Put a Tiger and a Falcon in the same training room and what happens?
Wheaton North senior Connor Grace and Wheaton Warrenville South junior Tommy Sullivan, throwers of discus and shot put, have been training at a local gym, Wheaton Barbell & Fitness. It's owned by powerlifter and Scottish Highland Games athlete Jeff Armstrong, who brings old-school ideas and equipment to modern functional strength training. Things like truck tires, sledgehammers, body weight exercises and the old standby, the clean and snatch. Armstrong's use of kettle bell weights predated the current craze.
"We did a lot of really strange workouts," said Grace, like Sullivan a football lineman mainly looking to gain strength for that sport.
"It was like a sin to do bench (press) in there, which I thought was a great outlook," Grace said.
The two have also benefitted in track and field. Saturday at Wheaton North's Best Four Grace threw the discus 156 feet, 8 inches, a 20-foot improvement over his junior year. At the DuPage Valley Conference indoor meet Grace said he'd added three feet to his shot put to reach 48-8. That day he broke 50.
Sullivan has also added distance to his throws, though his calling card may be as a collegiate long snapper on the football field. The winner of Rubio Long Snapping's spring camp in Illinois, Sullivan is a four-star snapper ranked No. 24 in the country by Rubio and climbing.
They're rivals in the thrower's circle representing crosstown schools, but training together they "find camaraderie," as Sullivan said.
"We're there to work," Grace said, "but we'd crack a joke every once in awhile. He's definitely a funny guy."
That stops when they enter through the rear of the ring.
"You definitely want to beat him," Sullivan said. "It's just fun to compete. You always want to go one inch farther."
The pole vault competition was moved into the Wheaton North field house due to high winds Saturday, but after the 400-meter relay Lake Park senior vaulter Tim Ehrhardt was outdoors near the finish line, huffing and puffing.
Fifth place at last year's Class 3A meet on a vault of 15-3 inches, Ehrhardt has added the short relay to his resume.
"In practice when he does our sprint workouts with us, he's with our top guys," said Lancers coach Jay Ivory. "He's in the mix, and when it comes to four-by-one we want our four fastest out there, so he's got a shot."
At this point Ehrhardt doesn't enter a pole vault competition until the bar is at least 13 feet high, so he doesn't have to worry about scrambling between the 400 relay and the vault. It didn't hurt him at the Best Four, taking the overall pole vault title at 14-4.
In fact the sprint training may help his vaulting.
"Absolutely," Ivory said. "Once he becomes consistent with it, gets used to carrying that speed down the runway, absolutely."
The longer the better:
Naperville Central junior Michael Jopes pulled off the 55-meter hurdles victory at the DuPage Valley Conference indoor meet, but short distances are not really his thing.
"The longer the race for me, I feel like the better I can go," he said Saturday after winning his heat of the 300 hurdles.
His time of 40.69 seconds was second overall to Lake Park sophomore Antonio Shenault, who ran in a different heat. Jopes placed second in his heat and third overall in the 110 high hurdles, after Lake Park's Scott Filip and Shenault.
Other than stating, "I've always been a longer sprinter," Jopes had no distinct reason for his preference. He did say finishing less than a half-second behind Filip in the top level of the 110s did provide motivation. In fact the start-to-finish lead Jopes enjoyed in his heat of the 300s was the first time that's happened on the varsity level.
"I was counting on someone being ahead of me and someone to chase because that's always been this way," he said. "I've led it in the middle, but I've never swept it like that."
Run like the wind:
Even horizontal jumpers were affected by Saturday's stern winds. The steps they measured in warmups may or may not have been accurate when pushed or held up by the wind during actual competition.
Wheaton North 400 runner and hurdler Micaiah Steele battled it like everyone else.
"I like to think of it as a challenge," the Falcons' senior said. "I tried coming off that backstretch and I dig into the wind, almost like somebody is pushing me back. But everybody's got that little voice in your head telling you, No slow down, slow down. The wind almost acts as a physical barrier that you really do need to push through. It really was an obstacle, but you can't let that get to you."
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