New Balance Outdoor Nationals are the ultimate in terms of pure high school competition. There is an opportunity to be an All-American in a myriad of events. But most importantly, it is the best way to measure yourself if you are an elite athlete or relay. In other words, come and compete against the best.
The field events were stellar for IL athletes-
There were several areas in the field that could have been targeted, but it was the boy’s discus throw arena that provided the most action. Three of top four throwers in the state traveled out to sunny North Carolina to do battle. It is interesting to know that Ryan Njegovan (Sr., Sandwich), Luke Vaughn (Sr., Champaign Centennial), and Brendan Duncan (Sr., Waterloo) all competed in the 2A state final with Njegovan setting the class record win.
The qualifying round got off to a roaring start despite hot and windy conditions behind the main stadium where the competition was held. Njegovan was the first statesman to make a serious impact toward making the finals round of eight. He was able to hit 174-6, 184-8, and 184-4. He easily punched his ticket to the final and better. Vaughn was next up and he fouled on his first attempt. He would later go into the adjunct parking lot and work on shadow technique throws. The next opportunity for him was a huge blast of 186-10 and right in the middle of the heavyweights. Duncan on the other hand had a difficult time getting his technique right. He fouled in two of his three throws and would not advance.
The final saw the pre-meet favorites pick up the pace. James Plummer (Sr., Egg Harbor, NJ) had a tremendous fan section that he fed off of. He overtook Jacob Patrick (Sr., Litchfield, MI) with a monster 197-0 on his penultimate throw. It would hold up and he was crowned the champion. Njegovan improved as well with a fourth throw sailing 187-4 landing the fourth overall position. Vaughn held form and earned the final All-American medal in sixth place. The towering 6’8” Vaughn was pretty pleased with his weekend that netted two All-American medals. “This is a great way to end my high school career,” he said. “I had broke a bone in my during the indoor season when I punched the wall at the end of a weight man 55m dash… I lost a box of donuts in the bet,” he chuckled.
Justin Kretchmer (Sr., Waterloo) had his chances to win the high jump and become a national champion. He advanced very easily through the first three heights that brought him up to 6-10.75. The US#3 ranked Kretchmer missed on all three attempts at 7-0.25 that would have brought him even with winner Miles Bearden (Rome, GA) and Steve Dunbar (Virginia Beach, VA).
The torch indeed was passed on to Lena Giger (Jr., Highland) as she earned a third place All-American plaque launching one of her best efforts as a prepster (47-7.75). Giger will remain at US#10 but the winner and national leader Maggie Ewen (Sr., St. Francis, MN) will take her talents to Arizona State University next year.
The distance runners have the final word at NBON-
There was no way that Wheaton-Warrenville South girls were going to leave Greensboro without any hardware. The Lady Tigers had to get up at the crack of dawn to achieve their goals in the emerging elite Distance Medley Relay. They were not put in the elite because of lack of talent. It was more because they had an afternoon flight to catch and the championship DMR wasn’t until the 5:25pm.
At approximately 8:55am the Tigers took the track and proceeded to put on a clinic in winning in meet record time (12:03.37). The ace of the staff McKenna Kiple (Sr.) led off the 1200m in 3:38 and gave her team a nice three-second cushion. They would not let up on the competition and continued to pull away on each leg. Hope Schmelze (Sr.) completed her tour of duty with the 1600m leg in 5:01.6- a personal best effort. It was almost certain that the Tigers would have been in the mix of the championship race considering Kiple’s opening leg would have given her teammates the mojo of being in the race from the gun.
Maddie Perez (Jr., Glen Ellen Glenbard West) got a bit of redemption that she desired from a long layoff. Although she didn’t earn All-American status, the iron willed Perez made it known throughout the race that she is for real and will be a major force in 2014. Perez placed second in the first section of the mile running a personal best 4:54.01. Perez was able to stay with her group throughout the race and closed well by passing Maggie Drazba (Sr., St. Mary’s, WV). “This effort was definitely better,” said Perez afterwards. “I felt much stronger than I did yesterday in the two-mile.” Watch out for her this fall near a cross country course near you.
The unflappable Jack Keelan (Sr., Chicago St. Ignatius) seems to thrive in the mile for some reason. He is much more suited for the two-mile or the 5k but he runs with the killer instinct that it takes to be a great mile. Keelan almost pulled it out in the championship mile finishing second in 4:08.73. He fought with a few notables through splits of 63.1, 2:06, and 3:10.3. It would come down to a final kick with a half-lap remaining. Keelan had already overtook Connor Mora (Sr., Cedar Springs, MD) into second place. He chased hard after Henry Wynne (Sr., Staples; Westport, CT) but came up short 4:07.84-4:08.73. “I thought I could get the win but I made my move too late,” Keelan said. He wasn’t upset in his time but rather in the fact that he knew he could have been the national mile champion.