Charleston will be the place to be this weekend if you are looking for big time high school track and field. Eastern Illinois University and O'Brien Field will feature the top talent in the state. Kahmari Montgomery (Sr., Plainfield Central, Jesse Reiser (McHenry), Zach Dale (Conant), Cary Lockhart (Bloomington), and more are expected to light things up.
Distance arena looks sweet-
The 3A 3200 meter relay was a supremely exciting event last year. The current Illinois state meet record set by Jacobs in 2006 of 7:40.02 was threatened by Naperville Neuqua Valley and Orland Park Sandburg, but still remains safe. All-state took at least a 7:50.26 and eight teams ran better than 7:48.00. Last year’s race will be hard to match but a lot of the depth remains from last year and a low-7:40s type race should be expected again, depending on the conditions we see this Saturday.
Naperville (Neuqua Valley): The defending champions have one of the most powerful weapons in Ty Moss (Sr.) and it was Moss who anchored home the state victory over Sandburg. Neuqua ran a team of Matthew Horsley (Sr.), Isaiah Robinson (So.), Kyle Bender (Sr.) and Moss. Even with Robinson running a slower leg than his capability, the Wildcats won in 7:50.82 and has the firepower to repeat last year’s performance.
Barrington: The Broncos enter as the state leaders with a 7:43.51 run at the MSL Conference Championships. Last year’s team finished fourth, and the year before that were state champions, so this is a seasoned team, led by relay team returners and seniors Tyler Anderson and Konrad Eiring (who is also entered in the open 800 with a 1:55.94 qualifying time).
Mt. Prospect (Prospect): This year, Prospect just qualified 4x800 and 4x200 teams, but their 4x800 is dangerous, having pushed Barrington in the MSL Conference meet and running a 7:44.19. Matt Cozine (Jr., 1:57.30), Karsen LeComte (So., 1:58.39) and Sean Sanaghan (So., 1:59.26) have helped comprise a fast young squad that will be aiming for the giants in this race.
Orland Park (Sandburg): Sandburg’s distance squad ran an incredible season this year, running as many as 11 runners under 10:00 for two miles. However, outside of the Torpy brothers in the 800 and 1600, the Eagles do not have runners qualified in other events, which means the 4x800 team will be loaded with depth entering this state meet. Sandburg never truly ran a fast 4x800 time until sectionals, when a 7:52.17 got them the outside lane of the first alley in the first heat. Next year’s cross country favorites finished second in this event last year, and there is only one direction they want to go: up.
Elmhurst (York): The Dukes’ 7:45.60 performance at Wanner Knights is hard to ignore, and their many weapons make perennial threat York a contender once again. Matt Plowman (Sr.) will be shooting for a 1600 title but may want to help his team as well. Freshman sensation Charlie Kern Jr. is entered only in the 800 which suggests his father may want to run him in the relay. Max Denning (Jr.) and Robert Tomaska (Jr.) have also run sub 2:00.00 open times.
Of course, many other teams have already run fast this year and most of these squads will be bringing their times down for the final on Saturday so don’t be surprised if Glenbard West, Lyons Township, Jones, Oak-Park River Forest, O’Fallon, New Trier, Lane Tech, Hersey or Lake Zurich end up at the front of the pack. These teams are incredibly deep and we cannot wait for another exciting relay faceoff this weekend.
For the first time in 15 years, the defending champion in the 3200 meter run in Illinois’ highest class returns to defend his title - and Jesse Reiser will try to become the first runner to repeat a 3200 meter championship in the highest level since Don Sage set the national record in 2000. The cast of challengers to Reiser is a little different from the 3A cross country race but this season has suggested that despite Reiser’s heavy favorite status, this race will be very high-quality and competitive among a large number of runners.
Jesse Reiser - The McHenry senior is looking to achieve the triple crown of Illinois High School distance running (cross country, 3200, and 1600 state championships), and he is the favorite to get one step closer by winning this race. Reiser ran a spectacular US #5 8:49.40 run at the Fox Valley Conference meet and has run under 9:05.00 five times this year, which included winning the Arcadia Invitational’s 3200 in 8:52.00. The defending 3A 3200 meter champ has diversified his racing strategy, winning races in short kicks, long kicks and honest races alike. If Reiser is on his game, his talent should carry him to this state championship.
Jake Hoffert - The Illinois runner who finished closest to Reiser during the regular season was Jake Hoffert at the Palatine Invitational. Hoffert (Sr., Yorkville) doubled 3200/1600 wins at the Plainfield North sectional, including a 3200 PR 9:08.50. Hoffert elected to run just the 1600 last year and may do so again this year, but the prospect of running with his teammate and brother presents a unique strategic element for the duo.
Luke Hoffert - Outside of Reiser, Hoffert (Sr., Yorkville) is the best returner from last year’s final, finishing 4th in 9:12.10. His qualifying time for this meet is 9:09.90, a personal best. Like Jake, Luke qualified for both events last year but instead elected to run just the 3200. This is the second year in a row Yorkville has competed at 3A for track, and this meet presents the first shot for the Hofferts at Reiser since late September; for whoever decides to run the 3200, they will be capable of a stellar performance.
Kevin Salvano - Salvano (Jr., Buffalo Grove) brings the second-fastest PR into this race, a 9:04.79 at Arcadia. He has won every 3200 he has raced in the state of Illinois this year, including his qualifier at Palatine. Salvano finished strong in cross country last year, placing fifth. With a strong performance on Saturday, Salvano, who is running just the 3200, can establish himself as an early favorite to compete for the 2015 3A cross country state title.
Graham Brown - The Palatine senior has a storied career, and after suffering sickness last state meet, Brown should ride a strong ending to the regular season to finish his career on a high note. Brown qualified for both the 3200 and 1600, dragging teammate Brian Leonard to a Q as well. He ran his best 3200 ever (a 9:11.66 at Arcadia) and displayed strong speed skills (1:57.35 800 PB), showing he is well-equipped to handle a 3200 race.
Plainfield North Boys Sectional Qualifiers - The Plainfield North Sectional 3200 was the fastest in the state, qualifying 7 runners (including the Hofferts) and placing 6 under 9:16.71. Naperville North Seniors Jon Klaiber and Kerry Gschwendtner (who missed 1600 qualification by .1 seconds) and Oswego senior Peter Johnsrud are all top 30 finishers at state XC, are entered just in the 3200 and will be graduating this year, and the chops they all showed at sectionals show they are up for the challenge of a fast race from the front. Connor Horn (Jr., Neuqua Valley) ran a 9:12.11 PB to qualify, but also qualified in the 1600 and may play a role in Neuqua’s 4x800. These guys are all running fast at the right time and should comprise a large part of the pack.
The Class of 2017 - When looking at the start list for the 3200, the large number of sophomores having qualified pops out immediately. The sophomore with the fastest PB entering Saturday is Irwin Loud (So., Oak Park (River Forest). Loud has run 9:14.13 this year and finished a surprising 11th at state XC this fall. His distinctive running tactics, which include hard running from the gun regardless of competition, means Loud could singlehandedly make the early parts of this race quick and a fast time will be needed to win. Blake Evertsen (So., Hinsdale (Central) has run 9:14.39 (another Arcadia time) and has the most championship race experience of the sophomore class. Grayslake (Central) moved up to 3A this year, which means Jack Aho (So., Grayslake (Central) will continue his breakout season at the highest level after double qualifying, running 9:16.02/4:20.43 at Palatine. Filip Pajak (So., Crystal Lake (Prairie Ridge) and Cole Barkocy (So., Crystal Lake (Central) were the two sophomore qualifiers out of Guilford and both ran under 9:20.00. Finally, the aforementioned Brian Leonard (So., Palatine) qualified in 9:23.36 and is the sixth sophomore in the Fast Heat. These six guys, along with the six sophomores in the slow heat, headline a strong class of 2017… and this doesn’t even include a few sophomores entered in the 1600 only.
Section 1 (Slow Heat): It is typical in Illinois for at least one runner from the slow heat to make all-state in the 3200, and since it may be warm at the meet, this gives the runners in the earlier heat a slight advantage. There is always great competition in this race - and sometimes teamwork as well - and this year I do expect the trend to continue.
As we previewed before the beginning of the year, there is a lot of talent turnover in the 800 from last year but that didn’t keep the depth of this event from surpassing depth we have had the past three or four years in Illinois. 3A saw 39 runners break 1:57, 27 break 1:56 and 12 break 1:55. The state winning time has not been faster than 1:52.00 since 2009 but I think that streak will be broken this year. There are a bunch of contenders so let’s run down these names.
Ty Moss - Moss (Sr., Naperville (Neuqua Valley)) entered the year as the favorite and remains the favorite. His 1:50.52 PB from AAU National Junior Olympics is the fastest in the state and he leads Illinois this year with a 1:52.30 from Arcadia. Moss has a wide range of fitness, ranging from 48.9 400 to 4:25 1600 capabilities, and the Plainfield North 800 sectional champ shown he can win the 800 from the front of the pack or from behind. It is likely that Moss will run for Neuqua’s 3200m and 1600m relay squads as well, so although Moss has a packed schedule, he has proven he can handle the workload.
Heath Warren - Warren (Jr, Springfield) has the fastest 800 run within the state borders of Illinois this year, US #49 1:52.67 at the Normal West Sectional. Warren has raced often this year, running 1:57 or better eight times and 4:24 or better 7 times (his 1600 best is 4:12.31). He is an especially dangerous threat to Moss, but is also entered in the 1600 so his attention may be split. Warren range includes longer distances than Moss - he finished just outside of all-state range in 2A at Detweiller this fall (28th in 15:13).
Wes Schoenthal - Finishing just behind Warren at the Normal West Sectional was Wes Schoenthal (Sr., Edwardsville). Schoenthal finished 11th in the finals last year and his experience in the event has brought him to the third fastest time in Illinois. Like Warren, Schoenthal is an accomplished cross country runner and has displayed remarkable strength over the year; after all, he did win the 1600 at Normal West in 4:14.83. Schoenthal’s entrance in the 1600 may affect his racing decision-making, as well.
Bryce Richards - The 2013 3A 800 runner-up returns to the state final event after failing to make the final in 2014. Richards (Sr., Mundelein) ran his fastest 800 in two years by winning the Palatine sectional in 1:54.00. Richards has flashed massive amounts of potential since early in his career and this is his chance to bring that potential to fruition. Richards is another runner who qualified in the 1600 as well.
Torrain Haughton - Haughton (Jr., Park Ridge (Maine East)) is an ultra-talented soccer player who is also the fastest entrant in this event not entered in any other events. Haughton ran an IL #6 1:54.04 at York in late April and won the Loyola Sectional race. If some of the athletes ahead of Haughton elect to run the 1600 as well, his fresh legs may advantage Haughton at state.
The Field - This event is very deep and close together - a large handful of runners will be fighting for a spot in the final and on the podium. Luis Davila (Sr., Jefferson, 1:54.27), Jared Christiansen (Sr., Hononegah, 1:54.28 and also entered in 1600), Alex Lima (Sr., LaGrange (Lyons), 1:54.55), and John Partee (Jr., Plainfield (South), 1:54.90) are among a massive handful of very capable 800 runners. This will be a fun event.
Last year, 2013 3A XC Champ Patrick Perrier pulled away from Chris Korabik to win the 1600 after losing to Reiser in the 3200. The recent emergence of many runners in this event has made the 1600 the deepest individual distance event in Illinois - the state boasts 8 runners in the top 88 US times, and 54 runners achieved a time faster than the 3A qualifying mark at some point in the year. Several runners have elected just to run this event alone, which may even the field between the favorites and everyone else.
Zach Dale - Dale (Sr., Hoffman Estates (Conant)) has the IL #1 mark in the 1600, with a 4:09.72 in a gritty Wanner Knights effort on the first night of May. Dale ran on Conant’s 4x800 ticket to help advance the team to Charleston, and then qualified in the 1600. Dale is expected to run the 4x800 with his team at state, which renders him not completely fresh for the 1600, but he may have more in his legs than some of the runners in the 3200. Dale is extremely talented and will be a player in the race no matter what other races he runs. One can hope though that he will not suffer the same fate as the last XC runner-up to perform this double (Quentin Shaffer forwent the 3200 to run the 4x800 and 1600 in 2013; he made neither final).
Matt Plowman - Plowman (Sr., Elmhurst (York)) has found his sweet spot in the 1600, running a 4:09.13 full mile last year, winning the Kansas Relays in a US #41 4:11.43 and clearly deciding to focus on trying to win this event at state. Plowman’s extensive 800 experience has formed his racing style of winning on the kick, which makes him a tactical nightmare and a real threat to win this race.
Keagan Smith - Maybe the not-so-quiet dark horse candidate of the season so far, Smith (Jr., Huntley) dropped a 4:10.70 in close pursuit of Reiser, good for a US #30 and an IL #3. Smith came on strong in cross country and has quickly emerged as a top-tier runner in Illinois. He is another athlete who will only be running the 1600 so his fresh legs will be dangerous legs as well in this event. A strong performance here may make Smith another favorite for next fall.
Jesse Reiser - Likely coming off a hard 3200 race, Reiser will have his hands full with competitors in this race but will also love his chances against a slew of runners which he has already beaten. Don’t forget: Reiser is undefeated this entire track season. Reiser’s 4:09.85 at Guilford is an IL #2 behind Dale, and considering that was a double, Reiser’s ceiling appears to be incredibly high. It is always a tall task to win the Triple Crown in Illinois but Reiser has the capability to do it.
Matt Pereira - The top sophomore in the state finally made an appearance after a long season of not competing. Pereira (So., Lake Zurich) won the Palatine Sectional 1600 in 4:16.95 and indicates that he is prepared to run fast in the state championship once again. Pereira will likely also be running the 4x800 with the Bears, so Pereira will have several state races under his belt already early in his promising career.
Pavlo Hutsalyuk - One of the most dangerous 800 runners in the state, Hutsalyuk (Sr., Chicago (Lane)) will run the 1600 along with the 4x800 team. Hutsalyuk has run 1:54.68 in the open 800 this year but has split as low as 1:51, as well has anchoring a 1:49 high last summer at New Balance Nationals. His 1600 PB has dropped this year as well, as he ran a 4:14.81 at Wanner Knights. He demonstrated his ability in a small handful of meets this year and his top end speed makes him extremely dangerous in the 1600 as well, especially if this race comes to a furious last-lap kick.
Connor McCue - On the same night as Wanner Knights, McCue (Jr, Aurora (West)) blazed a massive PB at Pete Struck, running 4:13.15, which stands as IL #6. McCue also has strong 800 speed (1:54.52) and won his some sectional’s 1600 meter race. McCue has yet to match that best performance but the junior’s capabilities are apparent.
Runners Also Entered in the 800 include Heath Warren (4:12.31), Jared Christiansen (4:13.41), Bryce Richards (4:13.66), and Wes Schoenthal (4:14.83) have all run very fast 1600s but also qualified for the 800 in Charleston, along with a handful of others. Considering the heavy overlap between these two events, it will be fascinating to see what racing strategies are employed or which athletes focus on which events.
Can Kahmari command the sprints?-
Last year Kahmari Montgomery (Sr., Plainfield Central) took the track and field world by surprise when he blazed 46.82- good for US #12 at the time. More importantly, his feat established a standard in which long sprinters can achieve some more than thought before. This season more than in recent years, Illinois has had sub-48.00 performers. Montgomery led the way in 46.87 followed by Roosevelt Davis (Jr., E. St. Louis Sr.), Corey Hertz (Sr., Lake Villa Lakes), and Zac Espinosa (Sr., Naperville Neuqua Valley). We could see the all-time state meet record go down. The standard of 46.51 set by Harold Leonard of Thornton has stood since 1985. It is time for it to go. The ingredients are there to make it happen: speed, experience, poise, and competition to pose a semi-threat.
Montgomery is favored in the 200 of course as he is defending champion. The
110HH: William Session (Jr., Belleville East) and Travis Anderson (Fr., Edwardsville) are the sectional heads of state with equal times of 13.98. Session is obviously the more seasoned hurdler. It is his time now after missing out on the final before returning at the end of summer to run 14.05 in the USATF JO Championship. The defending state champion Antonio Shenault (Sr., Lake Park) has been slowed by injuries for most of the season. He has slowly rebounded and may surprise a few heads. It does appear as though his chance of repeating are dim.
300H: Gavin Hoch (Jr., Lake Forest) has come on strong as he did last year, but he may just end up on the podium this time. His 38.02 is the sectional leader. Nice to have a target on your back. Isiah Michl (Sr., Edwardsville) got out of the gate blazing in late March with a 37.13 and then he got hurt. It is unfortunate for a kid who was poised to dip into the 36-second range. Chris Douglas (Sr., Deerfield) has competed well all season and will have an opportunity to be among the elite hurdlers. Of course William Session be there.
4x4 relay: Neuqua Valley ran 3:18.55 out in California at the Arcadia Invitational. They have been since passed by Evanston. The Wildkits are strong every year in this event and they will look to add the outdoor gold medal to the alongside their indoor championship. A total of eight teams broke 3:20 and there are nine lanes. It will be interesting to see teams like E. St. Louis Sr., Homewood-Flossmoor, and Lakes compete for the key spots.
Long Jump: Matt Fleming (Sr., Chicago Simeon) has marketed his self well over the past year.
Pole Vault: Andy Jatis (Sr., New Lenox Providence Catholic) leads the state with at 16-6.
High Jump: Chris Wright-Madison (Sr., Oak Park-River Forest) has seized the momentum in the large classification during outdoor season. He has cleared a personal best 6-9. His WSC Silver league foe Jamante Steward (Sr., Hillside Proviso West) had the upper hand during the indoor season with his top five in the country ranking (6-10).
Shot Put: Adam Schaufelberger