Top local teams: Benet, Downers Grove South, Glenbard South, Lake Park, Naperville Central, Neuqua Valley, Waubonsie Valley, Wheaton North, Wheaton Warrenville South, York.
Top athletes:Addison Trail: Joe Atria (sr., distance), Juan Valdez (jr., middle distance); Benet: Austin Dzik (sr., hurdles), Bobby Svoboda (sr., middle distance), Anton Vershay (sr., distance); Downers Grove North: Zach Smith (jr., distance), Ben Eaton (sr., distance); Downers Grove South: Jacob Amiri (jr., middle distance), Jalen Lewis (sr., hurdles), Odell McFarland (sr., sprints), Javon Turner (jr., jumps); Fenton: Cosme Bailon (jr., sprints), Fabiel Urzua (sr., distance); Glenbard East: Vince Booth (jr., middle distance), Jack Peters (jr., middle distance); Glenbard North: Dominic Beljung (jr., pole vault), Mitch Siver (sr., throws); Glenbard South: Sean Henderson (sr., sprints, jumps), Matt Loos (sr., throws), Jarius Shannon (sr., sprints), Joe Singleton (jr., distance), John Wold (jr., middle distance); Glenbard West: Nate Hall (sr., sprints), Nate Hokenson (sr., sprints), Will Lindstrom (sr., distance); Hinsdale Central: Billy Magnesen (jr., distance), Nkemjika Nwosu (jr., jumps), Nick Piker (sr., throws); Hinsdale South: Tavaris Binion (sr., sprints), Manny Dunleavy (sr., hurdles), Zach Guritz (sr., throws); IC Catholic: Tim Hipskind (sr., sprints); Lake Park: Tim Ehrhardt (sr., pole vault), Scott Filip (sr., jumps, sprints), Marcus Jegede (jr., sprints, jumps), Per Johnson (sr., throws), Shawn Koch (sr., jumps), Jeremy Lozano (jr., distance), Antonio Shenault (so., hurdles); Derrick Smith (sr., pole vault); Lisle: Aaron Harris (fr., sprints), Nick Rizzotti (sr., hurdles); Metea Valley: Chase Nelson (sr., sprints), Colin Yorke (sr., distance); Montini: Mike Spangler (sr., sprints); Naperville Central: Ben Andreas (jr., jumps), Sam Bransby (jr., sprints), Ethan Brodeur (sr., distance), Michael Jopes (jr., hurdles); Naperville North: Adam Milsap (jr., sprints), Marco Montani (sr., high jump, hurdles), Jimmy Qiao (sr., distance), Alec Weyneth (sr., hurdles); Neuqua Valley: Nick Bushelle (jr., distance), Tim Heinz (jr., high jump), Connor Horn (fr., distance), Christian Malavé (so., sprints), Carlos Varela (sr., throws); St. Francis: Andrew Hallet (jr., middle distance), Matt Lorish (jr., middle distance); Timothy Christian: Jake Hooker (sr., hurdles); Waubonsie Valley: John Burke (sr., sprints), Riley Kittridge (sr., throws), Julian Morrison (sr., distance), James Travis (jr., jumps); West Chicago: Tim Linhardt (sr., middle distance); Wheaton Academy: Matt Ruff (jr., sprints), Noah VanDyke (so., middle distance); Wheaton North: Marcus Charles (sr., sprints), Zach Gordon (sr., sprints, jumps), Dale Hollinger (sr., pole vault), Alex Ryan (sr., middle distance), Patrick Sharp (sr., sprints); WW South: Kyle Joyce (sr., throws), Nolan McKenna (jr., distance), Luke Schroer (jr., distance), Don Tomes (sr., sprints, hurdles); Willowbrook: Matt Burns (jr., sprints), Tim Hyde (sr., distance); York: Alex Bashquawi (jr., middle distance), Shawn John (sr., pole vault), Chris May (sr., distance), Scott Milling (sr., distance), Alex Mimlitz (sr., distance).
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Outlook: The 2013 boys outdoor track season features a historic pursuit. Lake Park seeks to be the first team since Thornwood from 2001-04 and the fifth overall to win four consecutive state championships. Unlike last season when Lake Park overcame heavy graduation losses, Lancers coach Jay Ivory and his all-star staff enter the season as Class 3A favorites. Of Lake Park's 14 athletes who competed in the Saturday 2012 finals, 12 are back, including Rice University recruit Scott Filip, who turned in four all-state performances.
The Lancers, who followed their Upstate Eight Conference indoor title with the unofficial Class 3A team title March 23 at the Illinois Top Times indoor meet, won't go unchallenged. Locally, Wheaton North dominated the DuPage Valley Conference indoor meet a second straight year. After leaving Charleston less than satisfied in 2012, the Falcons' mix of speed, distance and field events, headed by defending 3A long jump champion Zach Gordon, will be driven to succeed. "I would like to think that we've got a chance to hopefully be in the top five if not higher," said Falcons coach Don Helberg.
Neuqua Valley, the one local program that makes cuts, has balance; Waubonsie Valley brings standout individuals. When York's "Long Green Line" runs smooth -- its victorious 82 points in last fall's Class 3A cross country meet were the best big-school total since 2007 -- the Dukes are always in the conversation. Statewide, however, talent is more disbursed. Last year was the first since 1993 in which the area placed only one top-10 team in the largest class.
Glenbard South heads outside for the first time in 30 years without Andy Preuss as head coach. The Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Famer retired after Class 2A runner-up finishes in cross country and track. Ronn Claussen, a 20-year veteran of Raiders athletics, directed a 55-point Metro Suburban Conference indoor victory margin without returning state qualifiers John Wold and Joe Singleton -- who went 1-6 in 2A cross country -- running an individual event.
Along with Gordon in 3A long jump, Glenbard South's Sean Henderson and Jarius Shannon ran on a 2A champion 800-meter relay. Hinsdale South's Tavaris Binion reigns as 3A 100-meter champ. He hopes to shake off a nagging back injury. "His goal is to repeat, obviously, but he's got to be healthy," said Hornets coach Dean Norman.
Between Don Helberg and his brother Ken at WW South, the DVC outdoor title has remained in Wheaton an astounding 23 straight years. It shouldn't go anywhere just yet.
Defending DVC outdoor champion Wheaton North swept all three levels indoors in March. The Falcons varsity won seven of 15 events, scored in all and double-scored in nine. Outdoors they add discus, 300 hurdles and the 400 relay and will vie for DVC titles in each. In 2012 Gordon won the Class 3A long jump with a personal-best 24 feet, 2˝ inches and finished seventh in the 200. He and sprinters such as Marcus Charles and Patrick Sharp will headline; others like Matt Biegalski, Jon Chapman, Micaiah Steele and Paul Steeno provide depth, flexibility, points.
Naperville Central coach Steve Wiesbrook leads the DVC's most improved squad. Third-place indoors, the Redhawks will join West Aurora in challenging Wheaton North, attempting to stay ahead of WW South and Naperville North. Both those schools feature exciting athletes: WW South's two-time indoor 3,200 winner Nolan McKenna; Huskies distance runner Jimmy Qiao and Italian exchange student Marco Montani, at 6-5 the sole high jumper to clear 6 feet at the DVC indoor.
Seeing Naperville Central junior Sam Bransby slip by Charles and Sharp to win the DVC indoor 200, an onlooker called it "the surprise of the meet." It was no surprise. At the 2012 DVC outdoor Bransby won the 400 and ran below state-qualifying time to finish third in the 200 behind Gordon and graduated Naperville North 100 champ James Kerns. With versatile runners like Daniel Spaccapaniccia and Kevin Culling, Wiesbrook will "try different ways that the puzzle fits."
The Upstate Eight will present a unified, 14-team conference meet yet crown both Valley and River winners. When that comes, Lake Park, Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley have a decent shot at taking the first three places. Lake Park is aptly praised for field events but returns three-fourths of all-state 100 and 3,200 relays. Add new hurdler Antonio Shenault and the Lancers are deeper and faster on the track. Neuqua Valley retained its status as UEC distance kings at the indoor meet, going 1-2 in both the 3,200 and 1,600 with wins from Nick Bushelle and phenom Connor Horn. Wildcats high jumper Tim Heinz twice set school records indoor, settling at 6-7; Carlos Varela is a two-time discus qualifier on the cusp in shot put. Waubonsie Valley returns all-state shot putter Riley Kittridge, a much-improved James Travis in horizontal jumps and senior John Burke, bullish over 400 meters. "I think we could be a team that could overachieve," said Warriors coach Kevin Rafferty.
In 2012 York lost both West Suburban Silver indoor and outdoor titles to Oak Park, breaking a nine-year outdoor string. "That's not our tradition," said Dukes coach Stan Reddel. He'll look to start a new streak with the program's timeless array of middle-distance and distance runners headed by 800 man Alex Bashqawi, who broke 1:58 indoors, and sixth-place cross country finisher Scott Milling. (Downers North's Zach Smith finished eighth.)
Typically tightly contested is the West Suburban Gold. All four local teams boasted at least one indoor champion, Downers South the most. Victorious Odell McFarland, Jalen Lewis and Javon Turner enter the outdoor schedule amped after leading the Mustangs to a rare double-digit indoor victory margin.
Benet aims to renew the East Suburban Catholic Conference lock it held from 2005-10. A slew of seniors and sophomore 800 runner Phil Parisi give the Redwings a good chance, at the Fenwick sectional as well. March 3 at the I.C.O.P.S. meet Benet bested every ESCC team there. "Our strengths seem to lie in our depth," said first-year coach David Stone, aided by throwers Charles Melka, Stephen Tyznik.
Quick hitters: Wheaton Academy's 400 record holder Matt Ruff and miler Noah VanDyke both go for consecutive downstate berths ... St. Francis' roster nearly doubled to 49 from last year's 25 ... Chris Andriano takes over at Montini after a three-year absence ... West Chicago will surround Tim Linhardt with sophomores trying to qualify a 1,600 relay for the first time ... Lisle's Aaron Harris scored 20 points in three sprints at Reed-Custer ... The dean of DuPage County track, Fenton's 45-year coach John Kurtz, stays young with a big group of underclass sprinters among his 70-plus squad.
Top meets: Wheaton North Best 4, April 6; Fremd Thrower's Invite, April 11; Naperville North Gus Scott, April 12; Downers Grove South Bud Mohns, April 13; Metea Valley Invite, April 13; West Aurora John Bell, April 13; Downers South Bob Cohoon, April 19; Glenbard South Raider Invite, April 19; WW South Red Grange, April 19; Hinsdale South Mike Yavorski, April 26; Glenbard West Jim Arnold, April 27; Waubonsie Valley Red Ribbon, April 27; DuPage County Meet, York, May 3; Hinsdale Central McCarthy Invite, May 3; Lisle Carlin Nalley, May 4; Upstate Eight Conference, Lake Park, May 9; DuPage Valley Conference, West Aurora, May 10; West Suburban Gold, Hinsdale South, May 10; West Suburban Silver, Concordia University, May 11; Class 1A-3A State Finals, Charleston, May 23-25.
-- Dave Oberhelman