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updated: 5/7/2014 12:30 AM

Naperville Central sisters running track in triplicate

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Twins competing on the same athletic team come along every so often. Triplets are hard to find.

Naperville Central juniors Katie, Nikki and Rachel Hoffman can rack up the points from 800 meters on up.

"They're 3,200, 1,600 and 800 runners, that's really what they are, and we try to cover those events as best we can, along with the 3,200 relay," said Redhawks coach Mike Stine.

For example, at the DuPage Valley Conference indoor championship, Katie Hoffman started the parade with a win in the 3,200. Rachel won the 800 with Nikki in second. Down the stretch it was Rachel and Katie, 1-2 in the 1,600.

"They had a phenomenal indoor conference meet," Stine said. "We're not running them all in the same things this Thursday, but we're hoping they'll have the same kind of success come Thursday night (at the DVC outdoor meet at West Aurora)."

This will be Katie's first time running in an outdoor meet this season; Stine said she's been "a little banged up." She'll work her way back in the 3,200 relay. Rachel Hoffman will run both the 800 and 1,600; Nikki's in the 800 and possibly the 1,600 relay, said Naperville Central distance coach Matt Blondell.

Blondell, who also assists girls cross country coach Aislinn Hicks, said each of the Hoffman triplets has a unique personality.

He called Katie "the quiet one," determined -- and the first of the sisters to earn a medal in cross country, the 12th overall finisher last fall.

Rachel, more the middle-distance runner than her sisters, is an outgoing girl who will enjoy a lengthy conversation. Nikki, Blondell said, is very "laid-back" though her toughness has been tested by injury.

"She's definitely a go-with-the-flow kind of person," Blondell said. "You tell her to jump and she'll say how high."

Blondell has heard talk of the triplets getting on each other's nerves, but he doesn't see it.

"Their heads are in the game and they're here to do hard work," he said.

Up and comers:

Like four other teams competing at Waubonsie Valley's Red Ribbon boys meet May 3, Neuqua Valley had prom. The Wildcats were without 17 athletes plus ace 400-meter runner Zac Espinosa, out for another commitment.

"Basically, we were hit hard," coach Mike Kennedy said.

However, it allowed younger athletes to run varsity. Kennedy and his staff challenged several by entering them in varsity relays with the goal of setting program frosh-soph records. It worked twice.

The 800-meter relay of Gianni Anaya, Maurice Mitchell, Isaiah Robinson and Dan Gaynes (already a varsity jumper) set Neuqua's frosh-soph record in that event. So did Michael Duy, Kevin Sager, Robinson and Gaynes in the 1,600 relay.

Add to that twin sophomores Thomas and Anthony Cwiok advancing to the discus finals. Thomas finished third overall and his brother placed eighth.

"Nice to get two sophomores into the finals," said Neuqua throws coach Dave Ricca.

Quite a leap:

Benet senior Porter Ontko, headed to Dartmouth to play football, went out for track for the first time this season. His sister, Kelsey, earned four all-state honors spanning 2007-08.

A sprinter and horizontal jumper, Porter Ontko has a couple 20-foot long jumps to his credit in practice and an official distance of 18 feet, 6 inches. He ran the 100 in 11.2 seconds and the 200 in 23.3 in a meet at Marist.

He would have run the 100 at Hinsdale South's Mike Yavorski Invite May 2 had he not suffered a slight injury to his hamstring in long jump, Benet coach David Stone said. With that his day was done, as Stone wants Ontko ready for the East Suburban Catholic Conference meet.

"The last thing we want him to do was tweak it in the long jump and hop into the 100 and pull it," Stone said.

One of a kind:

Too grounded to be called eccentric yet whimsical enough to keep things light, Lisle's Ken Jakalski will blare polka music out the back of his vehicle during his annual "Polka Day" track workout, and spring out of tall brush wearing a bird costume to prank his cross country runners.

Simultaneously, the Lions track coach remains on the cusp of research regarding track and field biomechanics and technology. Timing methods, running surfaces, training aids, physiology -- Jakalski's either studied it or brought it back to Lisle.

This unique personality gained entrance into the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2005. He'll add another honor June 17 with his induction into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame at the organization's convention in Jackson Hole, Wy.

Among 28 coaches from 19 states to go in this year, since 1996 the NHSACA has inducted coaches based on service to high school athletics, honors and longevity. Jakalski, a 39-year coach at Lisle and Aurora Central Catholic, will join local legends Joe Newton, Peg Kopec and Carlin Nalley and other big-name Illinoisans such as Ron Helberg, Frank Lenti, Dick Van Scyoc, Chuck Rolinski and Phil Salzer.

Jakalski called it "truly a wonderful honor." In relation to the coaches he'll join, he provided a spin only Jakalski could.

"It's kind of like the time the beagle won the National Kennel Club," he said.

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