Boys track: Scouting the Fox Valley
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Jacobs' Jake Gierlak pushes out of the blocks at the start of the 200-meter dash during last year's Fox Valley Conference boys indoor track meet.
John Starks | Staff Photographer
Coach: Eric Kramer (fifth year)
2012 season: fifth UEC Valley; Class 3A sectional champion
Top returning athletes: Seniors Alex Bailey (hurdles, sprints), George Danek (throws), Aaron Everson (sprints), Connor Rachford (distance), Mitch Sullivan (middle distance); juniors Dan Cotton (middle distance), Matt Hess (relays, sprints); sophomore Bryce Petty (sprints, relays)
Season outlook: The defending sectional champions won't score as many points in field events as they have in recent years, but the Hawks have the ability to score points in every running event at every meet. Coach Eric Kramer believes such depth on the track could translate to a third-place finish in the UEC Valley behind three-time defending Class 3A state champion Lake Park and talented Neuqua Valley. Bartlett finished third at the UEC indoor meet two weeks ago, the best finish in program history. "Going into this year right away we set some team goals," Kramer said. "One is to win the sectional championship again and the other is to place higher than fourth at the conference meet. (Lake Park and Neuqua Valley) are powerhouses, but beating the rest of the conference is something we've never done. We're still a young school, but we're trying to raise the bar every single year." It all starts with senior sprinter Aaron Everson, the defending UEC Valley 100-meter dash champion. A powerful running back committed to Ohio Dominican University to play football, Everson qualified for state last year in the 100, 200 and 400-meter relay. He took second recently in the 55-meter dash at the UEC indoor meet to Lake Park's Scott Filip. Senior Connor Rachford won the 800 last weekend at the Prep Top Times Meet (1:58.66), making him a leading candidate to medal in Charleston. Teammate Mitch Sullivan was part of a qualifying relay team last year; he finished 11th in the 800 indoor race last weekend (2:02.26). Rachford and Sullivan finished 1-2 in the 800 at the UEC indoor meet. Sophomore Bryce Petty continues to impress. He finished fifth in the 200-meter dash at Top Times (23.15) and is a key figure in the sprint relays. A returning state qualifier, senior Alex Bailey won the indoor conference meet in the 55-meter hurdles (7.94) and was 10th at Top Times in the 60-meter hurdles (8.64). Junior Matt Hess will fill spots vacated by Zach Karys on last year's state qualifying 1600-meter and 3,200-meter relay teams. Junior Dan Cotton narrowly missed state qualification last season in the 1,600. He placed third in the mile at the UEC indoor meet, lowering his personal record by 10 seconds (4:35.02).
Burlington Central Rockets
Coach: Mike Schmidt (18th year)
2012 season: Big Northern Conference champs; Class 2A 10th place
Top returning athletes: Seniors Shawn Cork (throws), Alex Johnson (sprints, relays), Kevin Mattes (throws), Dan McCurdy (high jump), Dan Morgan (distance), Ryan Olsen (sprints, relays); juniors Sean Kisch (hurdles), Matt O'Connor (middle distance, relays), Travis Panariello (sprints), Parth Patel (triple jump), Nolan St. John (pole vault/high jump); sophomores Trevor Davison (sprints, long jump), Lucas Ege (hurdles), Clay Musial (distance), Kyle Neubauer (middle distance);
Top newcomers: Juniors David Adibego (400), Casey Matthews (sprints), Mike Vietzen (long jump, sprints); freshmen Jason Berango (jumps), Tim Gehrke (sprints, jumps), Nick Harvey (800)
Season outlook: This team may not match the overall depth last year's top-10 state finisher possessed, but it does have the personnel to compete for the school's third straight Big Northern Conference title and 10th BNC East title in 18 seasons under coach Mike Schmidt, who considers Winnebago and Oregon the main challengers. The Rockets return senior Ryan Olsen, a member of the state runner-up 1,600-meter relay team, and junior Matt O'Connor, a member of the 2012 state champion 3,200-meter relay team. Central also qualified its 400-meter and 800-meter relay teams last season. Returning senior Alex Johnson ran a leg for each of those relays. "(We) have a lot of speed returning and a good young distance group," Schmidt said. "We struggled in the field but should be stronger this year, especially in the jumps. Central may not have the same state outlook as last year, but don't be surprised if (we) send another large contingent down to Charleston again this year."
Coach: Layne Holter (19th year)
2012 season: second Fox Valley Conference; Class 3A sectional champion
Top returning athletes: Seniors Ryan Adams (middle distance), Alex Bussan (sprints), Michael Gleeson (sprints), Daniel Sikora (distance), Marcus Thimios (jumps); sophomores Ricky Hurley (throws), Trevor Ruhland (throws), Michael Saxon (hurdles, sprints), Daniel Speer (sprints), Matt Wade (throws)
Top newcomers: sophomore Sam Ludwig (sprints); freshmen J.D. Byrne (sprints), Jon Davison (sprints), Robbie Gleeson (sprints), Ryan Pinter (hurdles, 400), Sang Seo (hurdles, middle distance)
Season outlook: The Trojans aim to compete for the FVC title and a second straight sectional title on the strength of their depth in the 400 and the throwing events and a strong 1,600-meter relay. Senior Michael Gleeson finished eighth in the 400 at the state meet last year. He and teammate Alex Bussan are both strong candidates to medal in Charleston, according to veteran coach Layne Holter. Adding to the squad's depth in the event is freshman Robbie Gleeson, who posted the program's fastest 400 time during the indoor season. Graduated thrower Josh Freeman (Southern Illinois) accounted for 20 of Cary-Grove's 26 points at the 2012 Class 3A state meet (fifth place) with dual state titles in discus and shot put. He's gone, but Holter said sophomore thrower Ricky Hurley is actually ahead of Freeman's pace at the same point in their careers. Hurley and fellow sophomores Trevor Ruhland, the frosh/soph champ a year ago, and Matt Wade are each capable of scoring points and making up for the loss of Freeman's points. "We've got a very good group of guys with a lot of upside," Holter said. "The guys have put in the time the last several months and they are kind of hungry. I think we can be really good the 400, throws and in the mile relay. We're a guy short right now in the relay. Hopefully, we can still find him."
Crystal Lake South Gators
Coach: Rich Eschman (11th year)
2012 season: fifth Fox Valley Conference
Top returning athletes: Seniors Zach Balousek (sprints), Joe Coughlin (distance), Will Davis (distance), Duncan Henderson (distance), Brandon Madoni (sprints), Kyle Madoni (sprints), Ian Meador (distance); juniors Drew Kophman (middle distance), David Lenzini (middle distance); sophomores Kyle Hedge (throws), Thomas Mroz (throws)
Top newcomers: Freshmen Doug Cain (middle distance), Scott Coughlin (jumps), Brandon Dahl (pole vault), Tommy Melone (distance)
Season outlook: The Gators will rely on depth in middle distance races and the relay races to offset their inexperience in the hurdles and jumping events, according to coach Rich Eschman. The relay teams were successful last weekend at the Prep Top Times indoor meet. CL South's 3,200-meter relay finished fifth in Class 3A (8:05.92), while the 1,600-meter relay team placed sixth (3:32.13). Brandon Madoni and Zach Balousek return from the 400-meter relay team that broke the Fox Valley Conference record last season.
Coach: Tom Smith (33rd year)
2012 season: 12th Fox Valley Conference
Top returning athletes: Seniors Sean Battin (sprints), Trevor Downing (high jump), Ray Griggel (throws), Tommy Halverson (distance), Joe Meixner (throws), RJ Schmidt (hurdles, jumps); sophomore Austin White (sprints)
Top newcomers: juniors Sam Franckowiak (sprints); sophomores Kyle Battin (middle distance), Kiwaun Seals (jumps), Todd Noreen (distance), Justin Tolentino (jumps, sprints)
Season outlook: The Chargers try to improve on last year's 12th-place finish and send retiring coach Tom Smith out on a high note. Smith likes the makeup of his final squad. "We have a great group of seniors to lead this year's team," he said. "We feel we can be competitive in the jumps and sprints, the throws and the hurdles. Our numbers are good; I like the attitude of this team and hope we can improve as the season progresses." Griggel and Meixner have the strength to score points in the throwing events. Smith counts Crystal Lake Central, McHenry and Grayslake Central among the strongest teams in the always competitive Fox Valley Conference. "The conference has many individuals and relays that will be among the best around and compete in Charleston in May," Smith said.
Coach: Kevin Cleveland (12th year)
2012 season: fifth UEC River
Top returning athletes: Seniors Ruben Jerves (jumps, hurdles), Christian Martinez (distance), Eduardo Perez (jumps); junior Emilio Mancha (distance); sophomores Malik Dunner (sprints), Ian Flanagan (400), Logan Jostes (distance), Zach Lindstrom (shot put)
Season outlook: The athletes responsible for last year's state-qualifying relay teams have graduated. Beyond a handful of returnees in scattered events, an abundance of new faces populate the Elgin track roster, their potential untapped. "It's a bit of an unknown year," veteran coach Kevin Cleveland said. Known quantities include Eduardo Perez in the long and triple jumps and Emilio Mancha in the 800 and 1,600. Cleveland expects 6-foot-2 senior Ruben Jerves, an exchange student from Equador, to contribute in the high jump, long jump and hurdles. Three-sport athlete Malik Dunner is stronger than most sophomores. He could be the next in a long line of state-caliber sprinters from Elgin, though he did not compete in the indoor season due to his basketball commitment. He was an alternate as a freshman for the 2012 state relay teams. Distance runners Logen Jostes and Christian Martinez could join Mancha as the backbone of a competitive distance relay. "I think we're strongest in distance, the strongest we've been in a few years with a lot of seniors," Cleveland said. "Malik will score some points and so will Ruben."
Elgin Academy Hilltoppers
Coach: Adrian Ayala (third year)
2012 season: fifth Independent School League
Top returning athletes: Junior Jack Souk (middle distance); sophomore Spencer Scheal (hurdles)
Top newcomers: senior Martin Diaz de Leon (400, 800); sophomore Iverson Zhou (high jump, 400); freshman Tahir Jones (sprints, jumps)
Season outlook: Numbers are down slightly from last season, when the Hilltoppers placed fifth out of seven Independent School League track and field programs. However, coach Adrian Ayala thinks this team is capable of maintaining its position without a drop-off. Spencer Scheal runs both hurdles races, though the 300 intermediate hurdles is his strength; he won the ISL title in the event as a freshman. Jack Souk's specialty is the 800. Iverson Zhou, a 6-foot-4 exchange student, will challenge the high jump bar. "I think we can do as well as last year even though we lost a lot of talent," Ayala said.
Coach: Joe Watzlawick (first year)
2012 season: seventh Fox Valley Conference Fox Division
Top returning athletes: Seniors Alex Pagan (middle distance), Ross Seaton (distance)
Top newcomers: Sophomore Andy Pederson (long jump)
Season outlook: Coach Joe Watzlawick takes over for Steve Bruhn, who led the program for 11 seasons. Hampshire has a very young team. Of the 31 athletes on the roster, 25 are sophomores or freshmen. Ross Seaton may hold the team's best chance for state qualification. He finished 11th in the 3,200 at the Class 2A Prep Top Times indoor meet last weekend. His time of 10:07.99 was 2.5 seconds faster than his seed time. Alex Pagan could also push the Class 2A qualifying time in the 400 (40.84), according to his coach. "I'd like to see Ross and Alex go downstate and reach their potential," Watzlawick said. "It's important we see the younger kids improve. The future looks good."
Harvest Christian Lions
Coach: Steven Bland (second year)
Top returning athletes: Seniors Robert Doby (distance), Stuart Wolff (sprints); junior Jake Schott (sprints)
Top newcomers: Freshmen Brett Cramek (high jump), Jake Kells (sprints), Joe Hackl (distance)
Season outlook: The Lions aim for their first state qualifications in the program's second season in existence. The best hopes for snagging berths to the Class 1A state meet in Charleston lie with seniors Robert Doby and Stuart Wolff. Doby finished fifth in the mile last year at the sectional. Wolff was fifth in the 400 at the sectional. He will compete this year in the 200 and 400. Harvest Christian Academy joins the Northeast Athletic Conference, where the Lions should compete ably based on indoor results. Harvest Christian recently placed third at the NAC indoor meet, though this year's primary goal is simple improvement. Rockford Christian Life and Mooseheart present the stiffest competition in the NAC.
Huntley Red Raiders
Coach: Jim Rolando (eighth year)
2012 season: third Fox Valley Conference Valley; McHenry County Meet champion
Top returning athletes: Seniors Bryce Beschorner (jumps and sprints), Mike Dollar (sprints, middle distance), Justin Herbert (throws), Craig Lambert (pole vault, hurdles), Sam Marcuccelli (distance, middle distance) Trevor Obecny (middle distance), Tyler Schwartz (sprints, middle distance), Kyle See (hurdles, sprints), Ryan Tharp (sprints, middle distance)
Top newcomers: Senior John Walker (sprints, jumps); sophomores Brennan Bell (hurdles, sprints, jumps), Connor Boos (sprints), Isaac Jimenez (throws); freshmen Seth Conroy (distance), Keagan Smith (middle distance, distance)
Season outlook: The cycle continues as Huntley welcomes one of the largest contingents of freshmen (30) in program history, just in time to replace a core of graduated four-year letter winners who led the Red Raiders to their first McHenry County Meet title. "Getting some of the younger guys ready to compete will be a priority for us, and that is both a strength and a weakness," coach Jim Rolando said. "They can become like last year's group, who competed at the varsity level for four years, which is awesome. But they are also only freshmen right now and aren't quite ready to compete day in and day out at the varsity level yet." Mike Dollar and Ryan Tharp return from the 400-meter relay team that won the 2012 McHenry County Meet title.
Jacobs Golden Eagles
Coach: Jason Borhart (12th season)
2012 season: eighth Fox Valley Conference
Top returning athletes: Seniors Jake Gierlak (sprints), Nick Matysek (middle distance), Pat Nerja (middle distance), Ryan Ross (middle distance); juniors Matt Johnson (distance), Zach Johnson (distance); sophomores Camden McLain (hurdles) Josh Walker (sprints), Hunter Williams (sprints)
Top newcomers: Sophomore Sebastian Baran (middle distance); freshman Dylan Rogers
Season outlook: The Golden Eagles finished ninth in the FVC combined meet last season, but they were only 26 points from first place. Though this young team may yet require a year of maturity before it competes for a conference title, it could rise in the standings on the strength of its middle distance depth. Three athletes return from the 3,200-meter relay team that placed sixth in Class 3A: Pat Nerja, Nick Matysek and Ryan Ross (William Hennessey graduated). One, possibly two, spots in that relay lineup remain up in the air, according to coach Jason Borhart. Sophomore Sebastian Baran posted the fastest indoor 800 time of any Golden Eagle. Junior Matt Johnson recorded one of the fastest indoor two-mile times in program history this winter. Twin brother Zach Johnson can run the mile and lends depth in the 800. A trio of football skill position players will compete in sprints. Senior Jake Gierlak, a wide receiver committed to play football at Northern Michigan, is strongest in the 200. He will participate in the sprint relays. So will sophomore Josh Walker, who took second at the FVC indoor meet in the 55-meter dash. All-area junior WR/DB Hunter Williams adds depth in the category. Sophomore hurdler Camden McLain, "could end up being really good for us if his ability comes through," said Borhart, who also said of freshman 400 runner Dylan Rogers: "He has a chance to be special when it's all said and done in a couple of years." More football reinforcements compete in field events. "We might be a year or two away still," Borhart said of challenging for the FVC title. "We're young, but we do have a couple of seniors who will make an impact. And I anticipate that 4x8 crew being a state finalist again with whoever steps into those spots. Overall, we'll be competitive."
Coach: Mike Scianna (fifth year)
2012 season: seventh UEC River
Top returning athletes: Seniors Ernesto Garcia (middle distance), Luis Suibas (400)
Top newcomers: juniors Donte Bonds (400), Jarelle Shipp (sprints)
Season outlook: A contingent of 30 athletes comprise the Larkin boys track and field program, though few show signs of challenging for state berths. The exceptions are seniors Ernesto Garcia and Luis Siubas. A senior 400 runner, Subias placed 11th in the state at the Prep Top Times indoor meet last weekend (52.90). "He's trying to break 50," coach Mike Scianna said. "He's been close. Hopefully, once we get outdoors he can break into the fifties right away." Garcia specializes in the 800. He ran 2:06 indoors but is aiming for a sub-two minute performance outside. The program gets a lift from a pair of athletic football players seeking to improve their speed: Jarelle Shipp and Donte Bonds. Both could take part in a competitive relay team. "Every year we try to qualify at least one guy and a relay and that would be ideal for this team," Scianna said. "It's probably easiest for us to run a 4x4 because the guys can run their individual races first." Scianna listed St. Charles North and Batavia among the most formidable teams in the Upstate Eight.
St. Edward Green Wave
Coach: Mike Olenek (fifth year)
2012 season: eighth Suburban Christian Conference
Top returning athletes: Senior Kevin Olenek (hurdles); juniors Will Bothwell (sprints, sprint relays), John Danner (middle distance), DaVontae Elam (sprints), John Gotheridge (throws); sophomores James Eisen (distance), Derrick Lindahl (middle distance), Adrian Pagulayan (middle distance)
Top newcomers: freshmen Albert Lopez (sprints), Owen Mollsen (sprints), Will Stevens (400), Nick Worrall (800)
Season outlook: St. Edward could have qualified more individuals to last year's Class 1A state meet, but three athletes opted to forego individual competition in lieu of joining another teammate to qualify together as a 3,200-meter relay team. That relay finished 13th in the state (8:25.23). Those athletes -- Will Bothwell, John Danner and Kevin Olenek -- return to form the core of a building program. Bothwell will focus on the 200 and likely participate in three sprint relays. Kevin Olenek is expected to post a 40-second time in the 300 intermediate hurdles. Danner, according to his coach, has returned quite a bit stronger after working with weights. He could post 1:55 in the 800 "I'm expecting great things out of John in the half mile and the mile as well," coach Mike Olenek said. Thrower John Gotheridge should be in the neighborhood of state qualification thresholds. He returns a year stronger with better-honed technique. Junior sprinter and three-sport athlete DaVontae Elam possesses state-caliber speed if he can put it all together in mid-May. Many other candidates are bound to emerge since freshmen populate half the roster. "We're looking for the returning leaders we have to grow the competitive edge of this team and lead by example."
Coach: Matt Willock (first year)
2012 season: sixth UEC River
Top returning athletes: Senior Dan Robles (1,600); junior Ryan Ashenhurst (hurdles)
Top newcomers: Sophomore Homero Peres (sprints, sprint relays); freshmen Tae Reetz (sprints, relays) Dazwan Bowens (sprints)
Season outlook: Matt Willock takes over as head coach after eight seasons as an assistant specializing in sprints. The program has produced several outstanding sprinters in recent years, but some notable ones are sitting this season out, namely the entire relay team that won the UEC River meet last season. NIU football recruit Blake Holder, who qualified for state as a sophomore and junior, decided to pass on his senior track season in order to concentrate on weightlifting. Relay teammates Art Beese and Blake Patterson likewise chose not to return. The fourth member of that relay, Austin Mugnai, is still recovering from reconstructive knee surgery following a football injury. "The good news is we have 45 kids out so our numbers are up," Willock said. "That's the most we've had at the start in the eight years I've been here. It's a good looking group. We're just trying to improve. We're trying to build a strong base and a strong program, not just a track team. In the past we've been strong in the sprinting events but we've had trouble filling all the field events." The team returns just two seniors. Dan Robles runs the mile and Ryan Ashenhurst competes in both hurdles races. Sophomore Homero Peres will race in the 200 and 400.
South Elgin Storm
Coach: Anthony LaRue (fourth year)
2012 season: sixth UEC Valley
Top returning athletes: Seniors Jeff Broger (sprints), Nick Rohfles (sprints); juniors Jose Gonzalez (middle distance), Jose Montenegro (throws), Matt Stover (middle distance)
Top newcomers: junior Kyle Kumerow (jumps)
Season outlook: South Elgin intends to capitalize on the momentum of a successful 2012 season. The Storm qualified their 400-meter relay team for the Class 3A meet, though a poor handoff in preliminaries cost them a shot at the finals. The program also garnered its first top-10 finish when 400-meter runner Jeff Broger set a personal record in the preliminaries (49.1) to reach the finals. Broger finished sixth in the 400 at the Prep Top Times Meet last weekend (50.91). He joins a talented group of returnees that includes sprinter Nick Rohfles, two-miler Matt Stover (10:15), thrower Jose Montenegro and 800-meter specialist Jose Gonzalez. The team will look to athletic junior jumper Kyle Kumerow for field points. "We have some great returning seniors who have shown they can compete at the top levels in Illinois," South Elgin coach Anthony LaRue said. "Our juniors are stepping up in practice. We need to make a very big leap in field events to get a chance to win meets. I believe that we are solid in the sprints, relays and individual distance events."
Westminster Christian Warriors
Coach: Ron Froeschke (second year)
Top returning athletes: Sophomores Habacuc Orozco (distance), Grant Elliott (distance)
Top newcomers: Senior Tim Rodgers (sprints); junior Austin Lamp (mid-distance); sophomore Josh Edwards (mid-distance)
Zach Aters (throws), Adam Froeschke (mid-distance)
Season outlook: The Warriors graduated a triple state qualifier but welcome a new crop of athletes. Senior Tim Rodgers, primarily a soccer player, opted for track instead of baseball this spring. He will attempt to qualify in multiple events (200, 400, 800). The team returns distance specialists Habacuc Orozco and Grant Elliott. Competitive swimmer Austin Lamp, Josh Edwards and Adam Froeschke all have middle distance speed, though events for each have not yet been finalized. "There's a difference this year with a majority of the team new to track," second-year coach Ron Froeschke said. "I'm doing a lot more foundation and discussion, more teaching."
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