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updated: 3/26/2013 9:17 PM

Harper track teams focus on repeat national titles

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By Jonathan Cregier

Winning has been has been a constant for the Harper men's and women's track and field teams.

The women have won back-to-back NJCAA Division III titles. And the men, who won national titles each of the past six years except for 2011, are tying to get back to the top of the mountain.

Coach Renee Zellner is keeping expectations high this spring.

With the women's team, she has essentially a rebuilt roster. Only three sophomores are back from last year's team -- Beatriz Kiene (throws and sprints), Ashley Packard (sprints) and Ashly Alicea, who competes in all three phases.

The most talented newcomer may be North Central College transfer Jordan Wagner (Schaumburg), a sophomore. In a statement, Zellner said Wagner "will definitely be a national contender" in many of the events she enters.

Zellner's freshman class is versatile -- especially St. Viator grad Lara Sladek. Like Kiene, Sladek will take the starting blocks as a sprinter when she is not in the throwing ring.

Three former Mid-Suburban West runners are distance specialists: Gabby Beaupre (Elk Grove), Stephanie Hurwitz (Fremd) and Kaila Privatsky (Barrington).

Zellner believes this group "has the capability of becoming national champions."

That's also the goal for the men's team, which has won five of the last six NJCAA Division III championships.

"The goal this year is to add a sixth," Zellner said.

The men's team is laden with strong sophomores, including high jump standouts Isaac Jean-Paul and Erik Porter returns. They finished 1-2 in the recent NJCAA indoor meet.

Cross country national champion Troy Cunningham (Conant) also returns to run the 800 meters.

Pole vault should be another must-see event for Harper, as Jake Szramek could work his way to national prominence.

"Jake Szramek is working toward becomeing a national champion," Zellner said.

The 400 meters will have a mix of new and old this season. Andre Barnes (Prospect) will be joined by a pair of freshmen, Tom Rohn and Max Anderson. The goal for this group, as Zellner see it, is to "win (the event) and score points." In indoor workouts the trio has set its sights on breaking the school record.

Members of the 1600 relay team also have school record aspirations.

The throwing circle will have a distinctly local flavor as a pair of high school teamates, Danny Lowry and Luciano Laterza of Rolling Meadows will compete in the majority of the throwing events along with freshman Juan Montano (Schaumburg).

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