Believe The Hype: Crete-Monee Boys Wins The 3A Title

Ricky Williams was a key component in his team Crete-Monee's masterpiece excursion 


Charleston- Under the backdrop of a day, that on the surface appeared picture perfect for a state championship. O'Brien Stadium on the campus of Eastern Illinois University, the sun was mixed with part gusty winds and humidity that fans and athletes go through pleasure and pain.

Crete-Monee stands tall late in the season- 

They may not want to admit it, but they have heard the whispers from afar about the ability of not focusing and utilizing the great talent they possess. Crete-Monee has had opportunities to walk away with a trophy over the past 10 years. The Warriors best finish since joining 3A was a 10th place finish 2012. Rashad Hulbert was the star back then with several state titles in his hand. But things stood still there for a while.

Fast forward to 2017 and there was the talk of a funky young bunch that would be the best in Crete-Monee history if only they stayed together and grow together. Three names that surfaced were sophomores Jamal Safo, Victor Cameron, Marquise Kennedy, Jalen Echols, and Stefan Baldwin. This dangerous crew was growing and maturing together. Safo and Cameron ran at the state meet and gained valuable meet experience. Kennedy leaped 6-6 in the high jump to take fourth place in the state. Baldwin also leaped 6-6 but he excelled in the long jump alongside Safo to form a dynamic duo. Echols was the speedy one, developing well during the club seasons.

But then things began to change. Kennedy transferred to Brother Rice in 2018 to focus on basketball. Baldwin took his talent and transferred to Michigan where he continues to excel in track (advanced to state in several events), and Echols continued to play a part on the team when needed. When there is a subtraction, there has to be an addition. Add in long-time track and field hold out senior Ricky Johnson. He would be the key to all of the madness of the championship weekend.

Safo came into the state championship with a story to tell. He got all of the hype started in the long jump. At the Bloom Twp. Sectional, he jumped 25'0." He came into Friday's preliminary round focused and departed the pit albeit suspect jumping boards with the top mark of 23'5.5." The other big highlight during the prelims was the 4x100. It was rather somber right before the start of heat #3. But immediately, it was a great start by Cameron who passed the stick to partner in crime Safo who then swiftly handed the baton off to Kavon Jones, and Johnson completed the task in 40.86! The all-time record was absolutely destroyed and with it, the Warriors become the first team under 41-seconds and the second fastest time in the nation outside of the big three (CA, TX, FL). Good things abound, to say the least. 

Cameron would win the 110HH in 13.93 and take part in the 4x100 and the 4x200 that placed second to Homewood-Flossmoor. The Warriors mustered enough points to beat another trophy favorite #2 Homewood-Flossmoor 66-53. Oak Park-River Forest was able to grab the third place trophy with 30 points. 

The best of the rest-

4x800: Chicago Lane Tech got the jump on the field when their first two runners Jack Burns and Frank Burke-Olson dropped 1:55.3 and 1:56.8 offerings. The once 25-meter lead was quickly evaporated and ultimately Naperville Central moved in front on the anchor by "surprise" Thomas Shilgalis who made up the deficit and won going away with a 1:54.4 carry. His team win in a US#6 7:45.03. Overall, the deep and evenly matched contest saw 12 units under 8:00 (Huntley 7:56.58)... Shilgalis saved up enough energy to win the 800 in 1:54.86.

4x100: Crete-Monee did not duplicate their prelim masterpiece but they won in a much closer battle than they probably expected in 41.12. Homewood-Flossmoor ran the same former record time from a year ago in 41.31 to take second place.

3200: Our predictions indicated that cross country star Josh Methner (Jr., Hersey) would be ready when it counted most. Methner did not play with the field this time. He pushed the paced early and often and kept Tommy Brady (Sr., Maine South) at bay 9:06.88-9:07.49.

Marcellus Moore: He got through the prelims just fine. But on day 2 the feeling in the air was that of trepidation. Would Moore respond well to the pressure? Were his legs ok? In the 100m he got out like a rocket and it was over by the halfway mark in 10.39. Jermarrion Stewart (Jr., Collinsville) did not have a chance as he placed a distant second in 10.54... the 200 presented more of a challenge as the track was reversed to aid the runners. Moore needed every each inch and begged the finishing line to close in on him. As he limped toward the home base the piranhas were swimming all around. Stewart had one final opportunity to defeat Moore. Nope. He could do it. "Baby Holyfield" proceeded to knock him out and he did 21.22-22.26w.

Jason Thormo: The Grant senior came through once again in the long sprint known as the 400m and 4x200. Thormo mustered the strength to come home in 47.97... several hours late, Thormo anchored his team with a dramatic carry in the 4x400 with a time of 3:19.44. His 47.6 split turned back a great effort by Lockport who ran 3:19.58.

Andrew O'Keefe (Sr., Granite City): Toyed with the field for the second day in a row, only this team he waited until he was clear of the field before throwing up the "V" pose. The time of 4:13.50 was nearly five seconds faster than Charlie Smith (Jr., Antioch). This was one of the slowest overall fields in quite a while.

Jordan Johnson (Sr., Quincy): The most complete thrower in the state took sixth in the shot put. He was mildly disappointed in his effort there and not eclipsing 60-feet. But he had enough energy to muster a monster 205'8" to win the discus throw by a mile.

Sam Liokumovich (Sr., Deerfield): Got sweet redemption of not qualifying in the discus to win the shot put with a toss of 61'9.25"

Robert Williams (Sr., Springfield): The thought of another hurdle crash in the 300s did not even enter his mind. Williams was a skilled craftsman in handling his business. He held off Jahari Stubbs of Elgin Larkin to win in 38.16.

Zach Frye (Jr., Lake Park): Adds to the lore of his school's pole vault success at the state meet. He was able to beat Andrew Saloga (Jr., Marmion Academy) on fewer misses. Both cleared 15-3.

Alex Babbington (Sr., Plainfield East): One of the good guys of the sport finally got a state title. Babbington cleared a personal best 6-9 and attempted 6-11 before calling it quits. he will head off to the University of Illinois this fall.

Quinton Stringfellow (Sr., Homewood-Flossmoor): Was impressive in the long jump with a fourth-place effort, but his signature event was the triple jump in which his 49-4 was too strong for the competition.