Essentially not much has changed in the nine weeks since the boys outdoor track season began.
The teams are basically who we thought they were. Wheaton North runs fast. York's 190-plus athletes provide distance and relay depth. A thrower like Waubonsie Valley's Riley Kittridge, a sprinter like Hinsdale South's defending Class 3A 100-meter champion Tavaris Binion will be there in the end -- though a newcomer, Neuqua Valley freshman sensation Connor Horn will be as well.
And Lake Park seeks to be the first team since Thornwood from 2001-04 and the fifth overall to win four consecutive state championships.
The Lancers could have helped themselves a little more on the track at the Class 3A Glenbard North sectional, but their sheer number of state qualifiers (15) and their proven ability to get things done in Charleston has them entering the final weekend of the season how they started -- as the favorites.
Headed by Scott Filip and Shawn Koch, who led all Class 3A sectional qualifiers in long jump and triple jump, respectively, if the seeds somehow were to play out as they stand Lake Park would score 46 points. Last year the Lancers scored 48 to beat Edwardsville by 6 points and Oak Park by 7. It was an incredibly clutch team performance as each of the 11 individuals or relays Lake Park advanced into Saturday's finals scored.
Not surprisingly Lake Park's advantage again stands in field events, qualifying 11 of a possible 12 entries at Glenbard North. Of the Lancers' 46 potential points by state seed, 39 come in field events including 14 in triple jump from 2012 runner-up Koch and Marcus Jegede, also a top-nine seed in long jump; and 13 points in pole vault, where both Tim Ehrhardt and Derrick Smith look to improve upon last year's respective fifth- and seventh-place finishes.
Amazingly, given its history, Lake Park does not have a top-nine sectional finish in either shot put or discus. This mainly means the Lancers are sleepers. Throws coach Bob Nihells has his four qualifiers on an upward trajectory.
In 2012 Per Johnson was relatively unheralded in discus, reaching qualifying distance only late in the season; in Charleston he provided 3 important points and returns this weekend. This year's version could be shot putter Ian Smith, a football lineman who's started to zone in with a 4-foot personal-best at Glenbard North.
Lake Park's 2012 title was greatly enhanced by all-state performances in 400- and 3,200-meter relays. Without scoring in those events the Lancers' 42 points would have tied Edwardsville.
Failing to qualify its 3,200 relay could be troublesome, and the 400 relay is in the bottom half of sectional qualifiers. Unless Lake Park gets faster the Lancers may need to rely on either workhorse Filip in the 100 or in hurdler Antonio Shenault. The super sophomore is seeded third in the 110 hurdles with a slower time than he's run before and ran a personal-best 300 hurdles time of 39.49 that ranked 10th among 3A qualifiers.
Based on sectional performances, Minooka, Providence Catholic, Edwardsville and Wheaton North -- with 800 runner Alex Ryan, a confident Paul Steeno, speed merchants Patrick Sharp, Marcus Charles, Matt Biegalski and one of the top individual athletes who'll run in Charleston, Zach Gordon -- seem equipped to challenge Lake Park.
In Class 2A two-time defending champ Cahokia is the overwhelming favorite. If the state seeds were to stand pat the white-and-blue Comanches would score an astronomical 128 points, shattering their own state record of 941⁄3 points when winning the 2006 Class AA title.
Locally the 2A eggs are all in the baskets of Benet, Glenbard South and Wheaton Academy's Matt Ruff in the 400.
Local 2A stories include the distance double of Benet's Anton Vershay, Stephen Hubona's pursuit of a 180-foot discus throw, Austin Dzic's two hurdles races and pole vaulter Andrew Acuff. Glenbard South's John Wold -- who went 1-2 with Benet's Bobby Svoboda at the 2A Fenwick sectional in the 800 -- looked as if he'd never been injured while qualifying in the 800 and 1,600. Glenbard South athletes like Jeremiah Ratliff, Erik Greenwell and Jarius Shannon look to graduate after all-state finishes.
Hurdlers Nick Rizzotti of Lisle and returning qualifier Jake Hooker of Timothy Christian, IC Catholic's Tim Hipskind in the 400 and relays by IC Catholic and Lisle -- the latter including pole vault qualifier Ryan Kilroy -- headline the local Class 1A effort.