Tyran Lyons put the finishing touches on a historic day for Cahokia (Colin Boyle photo)
The 121st Annual Boys Track and Field State Championship had to be among the most anticipated meets in a very long time. Coming into the meet there were a lot of compelling questions that had to be answered. Some of them were: 1) Could Kahmari Montgomery (Sr., Plainfield Central) win the rarely achieved " sprint triple crown" of track and field which entails 100-200-400; 2) Cahokia would be going for a historic fifth 2A title in a row. But are they really the best overall team in Illinois; 3) Jesse Reiser (Sr., McHenry) proved that he was the king of Illinois distance running over the past full season; 4) Who would come on late and surprise the Illinois track and field world; 5) Josh Eiker (Sr., Galesburg) is a great sprinter in his own right. He wants a piece of the sprint accolades as well. Can he upstage Montgomery?
The weather started off hot and muggy for the Thursday and Friday preliminaries when the climes hit the upper 80s and high humidity. But on Saturday for the finals things took a dramatic dip to dark skies coupled by rain, thunder and then lightening. The result of Mother Nature being upset was a 2+ hour delay in action. When order was restored, one of the most amazing track meets assumed and the athletes performed to an ability not seen in many years. The rest could have helped or it could have hurt, but the sped up action by meet management was well received. Track czar Ron McGraw did a wonderful job in getting the info out to the public and the athletes and teams of the situation. He must be greatly commended.
Edwardsville won their first state championship because they had a deeper and more potent squad than second place finishers Evanston and Naperville (Neuqua Valley) who scored 37 points. The Tigers struck hard in their finals events which enabled them to tally a healthy 55 points.
Cahokia broke the bank with an amazing performance that may never be duplicated again (until maybe next year). Coach Leroy Millsap's troops scored a whopping 119 points in earning a 5-peat! The beating was so bad that no one even recognized who finished second. However, respectively Burlington Central, Champaign Centennial, and Galesburg split the pie for runner-up scoring 37 points.
In the 1A division, there was no team as deep as Unity High School of Tolono. They had relays, field, distance, and some speed component. That is hard to top when you think of it. The central Illinois favorites ran past Illini West who tallied 44.
It was a coaching dream of mine to see a master pupil Pavlo Hutsalyuk take home high school's crown jewel, the "MILE" (Colin Boyle photo)
Pavlo: The making of a champion-
As many of you know I coach and I counsel youth in addition to being an editor of this track and field site. I don't coach at meets and I rarely make any contact with my athletes within the field of play. In 2012, when my relay (Lane Tech) won the 3A 4x8 title, I was so overcome with joy that I broke down in tears in front of a group of reporters. The emotion was for all of the kids of the Chicago Public League who never had the opportunity to experience what we accomplished. I also had a flashback from 1995 as a volunteer coach when our relay team was lapped in the prelim round for running an embarrassing 9:05. It was at that moment I decided to go and become a real coach... this year was the culmination of four years of grind for Pavlo Hutsalyuk. He was a gift to me as a freshman by head coach Kris Roof who coaches the sprints. He said, "here is your next star." I thought 'what did this guy give me?' I spent more time watching Pavlo chasing girls around the school than watching him put in quality workouts. He was not serious at all about running in that initial season. So I did what most good coaches do, I let him go. He got the "Pete Jones treatment." It is a no talk ordinance that my high school coach Pete Jones deployed whenever he was disgusted with athletes. When Coach Jones stopped talking to you you were done. You did not exist. Some say it is a form of mental abuse to athletes. I say whatever. Pavlo was sent to the army (demotion and or developmental group- it varies based on prior team standing) for the remainder of the year. Little did I know the upperclassmen who won the 4x8 took him under their wings. Pav would finish the season 56/2:05/4:35. He ran the 4:35 time at the "EIU Race Under The Lights." Pav became serious and stopped chasing girls going into the 2013 school calendar.
Now, our goal was to build Pavlo into a miler beginning with his sophomore season. The Ukraine born but Chicago bred Pavlo showed the skill set to be a champion one day. He had speed, strength, an ability to work up endurance, and confidence. I did consult with many people including Neuqua Valley coach Paul Vandersteen on approaches to take. Vandersteen is a future hall of fame coach who gave me more coaching tools than he will ever know in developing kids. He said continue with the base and speed development and don't worry so much about the races because the kid was still so young in athletic terms. Haha! Thanks coach! We were able to use these tools and build this kid up. Some people saw the mechanics and speed and thought I was going to make him a half-miler including someone from the other network. Nope. Pavlo was going to be a miler his senior year. We allowed David Schmieg to be our exclusive miler last season in preparation of him going to the University of Illinois. Pavlo used 2014 to hone his speed and master the 800. This is why he entered only the 4x8/800 at state and then just the 4x8 at New Balance Outdoor Nationals. He ran 4:17 last year for the 1600, but we chose to say with our original plan. So, at the end of the day we never wavered in our goals despite guys like Ty Moss, Matt Plowman (York), Bryce Richards (Mundelein), and others taking over middle-distance scene.
When I am at school I am a coach and disciplinarian first. We don't spend much time during instructional time talking about "Tony Prepster"- it's all discipline, nurturing and developing our student-athletes! It's only when the workouts are complete that we dive into the media stuff or laugh and exhale. You can say that I have multiple personalities haha! I learned these traits from the greats and from being a social worker/counselor.
Thus, the final ride into the state series was filled with swaying emotion. I was happy and sad at the same time. This would be the final time as coach and athlete. We talked a little about final goals. I said "Jesse [Reiser] is the guy to beat until further notice." Being real is the best policy you can give your athlete. We never discussed other athletes again.
Pav got through the 4x8 and 1600 rounds without any questions. I saw him after dinner Friday night and gave him these last words: "Tomorrow in the final, when you make your move to attack, make it! Don't think about it. It's a choice you have to live with. You have everything I gave you; there is nothing else to talk about." I did not speak to Pavlo the rest of the weekend until after he won the state championship in a big personal best 4:08.19. The dream was fulfilled and the gateway to the future opened up for one of Illinois' best young men. I am incredibly blessed to have coached him, and I think the state as a whole has benefited with meeting a cool kid known as Pavlo Hutsalyuk. I can't wait to see what his future at the University of Iowa and beyond holds.
Kahmari gets his triple crown-
Kahmari Montgomery was the king of sprints today as he completed an enormous and incredibly difficult task in the 100, 200, 400. Montgomery made his first set of victims in the Century with a solid time of 10.50. The victory came a little easier when Barrington senior Scotty Miller pulled up slightly lame during one of his races. He would not run the 4x2 or 200 qualifiers. Montgomery was free to exploit the likes of Cary Lockhart (So., Bloomington)- 10.59, Demoria Harris (Sr., Chicago Dunbar), Shandall Thomas (Sr., Schaumburg), and others. Montgomery's form and ability to reach his top speed before any of his competitors is what won this race. The 400 was a little more subdued at first until Montgomery started picking up the pace around 200- which he carried in a low 22-seconds. It was all over for runner-up Corey Hertz (Sr., Lakes) at 300. The lactic acid got to him in a major way and Montgomery sped off to an all-time state meet record 46.24. Hertz finished in an admiral 47.53. His time would be a winner in most years prior to the 2013. Roosevelt Davis (Jr., E. St. Louis Sr.) also broke 48-seconds in 47.96. But back to Montgomery's record run. His time even trumps the 46.2 hand mark that Jemar Collins of Wheaton-Warrenville South ran at sectionals. The event of the day was the 200 and it was almost anti-climatic as the rains were coming and meet management wanted this meet over. Montgomery gave them what they wanted with a sizzling 20.96 wind-legal time. It was the fastest time since 1997 in any meet at any time under any conditions. Afterwards, Montgomery kept the reporters and then awards ceremony folks waiting, and waiting, and waiting... but his high school school coach Jonathan Pereiro released this statement: "Speaking about his absence for the 200 meter awards: Kahmari's mother, who earlier this year moved out of state for her career, came to the meet to surprise him. Kahmari did hear her in the stands after the 100 and he was incredibly excited to see her and the rest of his family. He didn't get a chance to leave the infield prior to the 200 due to the acceleration of the meet schedule, so I believe that after his 200, he left the infield to see her and got hung up to the where he did not have the chance to get back to the podium."
Chris Torpy and Sandburg would not be denied this time in the 4x8 championship (Colin Boyle photo)
The best of the lot begins with Sandburg's 4x8 thriller-
Orland Park Sandburg finally got their long overdue state championship in a distance running event- particularly the 4x8 relay which had been denied numerous times in recent years. The supremely deep Eagles was so confident in qualifying that they did not even run their two top runners junior twins Chris and Sean Torpy. They would grab a solid prelim time of 7:52.22. In the final, the Eagles would fight from behind for much of the race until twin #1 Sean Torpy grabbed the stick in sixth place. He clawed all the way to the front and unleashed a solid 1:53.0 split before handed off to twin #2 Chris Torpy. Torpy rocked and rolled with senior anchors Konrad Eiring (Barrington) and Alex Lima (Lyons Twp.) for the first 500. Torpy decided to produce his own speedway and gradually dashed away from his friends with a 1:52.9 tote and the refreshing win in 7:42.03. The Silver medal package isn't bad for Lyons at 7:43.08. Barrington gets the Bronze in 7:43.39. Last year was perhaps the best race in the metric era, but this race was deeper top to bottom with the 12th place team (last place) O'Fallon completing things off in a very good 7:55.33.
Evanston ran well on the strength of two relays. The Wildkits ran incredibly strong in winning the 4x1 (41.68) and 4x2 (1:26.81). They were the only 3A team to break 42.0 and 1:27.0. The north Chicago suburb running Cats also clocked 3:17.00 for the 4x4 which took them to third place overall.
42 out of 45 runners broke 10:00 for the 3200m which signals the depth of the event for the near future. Jesse Reiser of course won the event in 8:59.58- he stayed in total control after hitting the first mile in 4:29. Perhaps the future of long distance running will be Irwin Loud (So., Oak Park-River Forest) who is one of the most consistent runners we have seen all year. Loud continued his front running style to stay up with the leaders which ultimately led to a runner-up finish in 9:06.74. "I am a little guy who gets pushed around if I'm in the pack," said Loud referring to why he likes to run up front.
Ty Moss was hoping to have a great day for himself on Saturday. The Neuqua Valley senior did not get the same set up on anchor as he did in the prelim and he could not make up the huge deficit. The end result was a disappointing fifth place finish in 7:45.27. He narrowly won the 800 despite an uncharacteristic faux paus on his part during the first lap. After he sped off in 53.xx for the opening 400, it appeared as though he was going to do the sub- 1:50 trick. However, the legs were not quite there from a tough 1:51.3 relay tote. Moss hung on to win over a hard charging Wes Schoenthal (Sr., Edwardsville) 1:51.80-1:51.90.
As I said previously, Wes Schoenthal assisted greatly to his team's championship title, but it was Fontez Davis (Sr.) who kicked things off by winning the long jump with a 23-6 personal best mark. Davis won on a carry over from Friday and needed ever bit of Saturday to hold off Matt Fleming (Sr., Chicago Simeon) who was capable of leaping into the 24-foot range. Fleming stayed at 23-0.
Fontez's teammate AJ Epenesa (So.) was the favorite in the discus but finished second to Ricky Nelson (Sr., Belleville West). Nelson had the time of his life in defeating Epenesa for the first time and getting a big 14-foot personal best to hit 192-3. Nelson was down in the Friday prelim stats but stepped up to shock the world. Epenesa picked up eight big points for his team.
Jake LaRocca (Sr., Palatine) completed a great season winning the pole vault on less misses to Andy Jatis (Sr., New Lenox Providence Catholic)- both vaulters cleared 16-0. LaRocca had the bar raised to 16-3 inside the field house (competition ended there because of weather). He missed on all three attempts but was greeted with tremendous emotion from the crowd.
West Aurora triple jumpers Chris Walker (Jr.) and DaVion Cross (So.) teamed up to defeat previous classification leader JaShaun Steward (Jr., Proviso West). Walker and Cross connected on 48-9.25 and 48-5.75 efforts. Steward only mustered 47-4.25. Walker and Cross indicated they intend on becoming a 50-foot duo next year.
Ricky Hurley (Sr., Cary-Grove) beat out a group of evenly built competitors in the shot put with a winning effort of 59-4.75.
Kenny Brown (Sr., Oak Park-River Forest) out performed a solid high jump field including his teammate Chris Wright-Madison (Sr.) to win in a personal best 6-9.
Josh Eiker ruled the 2A sprints even when he didn't win (Colin Boyle image)
Cahokia was the featured item here with 14 individuals and four relays qualified. The Comanches got things started in Thursday's preliminary round when superstar junior Ja'mari Ward set an all-time state meet record in the long jump that was an eye popping 25'0.25" [+1.8]. As great as the feat was and is, it is not even Ward's indoor or outdoor personal best! His coach shut him down after the third attempt for the rest of the meet. You can't fault him since no one in the entire state is within 2.5 feet of him.... Ward only took two jumps in the triple jump. The second was via the coaxing of Coach Millsap insisting that he only take one and be done. Ward connected on a wind-aided 50-6 effort in which he almost rolled out of the pit.
The track was a virtual playground for Cahokia won all four relays comfortably- two of them in record time. The first one was the distance laced 4x8 where the Comanches took charge immediately and often. Cahokia did not fall behind at any point in the 7:53.53 win over Johnsburg. Tyran Lyons split 1:56.6 for his leg.
The next two relays were completed in all-time meet record form. The 4x1 zoomed around the track unopposed to a blazing time of 41.12. Ward anchored the relay with in supersonic warp closing speed. Coach Millsap has hinted that Ward may be running some open events next year in addition to jumping. If so, he will be immediately become an impact player on the sprint scene. The 4x2 was even more impressive than the 4x1. The race was over on the second leg when Ward increased the gap over Phillips and Hillcrest. The final result was a torching 1:25.78. NO TEAM in Illinois has run faster than this bunch. Coach Millsap is planning to take his team to the Southwest Classic in New Mexico this weekend. They may also get an opportunity to run the 4x1 at New Balance in a few weeks. If so, you may see a 40.80 clocking.
Galesburg star Josh Eiker is in his own element-
Junior Josh Eiker did his best to keep up with 3A motor stallion Kahmari Montgomery's exploits. 2016 may be all Eiker's world regardless of classification. He won the 100 in a nice 10.57- nearly three tenths of a second ahead of the field. No challenge. Although his team was thoroughly in back of Cahokia and Phillips (41.46) in the 4x1, Eiker's tote was the most impressive. He glided down the homestretch giving the fans additional joy and the third team under 42.00 with a big school record 41.94. If the Streaks cannot replace the two graduating legs on the 4x2, the 1:27.56 will stay as the school record. Eiker could move to the open 400 and vie for a triple crown attack. Eiker completed his glorious day with a classification record 21.20 in the 200. There was absolutely no contest for Eiker on the day win or lose and it was too bad he could not compete against Montgomery.
- Lucas Ege (Sr., Burlington Central) enjoyed a banner day by sweeping both hurdlers: 110HH (14.15) and 300H (37.10)- both fastest times on the day regardless of classification. The long hurdles is a state best mark.
- Freshman Deion McShane of Freeport showed some flair of an upperclassmen with his headband and self-confidence. After running a solid time in the 110's on Friday he was asked about competing in the state meet for the first time. McShane quickly snapped back, "this is not my first state meet," not understanding the different stage between the IHSA and IESA. The former junior high school star placed fifth in the 110HH and second in the 300H. The second race was very impressive in that he stayed with Ege for virtually the entire race before tiring and settling for a good 37.43.
- The top four finishers in the 3200m were all juniors which should bold well for the upcoming cross country season and track 2016. Colin DeYoung (Lansing Illini Christian), Alex Keeble (Mahomet-Seymour), Luke Beattie (Woodstock), and Walmer Saavedra (Chicago Lindblom) duel the entire race until DeYoung pulled away for the win in 9:21.63.
- Alex Bruno (Sr., Normal University) did not have the great cross country season and his track season was just ok until reaching Charleston. Bruno exploded for a big win in the 1600 running a lifetime best 4:14.91- the exclamation point was the waving to his fans featured in the crowd above the finish line. Salvatore Flight (Sr., Oak Park Fenwick) took second in a personal best 4:15.96- six total runners broke 4:20 which aided in the depth of the event as a whole.
- Sam Sikon (So., Carbondale) swept the throws like he thought he would but that doesn't mean he was entirely happy. Sikon wanted to throw upwards to 67-feet as a goal he set during the indoor season. He threw 61-0.25 and won by nearly four feet. He is arguably the best thrower in the state and will get better by the end of the summer.
Jon Davis is the cream of the crop in Class A distance running (Colin Boyle image)
- Marcus Sitko (Sr., Staunton) took the long jump with a great effort of 23-2.25. Sitko then went on to defeat defending champion Corey Kersey (Sr., Neoga) in the triple jump with a 46-2.25 leap.
- Noah Adams (Jr., Macon Meridian) won a spirited high jump title over a tough foe in Logan Ross (Sr., White Hall North Greene). Both jumpers cleared 6-10 but Adams won on less misses. Adams strangely went for 6-11 instead of the magical 7-foot barrier. He will have another season to eclipse 7-feet.
- Blaze Murfin (Sr., Illini West) and Stephen Gibson (Sr., Tuscola) split the throws championships. Murfin easily beat Gibson in the shot put with a 59-8.5 effort. Gibson was more than six feet behind. Gibson took the discus with a plate toss of 175-9 to Murfin's 173-10.
- Jon Davis (Jr., Oakwood) is already a star on the larger scale of distance running. But during the state series he is forced to compete against runners who are essentially not in his league. Davis set the Class A 3200m record with a ho-hum 9:05.23. Davis could have jogged for the win considering he beat Tyler Johnson (Jr., Pleasant Plains) by 25 seconds. Davis had the second fastest time on the day behind 3A runner Jesse Reiser. It would have been awesome to see Davis compete against Reiser. How about Pavlo Hutsalyuk in the 1600 who ran 4:08 to win the 3A title. Davis beat Hutsalyuk twice during the season. "Yes, knowing that I beat Pavlo twice and he runs 4:08 makes me feel better," Davis said in his own quest in wanting to break 4:10. Davis ran 4:15.44 and won by over eight seconds.
- Andre McGill (Sr., Madison) won the 200 in 21.73 and placed second in the 100 due to a bad block start. The redemption felt great in his eyes.
- Jacob Sholl (Sr., Illini West) was the man of the hour in the 400 with a solid 48.72.
- Arcola won the 4x1 (42.96) and 4x4 (3:20.65).
- Tolono Unity was the only team to break 8:00 in the 4x8 at 7:59.63.