Boys track and field: Antioch captures first county meet title
Running the fastest 400-meter time of his life was something Grayslake Central's AJ Lehman never expected Thursday night.
Not considering nearly two years ago to the date, the senior suffered an injury that resulted in him spending six weeks on crutches and doing lots of physical therapy. He suffered an avulsion fraction in his right hip as soon as he burst off the blocks for his 100-meter run in the 2017 Northern Lake County Conference meet.
"It was just tight muscles," said Lehman, who finished the race. "I wasn't really prepared to run. Right off the blocks, I just felt it. Ever since then, I didn't think I could get my speed back. But here I am."
On a cold and damp night at Grayslake Central, Lehman was swarmed by teammates after winning the 400 in the Lake County meet. His wide smile said plenty.
"I did not expect to get this good this year," Lehman said after running a personal-best 50.89.
Winning the county meet was something Antioch never expected.
Not considering the Sequoits had never accomplished the feat and were the second-smallest school in the meet. But led by triple-winner Zach Grindley, Antioch totaled 124 points to comfortably outdistance runner-up Barrington (81). Grayslake Central (71), Stevenson (67) and Deerfield (65) rounded out the top five in the 18-team field.
"It couldn't happen to a greater group of guys," Sequoits coach Chris Bailey said. "Great kids, athletes. They deserved it."
Grindley won the triple jump (42-9), high jump (6-1) and long jump (20-6). The senior, who played baseball as a freshman and sophomore, will compete track and field next year for Division-III powerhouse UW-La Crosse. He went to state last year in the long jump and holds the school record in the event.
"He's just figuring it out," Bailey. "He just continues to get better."
Minnesota football commit Athan Kaliakmanis gave Antioch another champion. The sophomore won the 110 hurdles (season-best 15.68), nipping Grayslake Central's Matthew Thiel (15.73). Charlie Smith of Antioch finished second in the 3,200 (9:20.83) behind Lake Forest's Ben Rosa (9:16.41).
Barrington got a runner-up finish from its 800 relay (1:32.18).
"We were OK," Broncos coach Todd Kuklinski said. "We've had a pretty good run lately of doing some pretty special things, and I think maybe sometimes our heads get a little too big or we plateau a little bit. Today was kind of an eye-opener."
The good news for Barrington was freshman Gavin Sarkar "stepped up and solidified his spot" in the varsity lineup, Kuklinski said. Sarkar took fourth in the 800 (2:00.19), which Mundelein's Michael Parduhn won in 1:56.20, while Lakes' Talom Knauf (1:58.86) and Jack Erwin (1:59.69) were second and third. Sarkar also ran well on the Broncos' 1,600 relay (third, 3:30.56).
Also for Barrington, EJ Darlington returned after missing the last six weeks with a hamstring injury.
"It's good to get him back," Kuklinski said. "That's key."
Stevenson got a big night from sprinters David Smolensky and Jaheel Perrin. The sophomore Smolensky (22.52) and the junior Perrin (22.57) finished 1-2 in the 200, while Perrin (11.16) edged runner-up Smolensky (11.24) in the 100. Smolensky anchored both the winning 800 relay (1:31.46) and 400 relay (43.43). The 400 also featured Jordan Vincent, Perrin and junior Shane Johnson, who's just coming back from a hamstring injury. The 800 also included Vincent, Perrin and freshman Jimmy Davis.
"It's a love-hate competition," a smiling Smolensky said of his track duals with Perrin. "We're teammates, we love each other, but on the track, it's just go. Whoever wins, wins. I enjoy it."
Grant (eighth, 42 points) won the 1,600 relay in a sizzling 3:22.94 with Michael Smith, Alex Alva, Bobby Cayet and Jason Thormo. Thormo, the defending state champ in the 400, competed only the 1,600 relay as he prepares for the state series. Cayet also won the 300 hurdles (41.23), just ahead of Lake Zurich's Marek Enters (41.86).
Deerfield's Sam Liokumovich set the county record in the shot put (64-1) and also won the discus (171-9). In the 1,600 run, Grayslake North's Connor Riss (4:23.39) edged Grant's Justin Splitt (4:23.41). Warren captured the 3,200 relay (8:05.54) with Hunter Subry, Jason Langevin, Cyrus Braza and Bryan Holland.
Lehman's win in the 400 came after he was seeded third.
"I've never run faster than the guys that were seeded 1 and 2, so I was worried," Lehman said. "But off the blocks I felt really good. At the 200 mark, I was like, 'I still have a lot of energy.' "