The Harper College men's track and field team begins their 2014 season on Saturday with an indoor meet at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. The Hawks took second place at the 2013 national meet and will look to capture their sixth national title in the past eight seasons under head coach Renee Zellner.
A small but talented group of sophomores returns this season. They include Max Anderson (/Cary Grove), Daniel Lim (Schaumburg, Ill./Streamwood), Tom Rohn (/Cary), Nick Modlin (Wheeling, Ill./Wheeling), Vince Greco (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Elk Grove) and Jhoan Lino (León, Guanajuato/Streamwood).
The distance and middle distance group for the Hawks figures to be extremely competitive this season, with several members of Harper's 2013 cross country national championship squad represented. The longer distance races will be covered by cross country All-Americans Brennan Albuck (/Hoffman Estates) and Juan Barajas (Hoffman Estates, Ill./Schaumburg), Modlin, Sebastian Ramirez (Lima, Peru/Palatine) and Connor Williams (/Wauconda). Middle distance races will be covered by cross country All-Americans Lino and Zach Stella (Palatine, Ill./Palatine) in addition to John Majerus (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Elk Grove), Junius Matlock, Andrew Guibord (Crystal Lake, Ill./Prairie Ridge) and Rafael Quintana (/Larkin).
Modlin, who will compete in the 5,000m and 10,000m races and may even add the 3,000m steeplechase to his repertoire, is eager to start the season.
"There is some unique thrill I get when doing 12 or 20 laps at sunset with hundreds of competitors all residing within a short distance," Modlin said. "On the distance side of the equation, we are absolutely a stronger team than we were last year."
Key pieces to the sprint team will be Anderson and Rohn, who were both successful at nationals last year. Anderson was a member of the title-winning 3200m relay team while he and Rohn were on a third place 400m relay team and sixth place 1600m relay team at 2013 nationals. New to the sprint team this season will be Tyren Petty (/Orr Academy), Ernest Downing, Alex Brown (/Rolling Meadows), John Walker, AJ Mcghee and Matt Lisowski (/Rolling Meadows).
In the hurdles, Lim will be working on improving his times in the 110m and 400m hurdles. Lim took seventh place in the 110m hurdles at last year's national meet. Downing will also add depth as a hurdler in the 400m hurdles.
Looking at the field events, Alex Mallek (/Barrington) will cover long jump and triple jump. In hope to continue the 15-year winning tradition for the throwers, Coach Zellner will be looking to freshman Brad Walls, who shows promise in all four throwing events. Harper basketball players Charles Wright (Cheyenne, Wyo./Cheyenne East) and Will Botefuhr (Arlington Heights, Ill./Prospect) will also be counted on to score big points in the throws.
"This is a very talented team despite the loss, through graduation, of some key national champions and point getters," Zellner said. "They have the potential to win the national championship this year but will have to rely on more depth in key events."
New to the coaching ranks this year is assistant coach Larry Cochrane, who replaces assistant Dale Ankele. He will work with the 100m and 200m sprinters as well as overseeing the weight training program and assisting in jumps, hurdles and the 400m. Cochrane was a standout hurdler who competed for Chicago State University.
Three-time cross country Coach of the Year Jim Macnider continues as the distance coach as well as assisting in other events. Distance coach Eric Wallor will also be working with the distance group.
The Hawks will compete in two more February indoor meets, the Chicagoland Indoor Championships hosted by North Central College (Feb. 15) and the North Central Cardinal Classic (Feb. 21).
The schedule for March features Carthage College (March 7), and the outdoor season begins with Augustana College (March 22) and the College of DuPage Invite (March 29).
In April, Harper competes at Wheaton College (April 5), the Chicagoland Outdoor Championships hosted by Lewis University (April 10-12), Concordia University Invite (April 17), Jesse Owens Classic (April 18-19-coaches select) and the Illinois Benedictine Twilight (April 25).
The final tune-up before nationals is a May 3 meet at Carroll University. The NJCAA Division III National Championship will be hosted by Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica, N.Y. May 8-10.