Some consider the official start to the championship season in track and field to be the week of the conference meets. But the weekend of the Knights Wanner Invitational and the Palatine Relays is as close to a championship weekend as there is before the state meet next month.
Friday night will kick off another memorable weekend in track starting with the 45th version of the Knights Wanner Invitational.
Usually the 3,200-meter relay is the featured event. This year, the race that is an absolute cannot-miss is the 1,600. Not only does the field include the dynamic York duo of senior Alex Mimlitz and junior Nate Mroz, but a few outsiders have decided to crash the party that will only add to the glamour of this race.
Standout distance runners Jamison Dale of Chicago Jones and Jack Keelan of St. Ignatius will bring their expertise to a loaded field. Joe Sulentic of Conant, Quentin Shaffer of Prospect, Robert Somary of Hersey and Evan Prizy of Schaumburg highlight the group.
In the field events, look out for Illinois-bound Libertyville senior Matsen Dziedzic in the shot put and discus. Dziedzic, a state runner-up in the shot put last year, is the top seed in that event and the second seed in the discus. Lee Duhs of Schaumburg, Pat Costello of Prospect and Ed Beyer of Hersey figure to contend.
On the track, Prospect senior Dave Kendziera has emerged as one of the top hurdlers in the state. He will battle with Max Roberts of Libertyville and Jarvis Grace-Hill of York in the 300 hurdles and Matt Harris of Lyons and Michael Jopes of Naperville Central in the 110 high hurdles. Figure to see Kendziera and Harris do battle in the long jump as well. The Northwestern-bound Harris is one of the top jumpers in the state while Kendziera hit 22-5.5 this week.
The 3,200-relay is still a fitting way to begin the meet and it will be no different on Friday. York, Prospect, Barrington, St. Ignatius and Hersey will play a key role. Defending Class 3A champion Lane Tech and Lyons Township also will factor in a race that should see a number of teams dip under the eight-minute mark.
Sprinting events at this meet are not as deep as the distance events, but strong nonetheless. Schaumburg and sophomore Jan Dimaano will look to take control in the 400 and 800 relays as one of the fastest groups on the track. Dimaano is also the third seed in the 100 in a very quick field.
The oldest relay meet in the country returns Saturday morning with the 81st running of the Palatine Relays.
Newly crowned MSL West champion Fremd, along with Palatine, Barrington, Wheeling, Buffalo Grove and Conant, will carry the banner for the MSL in what has turned into a very solid display of distance running the last few years.
The Pirates feature some of the best distance runners in the state again this year, led by senior Christian Zambrano and sophomore Graham Brown.
The Pirates' 3,200 and 1,600 relays are also strong and will factor in the team race in these events again. The distance events will strong, particularly the mile. Conants Joe Sulentic and Zach Dale will be joined by Steven Salvano of Buffalo Grove and Konrad Eiring of Barrington.
The sprints will feature Barrington standout Scotty Miller, Wheeling senior Cameron Decoursey and a host of distance standouts from Grayslake North led by Brandon Uribe and Alex Rotter.
Field events will be hotly contested, particularly in jumps. Palatine senior Cam Kuksa has been strong again this year in the triple jump and long jump to lead the Pirates. Buffalo Grove's Kevin Newman is a high jump favorite as well.
The meet will kick off with the junior high school relays followed by the 300 intermediate hurdles. After a break at noon, the individual events that have become the most entertaining part of this unique meet will get rolling.
Other competing area teams that will factor in the team race include Huntley and Jacobs from the Fox Valley Conference.