Coach Leroy Millsap has been collecting first place state final trophies for awhile now (Colin Boyle photo)
Hall of Fame Cahokia coach Leroy Millsap was once asked why he brought his team to the Top Times year after year. "Hey man, I like competition for my guys," he said. Coach Millsap does not like cold weather and with the schizophrenic like April climes, a meet like the Top Times makes sense. "Sometimes our meets in early April are rained out or the weather is so bad that we can't run certain people because we don't want them to get hurt."
Can the Ja'mari
Ward era be replaced?
There is no doubt that Cahokia legend Ja'mari Ward made a tremendous impact on the sport in Illinois. In particular, he made us all watch the field events that he competed in with excitement. It was like at any moment we expected him to drop a 25-foot bomb in the long jump or a 50-foot plus rocket in the triple jump. Ward's exploits extended to his competitors to step up their game. It was true with the pole vault, shot put, and high jump as well. Athletes thrive off of peers and when they see what their cohorts are doing, they act. Let's take a dive and see what the offerings are for Saturday.
The long jump will see a completely different outlook than from previous years. Nyrell Sullivan (Jr., Sterling) transferred in from Dixon and has been a pleasant surprised to his school's athletic program. His 22-8.25 effort is the top mark in the classification, and it is almost a foot better than Theo Phipps (Sr., Chicago Rita), Marquis Murray (Sr., Cahokia), and Dearis Herron (Sr., Springfield Lanphier). The entire 13 jumper field has surpassed 21-feet this season.
Who will be the first pole vaulter over 15 feet before the season concludes? Josh Getz (Sr., Peoria Notre Dame) and Chandlar Ifft (So., Prairie Central) lead the classification at 14-6. Getz has a personal of 15-7 from outdoor last year. Ifft is the younger brother of former great Kassadee Ifft now vaulting at the University of Notre Dame. Kassadee won last year's Top Times with a 13-0 monster effort. So, the vaulting genes are there. Another athlete to watch is Tyler Carrel (Fr., Urbana). He is another athlete coming from a family lineage. His father Bryan was an outstanding vaulter at Indiana State University. Tyler's older brother Brandon was a state champion in 2011. Jack Pompe (Jr., Dunlap) and Danny Walker (Sr., Kaneland) are the others that cleared 14-0.
Sam Sikon (Sr., Carbondale) will be in a virtual fight with himself in the shot put. Several times he intentionally walked across the ring circle with his throw in mid-flight when it didn't touch 65 feet. John Meyer of Lockport is the state leader and competing against him is the only thing that matters to Sikon who has a season best 62-11. Sikon's fierce competitive spirit is worth the watch.
Seth Groom (Jr., Marmion Academy) and several triple jumpers will vie for a title now. Groom has the class best 45-9.5 followed by Andra Ward (So., Cahokia). Ward is not the kin of Ja'mari Ward but could become another Comanche great in two years.
Bret Dannis (Bruins jersey) is ranked as one of the best short hurdlers in the country
60HH: Bret Dennis is the state leader with 7.98. The junior from Peru St. Bede jumped up in classification and he will be itching to get back into the top 10 nationally. Juwan Denton of Morgan Park was disqualified last weekend at U of Illinois after being flagged for a lane violation. His 8.23 is worth the notation of a top overall finish.
60m: Ron Reed (Jr., Decatur MacArthur) last ran a fast IL#3 6.95 in the Emerging Elite section at New Balance Indoor Nationals. Reed ran with a sore foot but should be well enough to give a few foes the taste of jet fuel from his spikes. Romell Clark from Chicago Dunbar ran 7.08 in December. However, he has since been in hibernation. It is officially Spring so maybe he is out of his cave.
3200: Brayden Hamblen (Sr., Rock Falls) is the man to beat here. Hamblen's 9:18.02 is solid but expect the pace to be very swift from the gun. The goal for Hamblen is to get a Arcadia Invitational worthy time.
4x800: Mahomet-Seymour is the team to beat. The cross country powerhouse team has run 8:09.30 in just one loaded attempt. Expect things to go much faster on Saturday with Cahokia in hot pursuit.
800: Chris Stanley (Sr., Cahokia) has the #3 time of 1:57.70 in the state. He may have to choose between the relay and the open. It is extremely difficult to do both at a high level. Josh Cable (Jr., Rochester) ran 1:58 at the University of Arkansas HS Invite. The winning time will more than likely get under 2:00 for the win.
4x200: Two Chicago schools will battle Cahokia. Morgan Park and Brooks will give it their best shot. The Comanches are IL #9 at the moment.
400: Isaiah Hunter (Sr., Lisle) is the big favorite. The front runner has clocked 50.38 which was #1 in the state for a long time. Hunter has competed all over the country including NBIN.
1600: This is a loaded field with Cable, Derek Van Prooyen (Jr., Illiana Christian) will be right there trying to hang with Hamblen.
200: Denton and Marquis Murray (Sr., Cahokia) will duel here for the win.
4x400: Cahokia should rout the field, though Thornridge has a strong team. Brooks is not the same team as they were in the pre-season.