Images by Colin Boyle and Mark Capappas....
Nothing is guaranteed and everything must be earned. With that being said it appears as though Tolono (Unity) is the team to beat. The Rockets have a ton of arsenal to complement their name sake. The outlook for their relays and individual players seem unstoppable. The Illinois Top Times Indoor meet gave us some insight on who to look out for as the outdoor season calendar turned May and eventually into the post-season. There are many players in the game as well as some veterans who returned from hibernation just in time to upset the balance of nature. Let's take a look:
The premier distance runner in Class A: Jon Davis
Jon Davis (Jr., Oakwood) is the premier choice to sweep the 3200m and 1600m runs assuming that his leg is fine. Davis has ran well when his Soleus muscle pain was at bay. Thus far this season he is virtually untouchable except for a loss to the number #1 distance runner in the state Jesse Reiser (McHenry) during a small meet indoor. Davis won several big 1600s against some of the best runners in the state. He traveled to Chicago land and beat a healthy field at the Dan Horyn Invite "mile" which was actually 1600m. In that race he held off Pavlo Hutsalyuk (Chicago Lane Tech), Jake and Luke Hoffert (Yorkville), and several others to win in 4:15.80. That mark is nearly 10 seconds faster than his nearest competitor. The 3200m has an even larger gap, Davis ran a comfy 9:15.93 at sectional meet. Eric Ponder (Sr., Tuscola) has the next best time of 9:34.48. It safe to say that Davis will be running solo this weekend.
Andrew Warnes (Jr., Tolono Unity) despite running 4:22 in the 1600m has chosen to say clear of Jon Davis. Instead he will attempt to lead his team in the 800m (1:56.07- #1 classification & sectional mark) and 4x800r (8:12.09- #2 sectional and classification mark). If the Rockets can pick up 18-20 points in those two events they are likely to be fighting for a top five team finish. Of course everyone has to do their part. But remember this though. Whenever you attempt to run a grueling 4x8/800 double you are at a high risk of losing one. Joseph Stone (So., Newton) battled Warnes well at Top Times and Michael Cook (Sr., Kewanee-Weathersfield) has the second fastest sectional seed time of 1:57.72. Things could get interesting on Saturday.
Can Marcus Sitko (Sr., Stauton) be the young man on top of the 100m mountain top Saturday afternoon? He will come to Charleston with the top seed (10.81). This is faster than Brett Charlton (Sr., Eureka) and Andre McGill (Sr., Madison). Though McGill, a powerful compact speedster, has the classification best 10.73 (+1.3 wind) and should be considered the favorite. Justin Goff (Sr., Trenton Wesclin) outputted a 10.75 this season without a wind reading. He ran 11.22 in sectional qualifier.
The 400m should be a heater for the qualifying round if Jacob Sholl (Sr., Illini West) has a say. The classification season and sectional leader has busted out a 48.71. He appears to be the frontrunner but it will not be easy with Brett Charlton lurking. As they say on any given day anyone can be beat. Also watch out for sub-50 second performer Nathan Stukenburg (Sr., Polo) and Aaron Harris (Jr., Lisle). Harris is trained by the great Thomas Boatright of the well chronicled Aurora Flyers Track Club during the off-season. Thomas said of the then less heralded Harris back in December: "watch out for Aaron Harris man. This kid is going to be dangerous." He will be a dangerous force on Saturday.
Sholl is also the classification leader in the 200m at 21.76. Andre McGill owns a personal best 21.87 stamped on his personnel file. No Brett Charlton in the prelim field means someone like the little known Kahlil Wassel (So., New Berlin) can enter the scene and make a big name for himself. Aaron Harris will be among the top contestants to qualify on Saturday.
Aaron Luesse (Sr., Tolono Unity) has run a very solid time of 14.43 this season and that makes him the one to beat. He will also be motivated by his team's prospect of winning a team championship or trophy, Don't expect Luesse to rest on his regular season stats though. Josh Kirby (Sr., Peoria Christian) will be supremely confident in knowing that he is the state's top runner- the yearling placed second last year in the state.
300H does not have an outstanding performer in the lot. Instead there are a handful of guys with a legitimate opportunity to win it all. Josh Kirby is the only long hurdler to break 40.00 this season. Riley Drees (Sr., Teutopolis) is another hurdler that will add depth to the event.
4x8- We will see a team or two challenge the 8:00 barrier but who will it be? Earlier it was mentioned that Tolono (Unity) has a great opportunity to take the gold medal with their ace Andrew Warnes waiting in the wings. No other team including state leader Galva-ROWVA has a better anchor man. Tolono may be just the team to grab a quick 10 points on Saturday. The Rockets were unchallenged at the St. Joseph Sectional in winning by a dozen seconds.
4x1- Unity's 42.75 followed by their big 42.92 sectional best is more than a half-second better than Sterling Newman Catholic. All the Rockets need to do is execute clean handoffs and good transitions around the track and they book an easy 10 points.
4x2- Can the top rated Rockets of Unity make it 3 for 3 in securing the top time and put themselves in position to pick up another 10 points? Who will get the honor of anchoring? It won't matter if they can run better than their season leading 1:30.06. Arcola is the next best team in the field.
4x4- By the time this relay rolls around on Saturday it will be a formality. That means Arcola will be ready to take the showstopper. Unity has a top mark but may disinterested in winning and thinking more about where to put their expected team championship trophy when they return to school.
Stephen Gibson will be out to capture the discus throw crown this weekend
Adam Coulon (Jr., Downs Tri-Valley) was supposed to be the future of boys pole vault in Illinois. He was the kid who owned virtually every age group record including the national freshman record. However, he was derailed during prior to his sophomore year and lost an entire year to a major injury. When that happens people tend to move on and forget what you have done. Coulon has quietly engineered his way back to the top (sort of) clearing a very respectable 15-2 to lead all entrants. The state leader is the undefeated Riley Smith (Sr., Casey) at 16-3. Riley will be incredibly hard to top regardless of what shape Coulon or anyone else is in. He is in a class by himself right now.
When you are IL#3 and have nearly a foot advantage over your nearest competitor you are almost guaranteed to coast. The speedy Marcus Sitko is that guy. He jumped 23-0 this season and the next best guy is Kevin King (Jr., Kankakee McNamara) is the sectional leader (22-0.25). Sitko cruised at his sectional jumping just 21-10.25. But hold up... not so fast! The defending state champion Corey Kersey (Sr., Neoga) is back. He has only jumped 21-9.25 to date. Fortunate for him he will have two more opportunities to get things together.
Defending state champion Corey Kersey will be at his best in his premier event: the triple jump. He won the Illinois Top Times over sectional and classification leader Marcus Sitko- Sitko's only loss to a Class A athlete. Kersey has a person best of 47-2.25 from last year's state. He will need more than the 45-foot effort he has landed on so far this season if he expects another gold medal. Also, keep an eye on Corey Jones (Sr., River Grove Guerin). He is rated #3 this season and well within striking distance of upsetting the favorites.
No high jumper has yet to clear the 7-0 barrier this season. The emerging Noah Adams (Jr., Macon Meridian) could be the first athlete to do it. He is tied at #1 in the state with fellow junior Darryl Sullivan of Marion. Prior to the season, Adams' best was just 6-5. In that meet that he cleared his personal best, he attempted 6-11. When it comes to state you can bet he will ask the bar go straight for the magical 7-0 mark.
Blaze Murfin (Sr., Illini West) took over the classification lead in the shot put over Stephen Gibson (Sr., Tuscola) at the sectional round with a 55-11 toss. Gibson placed second in the state last year. Gibson has beaten Murfin this year at the Illinois Top Times meet... Gibson and Murfin will battle hard in the discus throw. They are the premier throwers in the classification. Gibson owns a second place finish to his record. However, Colton Yeakley (Jr., Arthur/L-A-H) is a dude you should consider to be inside that top five. Nick Matthews (Sr., Cisne) and Manning Plater (Jr., Rushville-Industry are tough cats. The discus will be an event for fans to enjoy.