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updated: 3/21/2014 9:35 PM

Harper aims for national title

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By Jonathan Cregier

The Harper men's track and field team is looking to continue its recent string of successes this spring.

The Hawks have brought back five NJCAA Division III national championships to Palatine in the last seven years, and they finished second last season.

The goal this season is simple: to make it six titles in eight years.

It won't be easy, since two key figures from last season won't be around to help out. Andre Barnes and national champion jumper Isaac Jean-Paul signed with Lewis University.

"Those were heavy losses," said Harper coach Renee Zellner.

The Hawks do, however, return several key members of last year's squad. Sprinters Max Anderson and Tom Roan made nationals last season, and Brennan Albuck (Hoffman Estates) was an All-American.

Dan Lim will be doing double-duty in the hurdling events, competing in the 110- and 400-meter hurdles. Lim will be joined in the 400 by transfer Ernest Downing, who will also contriubte in the 800 meters and relays.

A member of the 2013 NJCAA Division III cross country team, Nick Modlin (Wheeling), will look to keep pace with the rest of the field in the distance races.

"Modlin is looking great," Zellner said of the sophomore.

Joining him from the cross country team are Zach Stella (Palatine) and Juan Barajas (Schaumburg).

"When you're talented, you bring great things (to a team)." Zellner said. "They're going to score points."

Every good team needs a veteran middle distance runner to score valuable points. Jhoan Lino (Streamwood) will fill that role for the Hawks. Sebastian Ramirez (Palatine) will look to make a contribution as well.

The Hawks will rely on depth in the 3200 and 1600 relays. This is an area that Zellner thinks will be "strong."

The hallmark of a Zellner-coached team is a solid group of throwers. Two who may be more used to stepping to the free throw line than into the throwing ring are two-sport athletes Charles Wright and 6-foot-9 Will Botefuhr (Prospect). Track will be the third sport at Harper for Wright; the Wyoming native already played two seasons for the basketball and football teams.

The Hawks also have some young talent they hope to see blossom. No thrower will get more work than Brad Walls (Palatine), who will compete in all four throwing events.

"He has some length and good foot work," Zellner said. "Gosh, he works hard."

No portion of Harper's roster may have more youth than the sprinters, who feature five fresh faces in Tyren Petty, Ernest Dowling, Alex Brown (Rolling Meadows) and John Walker.

• The Harper women's track and field team has high expectations despite the loss of Jordan Wagner to graduation. Wagner is currently competing at Judson University. The Hawks believe they have the talent in place to finish top-five at nationals.

This year's team will lean on six freshmen, including Lori Delfin (Wheeling) and Mary Piltaver (Conant). Zellner will be looking for Taylor LoCoco to score points. Titi Robinson and Amanda Hagen (Hoffman Estates) will be busy in the throwing ring, and Anna Lanier will also throw the javelin.

Elk Grove alum Gabby Beaupre and Barrington grad Kaila Privatsky lead the middle-distance corps. They are joined by sophomore Gabrielle Brosnan (Christian Liberty), who will also contribute in the sprints.

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