University of Illinois recruits Julian Hylton and Cole Henderson are on line to re-up epic sprint battles. Nick Schnelle/Peoria Journal photo
2014 should be a year in which the sprints and hurdles collectively experience a big jump in performances as many of the emerging stars return. Pekin's four event star Cole Henderson returns for a senior year that is expected to wow the fans of track and field in this state. It has been a very long time since boys sprints and hurdles have gained the sport's attention in this state. It will happen this season for sure. The tracks all across the state should see some fine performances that the girls have had for the past five years.
2013 State Champion: Cole Henderson (Sr., Pekin) 10.63 [+1.6]
Key returners: Henderson, Julian Hylton (Sr., Frankfort Lincoln-Way North), Jauan Wesley (Sr., Harvey Thornton), Terry McGee (Sr., Chicago North Lawndale Charter), Leland Groves (Sr., Normal West), Craig James (Sr., Edwardsville), Titus Booker (Jr., Grayslake North), Treston Forbes (Sr., Chicago St. Rita), Natereace Strong (Jr., E. St. Louis Sr.), Devin Ingram (Sr., Minooka).
Outlook: Cole Henderson was everyone's surprise sprint superstar who busted on the scene last year with a sizzling Illinois Top Times performance that was one for the ages. Henderson usurped the Jonathan Boey show with his own indoor national 60m highlight show. The phenom from Pekin ran 6.85 in the prelim to upstage the 2A star from Decatur MacArthur. Boey would eventually claim the state top's top sprinter title in his final, but the Henderson bandwagon had already been built. Cole recorded two Century dash times under 10.60, including the top legal and overall state best of 10.51. This upcoming season should experience a renaissance in the short dash with the top two speedsters returning as well as six of the top ten. Julian Hylton, who recently signed to play football at the University of Illinois, should join Cole between the 42-inch lines this spring. Both future Illini stars could stage a few epic battles during the indoor and outdoor seasons.
Sam Bransby will be a force this spring in the 400m
2013 State Champion: Matt Burns (Sr., Villa Park Willowbrook) 48.89
Key returners: Burns, Cole Henderson (Sr., Pekin), Sam Bransby (Sr., Naperville Central), Kenny Lewis (Sr., Plainfield East), Paul Ifianayi (Jr., Elk Grove), Alex Shulga (Sr., Grayslake North), Chris Wilson (Sr., Minooka), Matt Anyiwo (Sr., Homewood-Flossmoor), Jack Meadows (New Lenox Lincoln-Way Central), Imani Payton (Sr., Chicago North Lawndale Charter).
Outlook: For the first time since 1999, no one broke the 48-second barrier. That’s the bad news. The good news is the top three state placers return plus the multi-talented Cole Henderson. In other words, 2013 was an abberation and this year fans should witness a few long sprinters running in the mid 47-second range. Kenny Lewis ran 48.56 last year but was relegated to 49.44 in last year's state final. The awful weather had something to do with it, but at the same time it could have been nerves that unraveled Lewis who was in the limelight for the first time in his career. Henderson was another first time emerging athlete turned star that had a rough time in the 400 final. He finished last in 51.10. He did not offer any excuses for his performance. He was able to regroup and win the 200. But somewhere there has to be an inner voice screaming: "we are going to get revenge next year!"
2013 State Champion: Cole Henderson (Sr., Pekin) 21.76 [-0.2]
Key returners: Henderson, Sam Bransby (Sr., Naperville Central), Ti’Fonte Hunt (Sr., Harvey Thornton), Treston Forbes (Sr., Chicago Rita), John Hader (Sr., Park Ridge Maine South), Cory Hertz (Jr., Lake Villa Lakes), Scotty Miller (Jr., Barrington), Julian Hylton (Sr., Lincoln-Way North), Christian Neal (Jr., Bloomington), Kahmari Montgomery (Jr., Plainfield Central), Terry McGee (Sr., Chicago North Lawndale Prep).
Outlook: Cole Henderson ran 21.50 last year and that was ok considering his previous best was 22.3 entering the season. He will be shooting to run near 21.00 this spring if the tricky Midwest weather can hold up. The defending state champion may not have much resistance due to several classification defections (Chicago Dunbar's Demoria Harris dropped to 2A) and few other solid sprinters have graduated. Still, there should be some respect given to the likes of Terry McGee, Sam Bransby, and Julian Hylton. They should be able to close the gap that was created after last year.
2013 State Champion: Andrew Helmin (New Lenox Providence Catholic) 13.99 [0.8]
Key returners: Antonio Shenault (Jr., Roselle Lake Park), Austin Corydon (Sr., Frankfort Lincoln-Way East), Tifonte Hunt (Sr., Harvey Thornton), Daylen Hubbard (Jr., Chicago Heights Bloom), William Session (So., Belleville East), Nikita Smith (Calumet City T.F. North), Matt Konopka (Sr., Palatine Fremd), Os Moore (Jr., Belleville East), Luke Pilliod (Sr., Glenview Glenbrook South).
Outlook: The writing was on the wall when Lake Park head coach Jay Ivory smiled brightly when someone asked him who Antonio Shenault was. The then sophomore had produced one of the top sectional performances and no one really knew who he was. He continued his rampage during the proceeding state championship weekend that ultimately earned him a third place medal and big personal best of 14.28. Shenault will have a big target on his back as he returns as one of the nation's best short hurdlers. Austin Corydon ran 14.67 last season and finished sixth last year in the state. Daylen Hubbard and William Session may be this season's top two emerging talents bubbling all the way to the surface. Hubbard picked up a huge personal best over the summer in JO Nationals (14.31). Session, the son of former E. St. Louis Senior superstar Rodney Session, also enjoyed a tremendous summer running a lifetime best of 14.49 during his freshman campaign. Finally... here is a bonus name for you all that was not listed in the key returner category. His name is Eric Walker and he is a junior at Chicago (St. Rita) on the south side of the "Windy City." Walker is self professed track and field fiend who has big plans this spring. He ran 7.81 for 55HH back in December at the University of Chicago Holiday Classic. The time would have been good for 10th in the state for 2013. So in other words, don't be shocked when Walker busts out this year.
2013 State Champion: Dave Kendziera (Mt. Prospect [Prospect]) 37.28
Key returners: Conor Dunham (Sr., Chicago St. Ignatius), Antonio Shenault (Jr., Roselle Lake Park), Michael Jopes (Sr., Naperville Central), Matt Henry (Sr., Skokie Niles North), Josh Yamamoto (Sr., Palatine Fremd), Imani Payton (Sr., Chicago North Lawndale Charter).
Outlook: The 2013 graduating cast that included Dave Kendziera, Andrew Helmin (Providence Catholic), and Lino Mogorovic (Lyons Twp.) will be very hard to replace, but someone will have to do it. Conor Dunham will be the first name to sign up for supremacy in this event after placing third in the state last spring. His personal best time of 38.36 puts him in line to run somewhere in the low to mid-37s this season. Imani Payton (left photo) got his wish when his team was elevated to compete in 3A after dropping down last season. He will now be able to compete head to head with the best athletes in the state. Payton, who is a solid all-around athlete, stated that he intends on running in the "36s this year." That very boastful comment will be put to the test this season for sure.