Milesplit Illinois Athletes Of The Week: Week 6

Cole, Janile, and Ebony put the hurt on their competition last weekend at the Shirk

Milesplit Illinois is pleased to announce the athletes of the athletes for week six. Each week it is getting harder to pick a male and female athlete of the week- especially on the final weekend of the indoor season. There were a ton of great performances but among the layer of non-stop action at last weekend’s Illinois Top Times meet in Bloomington-Normal was three athletes who really stood out.

Congratulations to Ebony McClendon (Sr., Chicago Brooks College Prep) and Janile Rogers (Sr., Minooka) for sharing the girls award; Cole Henderson (Sr., Pekin) picks up his first honor on the boys side.

McClendon blazed to US#5 in the 60m (7.45) and put the sprint crown on her head (Colin Boyle photo)

Ebony Mac grabs the sprint queen crown at the Shirk Center-

The Chicago Public League in most observers’ eyes appears to be an underfunded, talent-less, and surely severely lack of quality coaches when it comes to track and field.  In a lot of instances these assertions have been proven to be true.  However, if you have taken that same coin and flipped it, you will see the same league with raw talent, hunger, and desire bursting at the seams in an attempt to become world beaters.

In Ebony McClendon’s case, she has been on the track and field scene for quite awhile. “Ebony went out for cross country her first year at Brooks,” said head coach Delin Hill of his superstar in the making. “I called it track conditioning. I saw the Morgan Park girls doing it and I wanted my girls to be strong like Mustangs too.” For those that don’t know, the Public League is a training ground for greatness. The Mustangs are led by the legendary Derrick Calhoun whose yealings have dominated girls track and field from the early 1990s to the mid-2000s.

Hill adds more: “The first time I can remember her running was at the city meet. At the gun she shot out and was in the front pack for about 400 meters. She later faded like most ill prepared freshies do. Her mom told me after how surprised she was at Ebony for trying out for cross country, ‘but wait till you see her do the short stuff, she’s fast!’” “She was right.”

“She has been battle tested from year one until now. In club season, Ebony meets [Alex] Hyshaw of Lincoln-Way East, Evanston’s [Parker] English, and [Brittny] Ellis of Warren. In season there is [Shamier] Little formerly of Lindblom, [Ryan] Preacely of Johnson College Prep, and former Morgan Park sprinter [Elexis] Fairley from Chicago.  Then at state, she saw Springfield Southeast’s [Charday] Crawford[Dominique] Kimpel of Kankakee, and [Lake] Kwaza of Sycamore. All of these ladies are among the Illinois best in their given areas and Ebony McClendon stands proud beside them.”

“The Top Times was a statement meet for her. Ebony lowered her record 60m time by .2 with her 7.45 (US#5) and PR'd by .1 indoors on her outdoor 200m time (24.58) while breaking Crawford’s record. With all this, she is still humble and focused on getting better.”

McClendon is also a team player. She ran a leg on the 4x400m relay despite being completely mentally exhausted and physically spent from all of the attention thrown on her shoulders. “She is a team player and running relay legs is her way to give back,” Hill adds. “She could do four individual events but when given the choice she likes to run a relay or two.”

Rogers was all over the track at Top Times meet (Boyle photo)

Janile is ready for the bright lights and fame-

Shortly after running the anchor leg of the 4x400m relay for her beloved Minooka Indians, Rogers looked spent but appeared composed with the baton on her hip. She had just split 59.1 for her squad who ran 4:06.22 for third place. Janile is a team player who previously earned third place in the triple jump with a season best 36’8.5” which is good for IL#7.

The triple jump and the 4x400 were a good test of Roger’s character and diversity in track and field, but the bread and butter for her now and in the future is going to be the long jump. Coming into the Top Times meet her personal best was 18’10” from outdoors without a wind reading. Still, not a single person (not even the Minooka coaching staff) saw the seismic 10.0 earthquake that was about to rock the Shirk Center.  Word spread quicker than the Plague when Roger’s fourth leaped smashed to the pit in 19’10.75”. All that everyone knew that it was an incredible effort and among the great performances of all-time for the Illinois Prep Top Times/Illinois Top Times meet. As it turns out, Janile’s mark would be the best ever mark anywhere indoors in this state. Additionally, it is among the top 15 long jump performances ever indoors or outdoors weather conditions included.

Rogers is also adept on her event and the way that she approached the matter after the meet last Saturday virtually out of breath. “I made sure I hit my mark and take off as fast as I can and roll off my penultimate step, “she said excitedly but in a huff and puff manner on her record jump. Then another interesting subject matter arose beyond seasonal outdoor goals in which Rogers initially stated that she wanted to clear 20-feet. “Do you think I can get 20-feet, [9 inches],” she peered at on the taboo talk of the one and only Alexandria “The Great” Anderson formerly of Morgan Park. “I think I can get it,” Rogers looked out to the public.  We all will be watching and waiting this outdoor season.

Coach Kevin Gummerson added his sentiments of Rogers: “Janile has worked so hard to make herself into the athlete that she is. It was great to see her efforts pay off at the Illinois Prep Top Times meet. There is no doubt that she has gained a ton of confidence from this performance and she is ready to build off this throughout the outdoor season. I loved the fact that she was already thinking of her outdoor goal within minutes of the conclusion of the meet. She is extremely motivated and has an incredible amount of enthusiasm for this sport.”

“Janile Rogers is the kind of athlete that makes this entire team better. Obviously, she does that through her athletic ability; however, she also does that as a leader and a positive role model for the rest of the Minooka Indians.  The great ones inspire others on the team to do things they didn't think they could do; and Janile does that on a regular basis.”  

Cole Henderson proved he was back by his eletrifying performances at the Top Times meet (Tony Holler photo)

Cole Henderson is back-

After running a season best twice in the 60m with a 6.85 US#16 clocking, the University of Illinois signee from Pekin remarked: "I wasn't really here for the competition."  His comments could have been taken as a negative shot at the competition field but it wasn't. "I made a decision to save it for state this year," Cole referred to outputting peak performances and not blasting his foes.  The main thing in competing in the Top Times meet is getting back the swagger and dominance that he produced last year.  Henderson chose to open up his season in New York at the New Balance Indoor Nationals against the nation's best as an eye-opener for himself. He wanted to gauge where he was.  He knows that he will be competing against many of those same elite athletes in college.

Henderson's body was beat up from playing football which in turn precipatated his delayed return to the lightening form that we all gotten spoiled from watching.  On Saturday, Henderson kicked off his day by winning the long jump and dispatching the favorite Stacey Smith (Sr., Schaumburg) with a strong leap of 23'1.5"- his second ITT title in a row. Henderson would place second in the 200m out of the penultimate section (perhaps the fastest "slow section" performance in meet history) with an easy time of 22.46. He would have no doubt given winner Jordan Duncan (Sr., St. Charles East) the race of his life. Duncan ran 22.16.

The race that all speed fans come to see indoors is the 55/60m variety. On this occasion Henderson gave everyone what they paid for when he lashed as 6.85 time in the prelim that got everyone out of their seats.  He even glared over to his competition as to say "I'm back!" The same smooth effort ensued in the final as Cole Henderson breezed with same time as he did in the prelims. He picked up his crown on his way out of the door as well.