Illinois Top Times Class A Preview: Top 5 Athletes To Watch

Alyssa Williams is someone you better keep your eyes open for this weekend!


Date: Friday, March 25, 2022
Location: Shirk Center, Illinois Wesleyan University; Normal, IL
Meet Info: Class A- Doors open at 1p; national anthem- 3p; field events- 3:05p; first running event- 4:15p
Follow us: Twitter @milesplitil ; Instagram- @milesplitil #ITT22
-After a halted 2020 indoor season and a canceled 2021 indoor season, Illinois is finally approaching the completion of its first indoor season in three years. The season's end is officially stamped by the running of Illinois Top Times on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan. This is the closest to a state meet that Illinois sees in the indoor season, and the entries for this meet are complete and deep. Follow our hashtag #ITT22 for up-to-date results and winners throughout the meet on Friday and Saturday


Top 5 athletes to watch: Alyssa Williams (Sr., Tuscola), Cambria Geyer (Jr., Tremont), Sophia Yaklich (Fr., Bloomington [Central Catholic]), Brooke Probst (Sr., Indian Creek), Kayla Braun (Sr., Sparta) 

Friday can mark the official publicity party for Alyssa Williams. Williams, a Murray State University signee, is the heavy favorite and fastest seed in both the 60m and the 200m, and expectations are high for her entering the state series. Williams has run unchallenged throughout the indoor season, but even the deeper Top Times field will have their hands full with her. The seed times 26.11 and 7.76 are rated 11th and 10th overall in the state but are No. 1 among the classification.

If there is an athlete that can slide into the silver position for attention behind Williams, it may be Cambria Geyer. Geyer is the only entrant within a sniff of Williams' seed times in the 60m and 200 but is also busy as the 60m hurdles favorite. Geyer is a do-it-all athlete for the Turks having competed in four events at the 2021 outdoor state meet including an all-state showing in the 100 hurdles. Williams will have the lions' share of the limelight but Geyers' profile may be the one to rise the most.

Aside from Williams, perhaps the most intriguing athlete is Sophia Yaklich. Her 58.35 400m seed is the fastest by a good margin, but there is not much else high school track record to follow for Yaklich yet. She was a dominant sprinter for Corpus Christi Middle School in Bloomington and was a 3-time sectional champion in 2021 (100, 400, 4x100). Her performance on Friday will be a precursor to what the state may expect from her over her career. We look forward to learning more about Yaklich this weekend. 

Finally, Brooke Probst and Kayla Braun are strong favorites in the field events to watch.

Probst is the only entrant in the high jump clear of 5'4.5" (she has jumped 5'7"). Her best at the Gold Medal meet in Westwood represented a three-inch season-best. Don't discount defending state champion Lindley Johnston (Jr., Toulon (Stark County)), who enters with a 5'4.25" seed.

Braun is the only thrower who has surpassed the 40-foot barrier in the shot put this season. She leads a solid field that includes most of the key returners from last year, including Olivia Birge (Sr., Catlin (Salt Fork)), Olivia Campbell (Sr., Pittsfield), and Jenae Bothe (Sr., Oregon). The top three shot putters from 2021 graduated so this event will solidify favorites for outdoors. 

Two of the most competitive events will be the 1600m and the 4x200m. In the former, breakout distance runner Elena Rybak (Fr., Glen Carbon [Fr. McGivney]) will match up against veterans Kate Ahmari (Jr., Urbana (University)) and Kaylee Woolery (Jr., Winnebago). All three athletes have broken 5:20 on the year, and if the early pace is hot, it may take faster than 5:12 to win the 1600.

In the 4x200, the margin between Rockford Christian, Byron, and Maroa-Forsyth is razor-thin. The race may come down to positioning in the final couple of legs to determine the winner.

Also watch for Trixie Johnson (Jr., Paxton-Buckley-Loda) in the 800, Carly Manchester (Sr., Elmhurst (IC Catholic)) and Jolee Larson (Jr., Indian Creek) in the 3200, DuQuoin and Winnebago in the 4x400, Winnebago and St. Joseph-Ogden in the 4x800, Anna Bruno (Jr., Seneca) in the Long Jump, and open fields in the Triple Jump and Pole Vault.


Top 5 athletes to watch: Ryder James (Sr., Paxton-Buckley-Loda), Jadon Robertson (Sr., Cowden-Herrick), Daniel Lucas (Sr., Cowden-Herrick), Miles Sheppard (Sr., Hamilton-Warsaw-West Hancock), Max Allen (Sr., Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond)

The highlight races on the track will be on the distance side, especially the races featuring cross country champion Ryder James. James has been busy during the indoor season, highlighted with a 1600m victory at the Morolake Akinosun Elite Invitational, running 4:19. James will first face off against aggressive rival Miles Sheppard n the 3200, who sports a 9:21 for the fastest 3200 seed in the classification. James then returns to a match against Daniel Winkelman (Jr., Elgin (Harvest Christian)) in the 1600. Winkleman, who will also be returning from the 3200, broke 4:20 for the first time at Batavia Distance madness. James is the favorite in each of these events but will be pushed by these two. Also, you can catch James on the 4x400 relay for Paxton-Buckley Loda

The other main athlete to watch is Cowden-Herrick's swiss army knife, Jadon Robertson. Robertson has the top seed in the 60 hurdles, as well as top four performances in the long jump and high jump. Robertson came within two places in the long jump from winning the state title in these three events last year (110 hurdles instead of 60 hurdles, however) and Friday poses the first chance for Robertson to state his case as a favorite during this season.

Braxton Froeliger (Sr., Erie) may make life hard for Robertson in the long jump entering with a seed jump of 22'0.5", but has no other jumps this season over 21' so pay attention to his jumps to see where he lands. The high jump will be wide open for Robertson and his competitors.

If it isn't Robertson in the hurdles, then watch for Luke Myszka (Sr., Tri-Valley) in the lane next to him for the win in that event.

Robertson's teammate Daniel Lucas may be the meet's biggest favorite in the shot put. Lucas has surpassed 55' twice already this indoor season and topped out at 57'5.75" at Eastern Illinois. He was also the first field event athlete to win MileSplit athlete of the week earlier in March. With the rest of the 1A field throwing before him, can he push 60'? This has already been Lucas' best season in high school so there may be even more special sauce coming for the senior thrower, committed to Iowa. 

An athlete that could make noise is Max Allen. Allen is a fast section seed in the 200m and then 400, but will be coming back from the 60m as well. He is not the favorite in any of these events, however.

Future college footballer Tyreke Fortney (Sr., Peru (St. Bede)) has posted 7.01 and 23.37 this season already. Outside of Robertson and James, Fortney represents the best chance for an athlete to win multiple events in the 1A boys championship. Fortney was absent from the state series in 2021, and Top Times will be a chance for him to carve space in the state scene for himself once again. Alex Girardin (Jr., Liberty) and soph Ryan Williams (Chicago (Hope Academy)) are two of the other sprinters to watch in this field. 

Watch for Cameron Crow (Sr., Litchfield) in the 400, Hope Academy and Salt Fork in the 4x200, Rockford Christian in the 4x400, and Rockford Christian and Williamsville in the 4x800. Rockford Christian, Cowden Herrick, and Shelbyville in particular are all teams in the trophy running based on MileSplit's power rankings who will have a good showing at Top Times. How will this meet shake up the power rankings entering outdoor?