"I hope I'm still around for the 50th," he said.