Boys track and field: Scouting Fox Valley area sectionals
The numbers show that when the calendar hits May, the Burlington Central boys track and field team shines.
Longtime coach Mike Schmidt's Rockets are living up to that billing, fresh off winning their ninth conference title in a row last week.
Now, the Rockets turn their attention to the high stakes game that is Thursday's Class 2A Sterling sectional. The goal for Central is simple: Qualify as many athletes as possible for the state meet and make another run at a high team finish in Charleston next weekend for what is considered the gold standard of northern Fox Valley-area boys track and field programs.
Last week's conference title ensured Central has won either a conference or sectional team championship in each of the last 20 years.
"Our expectations are high for this group," said Schmidt.
Schmidt would like to see three and possibly four relays get the state call, along with Adam Kries in the 800, Connor Wagner in both hurdles events, Gio Martinez in the 3,200 and Jake Borman in the shot and discus. Anthony Farmer is returning from injury and is hoping for a run in the 1,600. Schmidt labels this grouping as Central's best bets to not only get to Charleston, but also potentially medal.
The Central 1,600 relay team of Wagner, Zac Schmidt, Tommy Zettl and Kries has run 3:26.27, one of the top times in Class 2A. The 3,200 relay team of Zettl, Logan Andersen, Farmer and Kries also has excelled.
Aurora Central Catholic joins Central in Sterling. Coach Troy Kerber, who was without several key athletes at the conference meet, sees junior Brice Krpan (conference champion in discus), sophomore Rhone Ritchie (1,600) and sophomore Patrick Englehardt (110 hurdles) as the team's best shots for Charleston berths.
"Sterling is most likely the strongest sectional in the state for 2A top to bottom," Kerber declared.
On the Class 1A front, Aurora Christian heads to Seneca Friday for sectional action, while Elgin Academy, Harvest Christian Academy and St. Edward head to Lena-Winslow Thursday.
St. Edward, under the direction of coach Mike Olenek, has a young team this season, but one key bright spot has been senior Zach Olenek, who won the long jump (21-11 1/4) at conference, took third in the 100, third in the 200 and took second in the triple jump, which has an interesting story behind it.
"That was his very first time ever trying the event," said Mike Olenek, his father. "We had never even practiced once other than studying some videos the day of the meet. He broke our school record and jumped 43-feet."
Olenek broke the long-jump school record earlier in the season at 21-11 3/4. He ended up all-conference in four events with no track or jumping pit to practice on.
Olenek faces a dilemma of having St. Edward graduation the same night as the sectional. He's the St. Edward valedictorian. Mike Olenek aid earlier this week he will only enter him in the earlier jumping events and then they will head back to school for graduation. "He wants to get back for graduation," Mike Olenek said. "He had run the qualifying times earlier this year in the 100 and 200 and I was hoping with all his hard work he was going to go to state in four events, but he also worked very hard over the past four years to be valedictorian and he needs to be there as well."
Harvest Christian won the Northern Athletic Conference title recently and coach Steve Bland is still maneuvering the puzzle pieces to maximize potential state qualifications.
"We have several potential scenarios," he said earlier this week. "Our best podium shots are the 4-by-800, 4-by-200, 4-by-400 and the 1,600."
Five athletes, Bland explained, will comprise those events: senior Victor Croitoru, junior Erik Richter and junior Sam Morris in all the relays, sophomore Nathan Cojocarescu in the 800 and 1,600 and sophomore Mathew Olech in the 3,200 relay and 1,600 run.
Bland also pointed out Olech recently clocked a 9:51 in the 3,200, which would make him a 1A podium contender if he ends up running that event.
"We should have a pretty exciting sectional meet, then possibly an exciting state finals," he added.
The rest of the Fox Valley-area teams are sprinkled between two Class 3A sectionals with the majority of teams headed to St. Charles North Thursday for that confab.
Marmion coach Dan Thorpe's squad was fifth at the tough Chicago Catholic meet, missing fourth by a half-point. Look for conference-champion Andrew Saloga (the indoor state pole vault champion as well) to have continued success in that event, while Thorpe has high hopes for the 3,200 relay team, which at conference consisted of Keegan Bennett, Jake Coffman, Keoni English and Trevis Clementi.
"The 4-by-800 ran great at Kane County, but what will teams do this meet and will we be able to repeat an 8:04 with (Anthony) Zangler in place of Clementi?" Thorpe asked.
Discus standout Marshal Foerner was second in the Chicago Catholic League and second at Kane County, but Thorpe is well aware undefeated Cary-Grove disc chucker Jason Petko looms in this sectional.
"With Cary Grove in our sectional and a 180 (foot) kid, Marshal has to have a great day," Thorpe said.
Batavia assistant coach McKenna Kelsay feels the Bulldogs' best shots are in the 3,200 and 1,600 relays. Batavia's 1,600 relay won the conference title, running a 3:23.93 personal record. Kelsay also is high on Trevor Rousana in the 400, Adam Kennedy in the 800, Chris Levario in the 1,600, Nick Zagorski in the 300 hurdles, Danny Wells in the high jump and Matt Dauksha in the pole vault.
"We had a great conference meet with a bunch of standout performances," she said. "We are looking forward to our sectional meet and hope we can get as many guys to state as we can."
Dundee-Crown coach Matt D'Angelo says his team could be in a feast or famine situation at North. "I think it will be the kind of night where we could get a lot down or we could get no one down," he said. "Our sectional is just that competitive. Our sprint relays are a veteran group with most running together for three years. We have run some great times this year, but this group is not satisfied with anything we have done and they are hungry for more."
D'Angelo likes his 400 relay of Jason Miller, Alex Miller, Meante Foster and Dylan Becker, along with the 800 team of Becker, Trevor Fed and the Millers, as well as Jack Michalski in the high jump, Fed in the long jump. Adam Swanson in the 800 and Jason Miller in the 200. The 800 relay team set the Fox Valley Conference record last week, while Jason Miller and Fed also won conference titles. Michalski was all-conference in three events, while the 400 relay set a school record.
As noted above, Cary-Grove's Petko remains unbeaten in the discus this season, while teammate AJ Lewis ran under the state-qualifying time in the 300 hurdles (39.16) at the FVC meet. Eamon Gleason improved his triple jump to 41-10 for the Trojans. Petko and Lewis both have met or beat state-qualifying marks and both are seeded first in the sectional in their respective events.
Streamwood's Elijah Beach won the Upstate Eight title in the shot put with a personal-best throw of 50-1. "We expect him to be in the mix with a chance to make it down," said Sabres coach Dylan Lau.
Elgin coach Anthony Mason likes the chances of Alex West in the 400, and Darien Jackson and Noah Mack in the long jump. "Alex has a great chance," he said. "He competed well with a state qualifier in conference and has enough competitor spirit to pull of an amazing performance in sectionals. Darien and Noah have been growing all year and are starting to develop more of a technique instead of depending solely on athleticism. If they have a good day, they can scrap the state mark of 22-1 and have a shot at qualifying."
Larkin's Jahari Stubbs will be a contender in both hurdles races, while the Royals' 1,600 relay now has four healthy members in Jamarion Stubbs, Carlos Miranda, Oliver Wah and Jahari Stubbs. Isai Rios has gone as long as 50-5 1/2 in the shot.
Geneva coach Gale Gross sees several of his athletes on the qualifying bubble, including jumper Lawi Djuma. "Lawi in both horizontals can qualify with a moderate PR," he said.
Gross noted Frank Martin and Jacob Uhlmann both have thrown qualifying marks in the shot put and Uhlmann is close in the discus. Onyi Ukaobasi has run qualifying time in the 300s and is nearing it in the 110 hurdles. Ryan Kredell has gone under the state mark in the 3,200, while Ben Calusinski is 1 second off in the same event.
Andrew Olenek is Geneva's only returning state qualifier. "Andrew has been running well in the 100 and with a good day has a good chance of repeating," said Gross.
Kaneland defended its conference title by 59 points. Max Gagne won the 100 and 200, while Austin Adams (1:57.10) and Daniel Occhipinti (1:57.89) clocked great times in the 800.
Coach Andy Drendel sees Kaneland's best paths to packing a yellow bus bound for Charleston as Gagne in the 100, the Knights' 800 and 1,600 relay teams, pole vaulters Ted Allen and Nate Bermes, Porter Conroy in the high jump, Adams in the 800, Occhipinti in the 1,600 and Drew Hahn in the shot put. "They are ready to compete to the best of their abilities," Drendel said. "Thursday is going to be a lot of fun."
St. Charles East coach Brad Kaplan said the Saints will load their relays "and see where we end up," he said. "Our staff feels all our relays are capable of making it to state if we can run to our potential."
The 3,200 relay team of Bennett Melone, Mitch Gansemer, Luke Schildmeyer and Charles Murphy has run 7:59.45 this season. Alek Crawford has hit the high-jump state mark multiple times this season, while Bob Liking and Micah Wilson are poised to run well at North. "Bob and Micah have great opportunities running with quality 3,200 runners to get them under the standard," said Kaplan. "Aidan King in the 1,600 is another athlete who is strong enough and capable of hitting the necessary standard."
St. Charles North's sprint relays also will be in contention. The 800 team of senior Mason Tucker, freshman Joshua Duncan, senior Jacob Aalfs and sophomore Joshua DiNatale won the DuKane title. "All our sprint relays are contenders," coach Kevin Harrington said.
Harrington added Gil Braglia (pole vault), DiNatale (100, 200), Ryan Arnold (3,200) and Ben Cook (400) should be in the mix as well.
West Aurora, Bartlett and South Elgin also are in this field.
At Rockford Guilford, perennial area heavyweight Huntley had four individual and two relay FVC champions last week.
Coach Chris Maxedon sees the Red Raiders' best shots for state berths as Alex Pitrone (shot put), Michael Benner (pole vault), Josh Guyer (triple and high jump), Zach Fitzgerald (long jump), Antonio Passarelli (100 and 200), Paul Kerber (200), Jeremy Roe (800), Jadon Conroy (1,600), Ian Geisler (1,600), and the Huntley 400, 800 and 3,200 relay teams. The 400 and 3,200 relays won conference titles with Passarelli, Zach Tepper, Ronel Noll and Kerber manning the 400, and Roe, Chris Simek, Geisler and Conroy on 3,200 duty. Benner, Pitrone, Passarelli (100) and Geisler won FVC titles. Both relay teams set new FVC records, while the 3,200 relay now holds the fasted time in Illinois this year and eighth-fastest time in the nation currently, Maxedon noted.
"Our guys have consistently been near or better than the qualifying marks in their events all season," said Maxedon. "Because of this, most of them are seeded near the top or are the top seeds in their events. They have worked hard and done everything we have asked of them. They deserve it."
Jacobs' Tommy Subaric won the 110 hurdles FVC title and was second in the 300s. Coach Jason Bohart said the 800 relay team of Jacob Mobeck, Nick Agenlian, Josh Hill and Connor Frank that finished third in the conference has an outside shot at qualifying.
Hampshire coach Joe Watzlawick said it looks like Cameron Reedy will be seeded second in the 400, while the 1,600 relay team will be second and the 3,200 relay team will be third. The Whips' 1,600 relay team of Jake Louis, Isai Morales, Jonah Varvara and Reedy won the FVC title with a school-record time of 3:28.74, while the 3,200 relay team was second in the league at 8:08 (5 seconds shy right now) with Morales, Riley Ciolino, Alex Surprise and Reedy.
"Anytime you are in the top three (seeds), you have a good chance to make it down," Watzlawick pointed out. "I think Cam in the 400 is peaking at the right time and has the best chance to make state. The 4-by-4 and 4-by-8 also are right there."
Crystal Lake South coach Nick Willhoit said health is an issue with several athletes, so the Gators' relays were up in the air earlier this week. "If everyone gets healthy, the 4-by-200 has a good shot," he said.
South's Zach Borgert was second in the 100 at conference and was fourth in the 200, and has a shot as well, Willhoit said.