Milesplit Illinois Athletes Of The Week: Week 5

Milesplit Illinois is pleased to announce the athletes of the athletes for week four. Each week it is getting harder to pick a male and female athlete of the week. The credit has to go to the coaches who put in the time each day in getting their athletes ready to compete on meet day.

Congratulations to Christina Santiago (Sr., Prospect) for the girls award and to Johnny Leverenz (Sr., Danville) for the boys.


Christina Santiago (second from the right) posing with her teammates after earning 4th place in last year's 4x8 relay (Brooke Wolfe photo)

Christina is swift on the tennis court and fast on the track-

In three plus years as a Prospect student-athlete, Christina Santiago has done some wonderful things both on the tennis court and the track oval.

As a standout tennis player, Santiago excelled just like head track and field coach Dave Wurster said she would four years ago in August, when he first discovered her wondering around the school building. “As a three-year varsity player, she twice made it to state and won a few matches in the tournament,” said Wurster.

Santiago has also stood tall on the track with some outstanding individual and team accomplishments as proof. How does 10:58, 4:55, and 2:16 sound? She also assisted her team in earning a fourth place medal in last year’s 4x800m relay state championship.

This past weekend at the Mid-Suburban League Championship held at North Central College, Santiago had perhaps her greatest individual performance in a Lady Knights uniform. Santiago won the 800m in 2:16.1 and later returned to clock 4:59.0 for 1600m. Both marks are on the national register and they both are among the top five performances in the state this season.

Coach Wurster added these comments about his pupil: “Aside from the incredibly fast times she ran last week, the most impressive thing about her this season is the way she has accepted every challenge we put in front of her, from her training regime to the race situation we put her in.  For example, she never ran an indoor 3200m, and only twice outdoors, we put her in it on 160m track against some cross country all-staters, and not only did she dominate the race, she broke 11:00 along the way.  Then the tough 800-1600 double Saturday, which now gives her all of our indoor distance records.”


Sometimes athletes from central Illinois don’t get the respect they deserve. Case in point was during Leverenz’s junior year of track when he won the Class 3A 800m title in 1:53.28.  The time wasn’t great for a big-class state champion but a state title is a state title and he won it fair and square. Still not a lot of folks were impressed. It wasn’t until this season at the University of Kentucky Invitational that he dropped a 1:54.09 jewel that heads began to turn. Once again some observers said it was done on a 300m track (which is almost like running outdoors on 400m).

Finally after running and beating some of the best talent in the state and Midwest, Leverenz will no longer be the ‘hunter’ but rather the ‘hunted.’ This past weekend at the Gene Armer Invite inside of the University of Illinois’ Armory, he was indeed the hunted after first posting a meet record in the 3200m in 9:16.77.  But the big test would be the 1600m. Champaign (St. Thomas More) head coach Dave Behm remarked “Nick [Hess] is fresh man.” This comment could have been taken as a challenge to Leverenz getting beat since he did not run a race prior and was gearing up for the big day.

Leverenz took on Hess’ challenge and dropped him after the 800m and then took on Lane Tech senior David Schmieg’s tough fight.  But in the end Leverenz would not be denied two tough victories against quality foes.  His winning time in the latter race (4:17.04) was more impressive than the 4:16.57 single effort from two weeks ago because he was incredibly fatigued after the 3200m. Leverenz is amazing and distance coach Todd Orvitz agrees: “Johnny is the best kid that I have ever coached. He just never quits.” Enough said.

 -Johnny Leverenz Milesplit profile