Aurora Central Catholic Chargers
Coach: Troy Kerber (27th year)
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Last year: Second in the Suburban Christian Conference, third at the 2A Ottawa sectional.
Key athletes: Juan Arroyo (sr., jumps, sprints); Ricardo Bustas (jr., sprints); Cody Ekstrom (jr., sprints); Joe Fese (sr., sprints); Zack Flint (sr., sprints); Dave Gannon (jr., distance); Colin Hendrick (jr., jumps, hurdles); Matt Knapp (jr., distance); Simon LaFramboise (sr., pole vault, hurdles); Patrick Lefebvre (sr., hurdles, jumps); Javier Liz (sr., sprints); Pat Marcoux (sr., throws); Jeremiah McCue (sr., jumps, sprints); Matt Meyers (sr., middle distance); Javier Montelongo (jr., middle distance); Joey Perez (so., sprints); Liam Rettenmeier (sr., hurdles); Connor Robinson (jr., sprints).
Outlook: A solid core of runners with some standouts and improved field events will have the Chargers again challenging Marmion in the SCC and looking to score downstate. Until a second-place finish at the Illinois Prep Top Times Indoor Classic, college prospect Meyers had been undefeated indoors at 800 meters. He and Flint ran the last half of last year's 2A fourth-place 3,200 relay, so what Kerber calls the jewel of the program must regroup. The rare program to qualify all four relays in 2012, only Alex Duncan graduated from the 400, 800 or 1,600 relays; Fese, Arroyo, Robinson and Flint can reprise their roles if called upon. Depth offered by the likes of Ekstrom and Perez may allow 100 qualifier Fese, Flint and Meyers to stretch out or focus individually. "This is probably the best sprint core I've ever coached here," Kerber said. Meyers qualified in the open 1,600 last year and has also broken the 2A standard in the 800. Marmion's SCC edge over the Chargers has been field events. LaFramboise and Marcoux are ACC's staples. Kerber believes his field athletes have improved, but by how much? Hurdlers Lefebvre, Rettenmeier and LaFramboise could prove an advantage. Shifting to the 2A Plano sectional, goals include more state qualifiers and improving last year's 1-of-6 ratio of finalists to qualifiers. "This could be potentially the strongest boys team I've ever coached in 27 years," Kerber said. "However, I think the state is also very strong."
Aurora Christian Eagles
Coach: Anna Morgan (first year)
Last year: Fifth in the Suburban Christian Conference, first at the 1A Seneca sectional.
Top athletes: Timi Ayaji (fr., sprints, jumps); Aidan Flanagan (jr., sprints); Jake Gehman (sr., middle distance); Johnathan Harrell (jr., sprints, jumps); Josh Schien (so., pole vault); Grant Schweisthal (jr., sprints); Jonah Walker (jr., throws).
Outlook: A first-year teacher at her alma mater, Morgan finished sixth in the 800 and eighth in the 1,600 as a junior in 2007. She succeeds her former coach, eight-year man Jeff Schutt. Asked what she learned from him, Morgan said: "What did I not learn? ... He taught me a lot, about life and not just the sport." She debuts with 19 boys including sole seniors Gehman and thrower Joe Grimm but is unconcerned "when we really have an overflow of kids trying to help the team." The help Harrell needs is good health after a freak accident knocked him out of the Eagle's 1A champion 1,600 relay. Gehman and Harrell return from that while Billy Howorth graduated and Dillon Howorth now attends Yorkville. Gehman and Harrell also will target individual downstate berths. Harrell, adding horizontal jumps, is a returning 400-meter qualifier looking to break 50 seconds. The Eagles have speed -- they qualified their 400, 800 and 1,600 relays last year -- but longer distances are not a strength. Walker, 12th in 1A shot put at 48-11, went 53-1 at the Illinois Prep Top Times Indoor Classic and should surpass last year's 142-foot discus. The program's numbers, depth and youth (7 frosh) don't lend to titles, but with good talent and coaching Morgan rules nothing out. "We might have smaller numbers," she said, "but I think we have a lot of athletes really willing to sacrifice for the team."
Coach: Dennis Piron (15th year)
Last year: Second in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division, eighth at the 3A St. Charles North sectional.
Key athletes: Jorden Berendt (jr., distance); David Curnock (jr., distance); Mitch Davis (jr., sprints); Marquise Jenkins (sr., sprints); Omar Medina (sr., hurdles); Michael Moffat (jr., jumps); David Morrison (so., middle distance); Roarke Mullins (jr., sprints); Chris Orlow (jr., distance); Jake Pollack (sr., high jump); Mark Rudelich (jr., jumps); Anthony Scaccia (jr., sprints, jumps); Clayton Siemsen (jr., hurdles); Sebastian Vermaas (sr., throws); R.J. Viereckl (sr., pole vault); Mitch Voellinger (jr., distance); Ryan Wietes (so., distance); Mitch Zabka (jr., distance).
Outlook: Piron, whose son, Peyton, is a sophomore hurdler, has a mix of youth and experience that should combine for a UEC River title shot. In 2012 Batavia won the sophomore outdoor meet and at March's unified UEC Indoor championships they trailed only Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley. The varsity finished sixth, behind St. Charles North among River squads. "We're more of an outdoor track team," Dennis Piron said then. A big reason for that, literally, is 6-foot-3, 220-pound Marquise Jenkins, who on the 400-meter oval in 2012 ran the 100 in 11.21 and the 200 in 22.71. Somewhat amazingly for a program this invested, last season no Bulldog track athlete qualified downstate, sending only high jumper Pollack and graduated vaulter Brandon Clabough to Charleston. Pollack has a 6-5 personal record but Piron believes he could approach 6-8. Viereckl has already vaulted 14 feet, shattering his junior PR, and Vermaas just went 50 in shot put; vertical jumps need more work. Distance heads the track group, Orlow, Zabka, Berendt and Morrison and others potentially forming a strong 3,200 relay. In relay hierarchy, Piron said it's 3,200 then 1,600, 800 then 400. Middle distance is solid under the coaching of former Batavia all-stater Bronco Meeks; sprints show range particularly from Scaccia spanning 100-400 meters. Always a hurdles program, Medina and Siemsen hold promise in the 300s. "We think we have a very strong track team that should be competitive in every meet," Piron said.
Coach: Gale Gross (eighth year)
Last year: First in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division, second at the 3A St. Charles North sectional
Key athletes: Dan Acton (sr., pole vault); Nathan Balettie (sr., throws); Blair Bartel (jr., distance); Mike Bianchina (sr., distance); James Carroll (jr., pole vault, hurdles); Jason D'Amico (jr., throws); Justin Davis (sr., sprints); Tim Guthrie (sr., pole vault); Dan Herrera (sr., distance); Sam Hudnall (sr., sprints); Kyle McNeil (sr., throws); Tim Roels (jr., sprints); Justin Nebel (so., jumps); Nathan Wendt (sr., middle distance).
Outlook: Geneva projects in the UEC River's top four with Batavia and the St. Charles schools, simultaneously filling the spikes of graduated superstars Ben Rogers and Peter Archibald. The Vikings have the numbers -- a program-record 110 -- but Gross said, "I think it'll be as difficult as it's ever been, maybe a little more so after indoor conference." Geneva placed seventh overall and trailed St. Charles North and Batavia. The move outside will help. McNeil, defending River disc and shot champ, targets a return downstate trip in discus and is among three potential 150-foot throwers with the rehabbing (ankle) D'Amico and Balettie. Vaulters Acton and Guthrie will both vie for downstate berths and Nebel will score in jumps. Gross sounds unsure about relay depth but Herrera, Wendt, Bartel and Bianchina -- who returned from a broken leg last May to run downstate in 3A cross country -- combined for second in the UEC Indoor 3,200 relay at the UEC Indoor. Each of them could give individual qualifying a shot; Wendt broke 2 minutes last year in the 800 and Bianchina was on pace in the 3,200 when his leg went. Hurdles and short sprints must develop, but Roels will hit good 200 times working with returning 400-meter state qualifier Davis, fully recovered from a cross country knee injury. The Hoffman Estates sectional assignment is favorable. "We set the goal every year to get more down than we did the year before," Gross said. "Some years it happens, some years it doesn't."
Coach: Eric Baron (seventh year)
Last year: Second in the Northern Illinois Big 12, first at the 2A Rochelle sectional.
Key athletes: Luis Acosta, jr., distance; Tanner Andrews, sr., jumps; Ben Barnes, so., jumps; Brandon Bishop, jr., sprints; Kyle Carter, jr., middle distance; Brandon Cottier, sr., sprints; Drew David, jr., sprints; Nate Dyer, jr., throws; Marshall Farthing, sr., jumps; Kory Harner, sr., pole vault; Conor Johnson, sr., distance; Shane Jorgensen, jr., throws; Nathaniel Kucera, jr., middle distance; Dylan Kuipers, jr., pole vault; Dylan Nauert, jr., hurdles; Dylan Pennington, sr., sprints; Brock Robertson, jr., hurdles; Isaac Swithers, so., sprints.
Outlook: A multitude of returning state qualifiers, the most athletes (89) Baron's had in his tenure providing open event and relay options, and a 40-point victory margin at the NIB12 Indoor indicate the Knights could improve upon last season's 11th-place Class 2A finish. "Last year we had a real nice end to the season with sophomores and juniors," Baron said. "Their expectations are pretty high with what we think we can accomplish this year." All-state 200 runner Sean Carter is a big graduation loss but from the pool of Cottier, Bishop, Pennington and Nauert the Knights return three apiece from 2A top-eight 400 and 800 relays; Johnson, Kucera and Kyle Carter are back from a ninth-place 3,200 relay. Individually, Nauert finished sixth in 2A in the 300 hurdles, Kucera qualified in the 400, Cottier in both the 100 and 200, Dyer went downstate in both discus and shot put and Harner continued Kaneland's streak of 30 years with a downstate vaulter. Barring something goofy all four relays should qualify. Jumps were not represented downstate in 2012, but Farthing and Andrews return experience. The "top athletes" list above doesn't include others who give Kaneland balance and depth. If there's a lull it's in distance but as Baron said, "we've got guys." Kaneland will seek revenge on Dixon over its 1-point win at the 2012 NIB12 outdoor championship, head to Sterling for a shot at a fifth straight sectional title, and cruise to Charleston where the sky may be the limit. "If everything goes well for us at sectionals we could possibly have at least one qualifier in every event," Baron said.
Coach: Dan Thorpe (seventh year)
Last year: First in the Suburban Christian Conference, sixth at the 3A St. Charles North sectional.
Key athletes: Eric Anderson (sr., distance); Isaiah Brown (fr., jumps, sprints); Brady Bobbitt (so., distance); Chris Burrows (sr., distance); Nick Delaney (sr., distance); Matt Fredericks (jr., hurdles); Oscar Garza (jr., throws); John Graft (jr., distance); Kevin Grahovec (jr., middle distance); Tyler Maryanski (jr., high jump); Jake Ruddy (sr., jumps, sprints); Seth Sevenich (jr., hurdles); Peter West (sr., middle distance).
Outlook: It's a testament to this program's welcoming atmosphere that Marmion has 96 boys out; that it attracts newcomers like basketball player Maryanski and Graft, who when not running sub-4:26 in the 1,600 also plays tennis. It's both cause and effect for the Cadets' eight straight SCC titles. "We're at the point where we reload," Thorpe said. Tempering the enthusiasm is the loss of school and SCC long jump record holder (22-9) Ruddy to two broken arms after a fall in gym class. Hopefully returning to the Hoffman Estates sectional if not the SCC championship, Ruddy is Marmion's fastest sprinter and best horizontal jumper. "He was our top returning point man, so that was a major blow," Thorpe said. The graduation of 3A runner-up high jumper Pete Stefanski and distance kings Nolan Dickson and Matt Choice also hurt; however, first-year jumper Maryanski projects to 6-3 and distance is the Cadets' main strength. Burrows and Grahovec return from a state-qualifying 3,200 relay. Along with runners listed above there's any number of Ian O'Deas and Bobby Wagners in distance coach Dan Klatt's stable. Brother of former Cadets all-stater Eddy Grahovec, Kevin has gone 1:58.01 indoors in the 800, among the state's fastest. Due to heavy graduation losses, overall lack of sprint speed up to 400 meters and thus short relays, Marmion must chip away across the board to continue its SCC streak. That's a distinct possibility due to another committed senior class who, Thorpe said, "know that it's their turn to defend the crown."
St. Charles East Saints
Coach: Chris Bosworth (third year)
Last year: Fourth in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division, seventh at the 3A St. Charles North sectional.
Key returnees: Matt Allen (sr., hurdles); Jordan Duncan (jr., sprints); Mitch Ewald (sr., hurdles); Mo Flanigan (so., sprints); Mike Hockett (sr., throws); Alex Jacquot (jr., sprints); Joe Komlanc (so., sprints); Kyle McLean (so., jumps); Ryan Memije (jr., high jump); Mike Meyer (jr., middle distance); Danny Newman (sr., sprints); Max Rowland (sr., distance); Lucas Werner (jr., distance).
Outlook: Bosworth estimates graduating state qualifiers such as Jake Mazanke, Nick Devor and Carter Reading cost upward of 45 points a meet. He's hoping a sprint-based group of returners, continued strength in hurdles and developing field events will make up part of that to secure a top-three UEC River finish. "We knew we'd go to every meet (last year) and produce points," Bosworth said. "This year that's up in the air." But this season holds promise. Newman ran on the Saints' 1,600 relay that finished sixth in 3A last year, and Flanigan and Jacquot return from a downstate 800 relay. Add Glenbard North transfer Duncan and Bosworth feels good about the 800 and 1,600 relays with maybe a shot at qualifying its 400 relay as well. Indoors a four-sophomore 3,200 relay ran well; probably a year away but they should score some points. After a year of varsity experience and training, individual downstate appearances may be more realistic for runners like Newman in the 400, Flanigan in the 200 and Allen, who with Ewalds should score in both hurdles events. Besides mainly Hockett, field events somewhat resemble last year's sprinters and much of this year's distance group -- youthful. McLean became the first Saints sophomore to make the UEC Indoor triple jump finals, and Memije has gone 6-3 in high jump this spring. "These guys are trying to learn how to be leaders. They've done a really good job so far. They have high expectations, we have high expectations," Bosworth said.
St. Charles North North Stars
Coach: Don Spencer (third year)
Last year: Third in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division, fourth at the 3A St. Charles North sectional.
Key athletes: Nick Borger (sr., distance); Anthony Calabrese (sr., sprints); Alec Druck (sr., sprints); Matt Druffel (sr., pole vault); Jack Feeney (jr., sprints); J.T. Grill (jr., pole vault); Mason Heinz (sr., hurdles); Tyler Ingham (sr., sprints); Ryan Joyce (sr., distance); Kaleb Kirby (jr., pole vault); Zach Kirby (sr., sprints); Nathan Klair (jr., middle distance); Connor Larson (sr., sprints); Tom Lindholm (jr., throws); Grant Loess (sr., sprints, jumps); Zak Loess (sr., jumps); Nick Lynch (sr., sprints); Ryan McSweeney (sr., distance); Erik Miller (jr., high jump); Josh Phelan (sr., sprints); Simon Sperati (sr., sprints); Chris Suda (so., middle distance); Nick Thomka (sr., hurdles).
Outlook: Spencer's theme is "do the best you can," but on his team questionnaire he noted: "This should be St. Charles North's best track team yet." Of 120 athletes 70 are sprinters, the main strength along with potentially double-scoring field events. A distance squad that placed 20th in 3A cross country lost Spencer Gray to swimming, but Borger and Co. could possibly enable the North Stars to qualify all four relays. The sprint relays -- which in 2012 set two school records and spin off individuals such as returning 400 qualifier Zach Kirby and indoor 600 program record-setter Feeney -- are North's elite aspect. The 400 and 1,600 relays have been selected to compete at the Penn Relays in April; the 800 relay of Feeney, Grant Loess, Larson and Phelan set a new UEC Indoor record. "Those guys are ready and able and willing to go for the outdoors. They're just chomping at the bit," Spencer said. The North Stars graduated a slew of points and last year's 1,600 relay anchor in Oshay Hodges, sixth in 3A high jump, 12th in triple jump. Yet Ingham and Druck may even gain speed in the relay, and Miller high-jumped 6-3 as a freshman then missed his sophomore season to shoulder surgery. Kaleb Kirby will attempt to reach state in Charleston after setting the North Stars' vault record at 14 feet indoors. At the UEC Indoor meet St. Charles North trailed Lake Park, Neuqua Valley and Bartlett and led Waubonsie Valley. Add another sprint relay and Heinz and Thomka in the 300 hurdles -- but perhaps losing ground in discus -- and the North Stars are favored to win the River Division and may again challenge the best overall. Ultimately the goal is to qualify events then reach the finals, which only Hodges did last year. "The sky's the limit for us," Spencer said. "These guys have been working hard for four years, they've been working really, really hard this year, and they've exceeded my expectations."
West Aurora Blackhawks
Coach: Cortney Lamb (eighth year)
Last year: Sixth in the DuPage Valley Conference, ninth at the 3A Naperville North sectional.
Key athletes: Gary Glover (jr., sprints); Oscar Gomez (sr., distance); Eric Gough (sr., hurdles); Robert Herrera (sr., distance); Charles House (sr., jumps); Graham Isaacson (sr., distance); Aaron Kennebrew (sr., jumps); Donald Larson (jr., throws); Alan Martinez (sr., middle distance); Brandon McKay (sr., middle distance); Deonta Motley (sr., sprints); Tony Oros (sr., sprints); Donald Patterson (sr., sprints); Benny Prunty (sr., sprints); Jorgelius Ramirez (sr., throws); Shaquille Redmond (sr., throws); Booker Ross (sr., jumps); Marquette Sanchez (sr., sprints); Rodney Simms (sr., sprints); Zach Truckenbrod (sr., distance);
Outlook: Trailing only 3A contender Wheaton North at the DVC Indoor meet is not a bad place to be. The Blackhawks hope to at least repeat that finish then qualify as many (probably) relays and field events as possible. Lamb particularly likes his distance crew, featuring 2012 3A cross country qualifier Gomez, DVC Indoor 800 champ McKay and Truckenbrod, who joined McKay on West Aurora's 2012 qualifying 3,200 relay. Gomez could target downstate berths open distance races, but there is flexibility in middle distance and perhaps McKay and/or Martinez could get there in the 800. "They're our go-to," Lamb tabbed the distance runners, "but I'm pleased at how all the other events improved." Prunty, Sanchez and Oros, three of the county's fastest returning sprinters, will probably train nonstop in relays, joined by others like Patterson and Glover. At the DVC Indoor West Aurora finished no worse than third in the three relays. Triple jumpers Kennebrew and House will score bunches of points; in 2012 House surpassed 43 feet and at the DVC Indoor returning state qualifier Kennebrew set a personal-record 44-11. Throws coach Bob Fowler has material to work with, getting an 8-foot shot put improvement since last year by Redmond, to 50 feet. A sectional that includes Neuqua Valley, Naperville Central and the Plainfields will be tough to advance people but Lamb liked the Blackhawks' DVC Indoor showing. "I think we can see ourselves with a lot more qualifiers than maybe did before that meet," he said.