Representing a boys track and field team that hasn't been flush with state qualifiers, Addison Trail's Juan Valdez seeks to become the Blazers' rare repeat state qualifier.
The senior middle-distance runner hopes to return in the 800-meter run. Last season he was pulled by a strong group at the Glenbard North sectional, securing the downstate bid with a sixth-place finish in a time of 1 minute, 56.87 seconds.
Friday at Glenbard South's Raider Invitational Valdez stayed on his pace with a third-place finish at 2:02.66 seconds, holding second until a late push by Willowbrook's Jimmy Funteas Jr.
"It gets me a little sad," he said, "but you know what, I've just got to pick myself up and say, 'I've got to beat him next time.'"
Checking Valdez's times this outdoor season, Addison Trail coach Bruce Kelsay noted the senior has cut about three seconds off his 800 times each meet, "so hopefully the trend will continue for the next three weeks," Kelsay said.
Valdez, who looks to run in college, said he will work on his closing speed on the torturous 200-meter incline Addison Trail runners use for training. He is optimistic another trip to Charleston lies on the other side.
"Last (year) I got a 1:58 at Conant, which was two or three weeks before state," he said. "And this year now I'm five weeks before state, so I'm getting there, getting really close."
Leaps and bounds:
Entering his senior season, West Chicago pole vaulter Nate Wesolek topped out at 12 feet, 9 inches. He's now looking good for a trip to Charleston.
Wesolek, who also runs hurdles, cleared 13 feet a couple times indoors, but on April 19 at Geneva's Mike Vandeveer Invitational he reached 14-6 to join a batch of vaulters aiming to stay in the same atmosphere as Plainfield Central 17-foot vaulter Luke Winder. Friday at Glenbard South Wesolek won the event at 13-9.
"I just couldn't get past 13 and all of a sudden I sprouted, I guess," said Wesolek, headed to vault at Grand Valley State.
He and Wildcats teammate James Kubik, who has downstate goals himself at better than 13 feet, use that friendly competition and coaching to maximize their efforts.
"I'm just working hard in practice, I guess," he said. "My coach, Mike Savegnago, helped out a lot, helped me get to the next level."
Don't look now, but Wheaton Academy has its fastest pure sprinter since Stephen Poppe finished fifth in the Class A 100-meter dash and third in the 200 last decade.
Another in the long line of soccer players who excel in track once they try it, sophomore Ty Seager decided to give club soccer a break this spring. He's passing track with flying colors.
With good track mentors in seniors David Leffler and Matt Ruff, the latter an outstanding 400-200 runner, Seager made the 100-meter finals at Saturday's Peterson Prep Invite at Kaneland, placing fifth at 11.67 seconds. He's run faster in the event this season, 11.2 on a stopwatch. Seager was just off the 200 finals at Kaneland, running a preliminary time of 23.39 seconds.
Wheaton Academy has been better known as a distance program, but at the 2004 state meet Poppe went 11:09 in the 100, 22.45 in the 200.