Track and field: Batavia's depth shines at Les Hodge invite

By Kevin McGavin
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 4/9/2022 8:34 PM

The Les Hodge Invite has the feel of a magnified dual meet between five teams.

Team scores are reserved for later in the boys track and field weekend competitions, and coaches were essentially allowed unlimited entries in the 14 individual events Saturday afternoon in Batavia.


Experimentation was as routine as caution was liberally exercised.

"We are not going to risk Josh Duncan in weather like this," St. Charles North coach Kevin Harrington, who brought only a skeletal crew, said of his all-state sprinter remaining at home.

But the host Bulldogs -- while frequently not showing all their cards -- opened the outdoor season by overwhelming the competition with their seemingly limitless number of bodies in the program.

"About 140 to 150," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said of the number of athletes out for track this spring.

The Bulldogs captured 10 of the 18 events in anticipation of their expected showdown at Minooka, the defending Class 3A champion, next weekend.

Minooka is the lone program ranked ahead of the Bulldogs in the state poll.

"I am ready for the meet next week against Minooka," said Batavia returning all-state pole vaulter Nick Fortino, who won his specialty event with a 14-foot-6 effort. "I know as a team we are a lot more well-rounded. They have some fast guys, but we are stacked everywhere -- distance, sprints, relays and field."

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"I definitely feel we can be one of the top teams in the state," said Batavia senior Jalen Buckley, second in the long jump and a member of the Bulldogs' top-ranked 1,600-meter relay, which was state runner-up last June. "Everybody wants to be that top team; it's not going to be easy."

Batavia weightman Spencer Prats was one of two double-individual winners -- hurdler Manases Monarrez was the other -- for the Bulldogs.

"I finally broke 50 (feet) in shot, which I have been trying to do for a while," said Prats, who won the shot put and discus with respective distances of 50-10 and 146-9. "The way I am looking at my season is I want to put up good enough numbers to score at state. If I am putting up points at the state meet, at the end of the day I am helping out my team."

The Bulldogs' Jonah Fallon was fifth in the 400 dash last year.

But on Saturday, Fallon was second in the open 800 to teammate Quintin Lowe and ran legs on the victorious 1,600 and 3,200 relays.

"I come from a distance background," Fallon said. "I have always run a lot of eights and miles, too. It's something I gotta do if I want to get stronger in the 400 and win a state title there."


"The mile is definitely my stronger event, but I went to state last year in the 800," said Lowe, who ran the anchor leg on the Bulldogs' gold-medalist 3,200 relay.

Monarrez captured the 110 high and 300 intermediate hurdles 16.44 and 43.53 seconds; Vincie Solano led a 1-2-3 sweep in the 400 for Batavia with his winning time of 52.89.

Geneva distance-runner Nathan Lehman was a double winner on the track as well with his twin wins in the 1,600 and 3,200 runs in 4:36.12 and 9:30.91.

"Soloing a 9:30 2-mile -- I am happy with that," Lehman said. "Coming back in the mile, I was just kind of sitting (in the pack) until it was time to kick. I am very happy with the first outdoor meet."

The Vikings' Dylan Pratt emerged victorious in the 100 dash before settling for second to Kaneland newcomer Nathan Rebacz in the 200.

"I am really happy with my 100 and 200," said Pratt, who won the former in 11.31.

"My team had a really good day, so I am happy for the rest of the season."

Rebacz is experiencing track for the first time as a senior.

"It was like only my second or third race ever," the Knights' sprinter and jumper said. "I used to play basketball; the season was over, and (the coaches) told me I had good jumping (skills) and would be really good on the track team. I thought I would give it a try. It's working out pretty well so far."

Rebacz clocked a 23.4 in the 200.

Lucas Bass was the Knights' other mainstay.

The senior not only bested the field in the triple jump (42-6) but also ran a leg on the Knights' victorious 800 relay.

"With the jumps' technical aspects, I just want to get my bearings down," said Bass, who also competes in the long. "Right now, I want to get my bearings, my marks and make sure is everything is going good."

Burlington Central, expected to be a major contender for Class 2A hardware this spring, received its lone title from Gavin Sarvis -- another basketball convert -- who denied Buckley in the long jump with his 20-5.5 winning leap.

"I trusted the process," Sarvis said. "I think I have a lot of potential."

The Rockets' returning all-staters -- notably Yusuf Baig, distance, and long sprinter Zac Schmidt -- saw only limited action.

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