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updated: 3/27/2014 4:09 PM

Scouting DuPage County boys track

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  • JOE LEWNARD/jlewnard@dailyherald.comNaperville Central's Sam Bransby, right, crosses the finish line as he runs alongside Plainfield East's Kenny Lewis in the Class 3A 400-meter dash during the boys state track preliminaries.

    JOE LEWNARD/jlewnard@dailyherald.comNaperville Central's Sam Bransby, right, crosses the finish line as he runs alongside Plainfield East's Kenny Lewis in the Class 3A 400-meter dash during the boys state track preliminaries.

By David Oberhelman

Top local teams: Downers Grove North, Glenbard South, Hinsdale Central, Lake Park, Naperville Central, Neuqua Valley, Waubonsie Valley, Wheaton North, Wheaton Warrenville South, York.

Top athletes: Addison Trail: Darrion Conrad, fr., Juan Valdez, sr. Benet: Stephen Hubona, sr. Downers North: Ryan Clevenger, jr., Zach Smith, sr., Tony Zea, sr. Downers South: Jacob Amiri, sr., Dave Fish sr., Ross Netzel, sr. Fenton: Cosme Bailon, sr., Cristian Silva, sr. Glenbard East: Vince Booth, sr., Jack Peters, sr. Glenbard North: Cyris Parker, sr. Glenbard South: Brandon Blankenship, sr., Jack Curtis, jr., Joe Singleton, sr., John Wold, sr. Glenbard West: Paul Selman, sr., Connor Schrauth, sr. Hinsdale Central: Kevin Huang, sr., Billy Magnesen, sr., Nkenjika Nwosu, sr. Hinsdale South: Marcus Melancon, sr., Antonas Riskus, sr. IC Catholic: Jordan Rowell, fr. Lake Park: Curtwan Evans, sr., Marcus Jegede, sr., Jeremy Lozano, sr., Mike Prestigiacomo, jr., Antonio Shenault, jr. Lisle: Jeff Chan, sr., Aaron Harris, so. Metea Valley: Brett Boddy, jr. Montini: Michael Hollingshed, jr., Jack Brady, sr. Naperville Central: Ben Andreas, sr., Sam Bransby, sr., Michael Jopes, sr., Christian Shafer, sr., Daniel Spaccapaniccia, sr. Naperville North: Ryan Hanselman, sr., Tim Heinz, sr. Neuqua Valley: Nick Bushelle, sr., Zac Espinosa, jr., Ty Moss, jr., Austin Parks, sr., Adam Peterson, sr. St. Francis: Tom Gitchell, sr., Adam Izewski, jr. Timothy Christian: Andy Margason, so. Waubonsie Valley: Tony Durns, jr., Jon Harris, sr., Tyler Kirkwood, so., James Travis, sr. West Chicago: Nate Wesolek, sr. Wheaton Academy: Matt Ruff, sr., Noah Van Dyke, jr. Wheaton North: Michael Bloss, jr., Steven Connor, jr., Matt Contreras, jr., Joseph Emmanuel, sr., Chico Jackson, so. WW South: Jon Callaway, sr., Carson Discher, sr., Nolan McKenna, sr., Luke Schroer, sr. Willowbrook: Jake Bloemke, sr., Matt Burns, sr., Dylan Jones, sr. York: Alex Bashqawi, sr., Jarvis Hill, sr., Nathan Mroz, sr., Matt Plowman, jr., Reid Smith, sr.

Outlook: It was accepted that when Lake Park left the Upstate Eight Conference the Lancers would remain strong in at least one DuPage Valley Conference sport.

Boys track and field.

Lake Park is on a roll to rival any in state history. Coach Jay Ivory, his college of assistants and squads of superstars and program guys alike have won four consecutive Class 3A titles.

Regardless of class, that joins only boys programs Bloom (1956-59), East St. Louis (1975-78), East St. Louis-Lincoln (1981-84) and Thornwood (2001-04).

No team has won five straight, which is Lake Park's obvious goal come May 31 in Charleston.

"We have said it and the kids have said it," Ivory said. "It will need to be a team effort again as we try to put points together across the events, and I think we are capable of doing that."

Lake Park's five-time all-state sprinter and jumper Marcus Jegede concurs.

"I mean, we have weapons all over the track now," the Louisville recruit said during Lake Park's victorious debut, by 59 points, at the DVC indoor meet March 21.

"We have Antonio Shenault" -- third in the 3A 110-meter hurdles in 2013, fourth in the 300s -- "going to kill it in the hurdles, hopefully. We might bring a 4-by-1 together, long and triple -- I mean, I can get down hopefully. We have throwers off the wall, so many throwers. We have a really well-divided program. Our distance crew ... we're going to be set, I think," Jegede said.

Swapping spots with West Chicago in the Upstate Eight Valley Division issues a huge challenge to Wheaton North and Wheaton Warrenville South in the DVC. The two programs, led by brothers Don Helberg at North and Ken at South, have combined to win the last 23 outdoor conference titles.

"Bringing Lake Park in, it's somebody to go chase. I think that's how you do get better," said Ken Helberg, whose 1-2 distance punch of Nolan McKenna (fifth in the country in the indoor 3,200, according to Dyestat) and Luke Schroer and improved sprints aim to join Lake Park, Wheaton North, Naperville Central and Naperville North in search of a top-half DVC finish.

On the other side of this trade, West Chicago coach Paul McLeland sees improved prospects in the Upstate Eight rather than "sometimes needing a step ladder to see seventh (place)," he said. Conference realignment doesn't please everyone.

"When we had our vote I voted not to leave the DVC, to be honest with you. I've always liked these people that (I) work with, it's a class league," said Glenbard East coach Jack Brady, retiring after this, his 30th season. He will attempt to help 800-meter runner Jack Peters improve on his sixth-place Class 3A finish before the Rams and West Aurora head to the Upstate Eight next fall.

Lake Park did not always win conference or sectional titles during its current reign. Still, it leaves a void at the top of the Valley that quickly will be filled by usual suspects Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley, which finished 1-2 in the indoor meet, and Batavia out of the River Division. That is, until 2015-16 when Waubonsie, Neuqua and Metea Valley join the DVC.

"I think it's a wide-open race," said Metea Valley coach Aaron Lewis, maintaining a strength in distance.

Waubonsie has stars on the track in hurdler Tristan Sutton and sprinter Tony Durns, and in the field with thrower Jon Harris and jumper James Travis. Neuqua's Ty Moss ran the indoor 800 in a school-record 1:55.93; Moss, pole vaulter Adam Peterson and distance runner Nick Bushelle head a relay-heavy cast that could vie for its first top-10 Class 3A finish since 2010.

"We're still waiting to see outdoors, but I think we have some big pieces in place," said Neuqua coach Mike Kennedy.

Nowhere is change more dramatic than in the Suburban Christian and Metro Suburban conferences. The last season as both know it, area SCC teams Wheaton Academy and IC Catholic Prep join Glenbard South, Fenton and Timothy Christian next fall -- leaving track and other programs at St. Francis and Montini somewhat in limbo.

At St. Francis, the new track Kuhn Memorial Stadium track has helped increase numbers to 47 athletes from last year's 28, according to Spartans coach Scott Nelson. (Most programs have seen gains this spring.) St. Francis will host its first home meet in history, a coed meet, April 21, at the new facility.

"It's a 180-degree turn," Nelson said of his 400-meter track with pits and accessories. "I don't have to build hurdles out of wood and stuff. For 26 years I did that."

Wheaton Academy also just announced it'll add an Olympic-style track to plans for the football/soccer field it'll debut next fall. That will help downstate candidate Noah Van Dyke as a senior, but not Warriors senior Class 2A 400 qualifier Matt Ruff.

Some things are static. Lisle is still in the Interstate Eight, where sprinter Aaron Harris hopes to lift the Lions higher than last year's ninth place. Benet is entrenched in the East Suburban Catholic Conference; the Redwings graduated a ton from last year's ESCC champion.

Unfortunately, the prospect of injury doesn't change.

Glenbard South seeks its third Metro Suburban title in four seasons. Though Fenton took the distance relays the Raiders won the indoor Metro meet handily without seniors John Wold or Joe Singleton, a former stress fracture victim. Wold's recovery from puzzling leg problems earned the Class 2A 800 title in 2013 and sixth place in the 1,600, then he won 2A cross country. Coach Ronn Claussen held the seniors out at the Metro indoor but both are ready, he said.

Neuqua Valley's Connor Horn, last spring's freshman phenom, is finally returning from a stress fracture last season. The defending Class 3A 400 champion and runner-up -- Willowbrook's Matt Burns and Naperville Central's Sam Bransby, respectively -- pulled hamstrings in February.

Willowbrook coach T.J. Artman said Burns is itching to get back, and at the DVC indoor meet Bransby felt nearly there.

"It's been just over a month, but it seems to be doing good," said Bransby, a Nebraska recruit.

Even without Burns and any pole vault capability, Willowbrook placed second to Downers Grove South in the West Suburban Gold indoor meet, ahead of preseason favorite Morton. Downers South's six straight outdoor Gold titles is at stake.

Though Glenbard West's Paul Selman returns the county's fastest 100-meter time, in the West Suburban Silver distance is king. Only third-place O'Fallon disrupted last fall's Class 3A cross country parade of champion Hinsdale Central, Downers North, Lyons Twp., and York.

Downers North is set from 800 meters on up. Hinsdale Central has distance and 46-foot triple jumper Nkenjika Nwosu.

York? Maybe a couple holes but overall the Dukes may again qualify a bunch of athletes downstate. Now, as coach Stan Reddel said, "we need kids to be in the top three."

He hopes to go out with a bang, retiring after 14 years heading the legendary Dukes and 22 years overall as a head coach.

"It feels OK," he said. "It has to happen sometime, and I want to be able to go out on my terms."

Things change. Except at Fenton, where perky John Kurtz enters his 46th year as Bison coach.

"It's good to be here, it's great to coach the guys, and I want everyone to have a good time and a good distance," said Kurtz, who could be speaking for all 28 area teams.

Top meets: Wheaton North Best Four, April 12; Gus Scott, Naperville North, April 17; Bud Mohns, Downers Grove South, April 19; John Bell, West Aurora, April 19; Metea Valley Invite, April 19; Bob Cohoon, Downers South, April 25; Raider Invite, Glenbard South, April 25; Red Grange, WW South, April 25; Mike Yavorski, Hinsdale South; May 2; Jim Arnold, Glenbard West, May 3; Red Ribbon, Waubonsie Valley, May 3; DuPage County Meet, Naperville Central, May 9; McCarthy Invite, Hinsdale Central, May 9; Lisle's Carlin Nalley, Bolingbrook, May 10.

-- Dave Oberhelman

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