Scouting DuPage County boys track and field

  • Metea Valley's Jalen Johnson is turning heads for his excellence in both the hurdles and sprints.

      Metea Valley's Jalen Johnson is turning heads for his excellence in both the hurdles and sprints. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
By Kevin McGavin
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 4/2/2022 1:52 PM

Top teams:

Lake Park, Downers Grove South, Metea Valley, Naperville Central, Hinsdale Central, Waubonsie Valley, Neuqua Valley, Naperville North.

 

Top athletes:

Michael Atkins, Wheaton Warrenville South, sr., middle distance, distance; Sam Bowerman, Downers North, sr., sprints, jumps; Harper Bryan, Glenbard South, soph., sprints, hurdles; Tyrese Buffkin, Glenbard East, sr., sprints, jumps; Patrick Campbell, Addison Trail, sr., sprints, hurdles, jumps; Cerese Cooper, Lake Park, sr., throws; Kenny Creamer, Downers South, sr., sprints; Danny Eloe, Naperville North, jr., sprints; Antonio Gianni, York, sr., sprints, hurdles; Will Guerin, Downers Grove North, jr., sprints; Bryan Harper, Glenbard South, soph., sprints, hurdles; Jamir Harris, Waubonsie Valley, sr., sprints, jumps; Brian Holmes, Naperville North, sr., sprints, hurdles; Desmond Horton, Lake Park, sr., sprints, jumps; Jason Huang, Benet, sr., sprints, hurdles; Nathan Jacobs, Naperville North, jr., sprints; Jalen Johnson, Metea Valley, sr., sprints, hurdles; Julian Johnson, Metea Valley, soph., sprints, jumps; Lucah Jones, Lake Park, sr., throws; Aidan Killmer, Lake Park, sr., sprints, hurdles; Cristian Lager, Willowbrook, sr., sprints, hurdles; Roy Llewellyn, Downers North, sr., middle distance, distance; Xavier London, Metea Valley, sr., sprints, jumps; Graham McAninch, Naperville Central, sr., sprints, hurdles; Sam Mika, Waubonsie Valley, sr., throws; Max Mitchell, Neuqua Valley, sr., sprints; Tim Neumann, Downers South, sr., sprints middle distance, distance; Maverick Ohle, Naperville Central, soph., throws; Matt Pasteris, Naperville North, sr., sprints; Alonso Perkins, Glenbard East, sr., sprints, jumps; Erik Radzevicius, Downers North, sr., sprints; Carter Ratcliffe, Downers North, sr., sprints; Eli Reed Downers South, sr., sprints; Colby Revord, Hinsdale Central, sr., middle distance, distance; Luke Richards, WW South, sr., pole vault: Antonio Richardson, IC Catholic Prep, sr., sprints; Gabe Ryan, Naperville North, sr., distance; Noah Sadowski, Hinsdale South, jr., sprints; Ryan Schreiner, Wheaton North, sr., middle distance, distance; Brody Squires, Waubonsie Valley, jr., sprints, jumps; Mohib Syed, Glenbard West, sr., sprints, hurdles; John Taci, Addison Trail, sr., sprints; Kyle Varga, Lake Park, sr., pole vault; Daniel Watcke, Hinsdale Central, jr., middle distance, distance; Mason Wright, West Chicago, sr., sprints; Reece Young, WW South, sr., sprints; Ryan Zydek, Wheaton North, sr. distance.

Season outlook:

Kevin Rafferty has seen his fair share of tremendous athletes as the veteran boys track and field coach at Waubonsie Valley.

"When a coach from Wheaton North says, 'I have never seen anyone since Adam Harris have a meet like that' you know he's in good company," Rafferty said.

He is a central topic on the minds of adult males involved in the sport.

"He's the beast this season," South Elgin coach Anthony LaRue said. "I bet he could qualify for state in the triple jump and high jump if he wanted to."

"It's a testament to him wanting to enjoy his senior campaign," Metea Valley coach Aaron Lewis explained. "He wants to have fun to close out his high school career."

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The Northern Illinois University football program will be endowed with a singular athlete in the fall.

But Jalen Johnson still has a final outdoor track season left.

Johnson, third in state last June in both the 110-high and 300-intermediate hurdles, has extended his repertoire.

"Things have a habit of coming around," Johnson said. "I am somewhat new to them in the high school landscape. I was able to see some strides in the sprints."

No longer simply a hurdles specialist, Johnson clocked the two fastest times in the 60 and 200 dashes during the indoor season. Johnson also is among the elite athletes in the state in the metric quarter-mile.

"That's the big question right now," Johnson said when asked what his four-event sequence would be for the state series this May. "I am going to talk to my coach and see where best I can help the team."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Well, he can do it at state," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said of Johnson vying for the 110 high hurdles and 100 dash in back-to-back events. "I have seen it before."

Harris pulled off the accomplishment of winning state titles in consecutive events at the Class AA state finals in 2004 for Wheaton North.

"I definitely want to hit certain times in the 110s," Johnson said. "My Achilles' heel has been hitting hurdles. Technically speaking, I am trying to work on clean races."

The Indian Prairie school district will change its boundaries at the conclusion of the current school year.

"I will have the privilege of having his little brothers," Rafferty said.

But Lewis will be a central beneficiary this spring.

"The speed factor was the one element that was missing," Lewis said. "He had goals to be one of the best in the state, not only in the hurdles but the sprints as well. He has put his mind to it."

Athletes are only allowed four maximum events in the sport.

"We are ready for that challenge," Lewis said. "When we get to the championship season in May, we are going to see what is best for him and the team."

"I have three different opportunities to do relays," Johnson said. "I just want to improve each meet. I was able to do that during indoors and when we get outdoors I want to be able to do the same. Just like last year, my goal is to come away with the gold."

Lewis will certainly relish his final season of having Johnson in the fold.

"A one-day (state) meet and an abbreviated season," Lewis said of last year. "It's nice to be back to have as normal an indoor and outdoor season."

The Johnson story illuminates an inescapable element to the upcoming outdoor season for local male athletes in the sport: the one and only Bob Hayes would truly be smiling if he were still alive.

"It's just incredible," Rafferty said when asked his thoughts on the local sprinters.

Reece Young will certainly be part of the equation this spring.

The Wheaton Warrenville South senior was third in the 200 and fifth in the 100 dash last June.

"This is definitely a step in the right direction, but I am not pleased at all right now," Young said in the aftermath of the DuKane Conference indoor championship at Batavia. "I am going to try and get stronger so I can finish the races better. I want to work on my speed and also my blocks. I know I can win (a state championship); it's just motivation."

Neuqua Valley senior Max Mitchell, ninth in the 400, also returns to power two all-state sprint relays for the Wildcats.

The Wildcats captured their second state championship in program history last year with a razor-thin 36-34 triumph over Minooka.

Naperville North senior Nathan Jacobs was also on two medal-winning sprint relays last year, and the Huskies will be further fortified with the emergence of junior Daniel Eloe.

Naperville North was runner-up at the unofficial indoor state finals last week.

Downers Grove South senior Tim Neumann was to the longer distances during the indoor season what Johnson accomplished in the hurdles and dashes.

Displaying unusual range and versatility, Neumann had top-notch times in every race between 400 and 3,200 meters.

"I want to do the 16-(hundred) as my individual event and my team has a really good four-by-eight," Neumann said. "In general, I just love running. I will run any event they put me in, even if it's like the hurdles. Our team is looking really good."

Neumann led off the Mustangs' third-place 3,200 relay at the Top Times meet last weekend in Bloomington.

Lake Park enters the outdoor season as one of the top-ranked teams in Class 3A.

The storied power will return to its roots by showcasing tremendous athleticism in the six field events.

The Lancers' Desmond Horton is a legitimate threat to sweep both the long and triple jumps.

Runner-up last year in the triple jump, Horton claimed the title in his specialty event in Bloomington and added a third-place medal in the long jump.

Kyle Varga is another serious state-champion threat for the Lancers in the pole vault; weightmen Cooper Cerese and Lucah Jones excel for the Lancers in the shot put and discus, respectively.

Aidan Killmer powers the Lancers' track crew in the sprints and hurdles.

The 800 is particularly strong this season.

Hinsdale Central junior Daniel Watcke is the defending champion, but Wheaton North senior Ryan Shreiner, who is bound for Iowa, hopes to improve upon his fourth-place run from last June in Charleston.

"I am going to try and build on (the all-state run) to get a better time," Shreiner said. "Daniel Watcke has run some pretty crazy times. I am going to be looking to race with him."

WW South senior Michael Atkins took defending 3,200 and reigning Class 3A state cross country champion Micah Wilson of St. Charles East to the wire in the 1,600 run at the DuKane Conference indoor championship last month.

"I would like to be top five in that mile field," Atkins said. "This year I have had a really good breakout. I have had really good training; everything is going as planned. I have been rolling this indoor season."

Naperville North senior Gabe Ryan has high aspirations after narrowly missing all-state status in cross country last fall.

"I definite\ly think with the right training and staying healthy that I can be all-state in the 2-mile," Ryan said. "I am going to focus on the 2-mile unless I can throw down a good mile time."

At Naperville Central, Maverick Ohle returns for his sophomore season after placing fifth in the discus, an unusual feat for a newcomer.

Varga will have capable local company in the pole vault with the return of area state qualifiers Luke Richards (WW South), Jack Sauder (Hinsdale Central) and Chris Fleschut (Naperville Central).

In Class 1A, IC Catholic Prep senior sprinter Antonio Richardson has designs on a stellar final season.

"We are expecting him to make the finals in the 100 and 200," IC coach Bob Cronin said of Richardson.

The area Class 2A programs will look to rebound as none of the programs have any returning all-state individual athletes.

But Benet should almost certainly remedy the situation. The Redwings have been reclassified to 2A by the IHSA.

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