Top 5 Athletes to Watch: Emmi Scales (Jr., Arlington Heights (St. Viator)), Lianna Surtz (Sr., Aurora (Rosary)), Brianna Dixon (Jr., Rantoul), Claire Allen (Sr., Sandwich), Naomi Bey-Osborne (Fr., Kankakee), and Neveah Lowe (Jr., Kankakee)
A major storyline of the 2022 indoor season has been the rising profile of junior Emmi Scales. Although Scales does have an all-state appearance in the 200m from last year, this indoor season she has elevated herself to a nationally relevant status with statement runs in the 60m and 60 hurdles events at the Illinois Meet of Champions and then adidas Indoor Nationals.
Scales has the look of a prohibitive favorite in the 60m hurdles and as a slight favorite in the 60m dash. More importantly, however, Scales will be looking to make a statement to the rest of 2A. Scales and teammate Mary Grace Hegberg (Sr.) can be a two-athlete wrecking crew at outdoor state. Although Hegberg will not be racing at Top Times, Scales represents her school in this next great chance to make an impact.
Symone Frison (So., Chicago Lindblom) and Anna Barr (Jr., Normal (University)), both 100m all-staters, stand in Scales' way in the 60m. The field is not on Scales' level in the hurdles yet this season, but Brianna Dixon may have something to say, as well as Kennedy Ross (Jr., Lindblom) and her 9.01 best.
Several of the heavy hitters on the distance side are absent from the field, so this opens the door for Toledo signee Lianna Surtz to steal the show. Surtz is the heavy favorite in the 1600, almost 20 seconds clear of other runners like Erica Woodard (So., Tolono (Unity)) and Colleen Zeibert (Jr, Rochester). The margin won't be as wide as 20 seconds, but Surtz should still win this race. She will be returning from the 800 as well, in which she holds the top seed but isn't as clear from the field.
Isabella Orozco (Jr, Aurora (Central Catholic)) is the best bet to match Surtz but also look for Mt. Zion Braves Sofia Munoz (Jr.) and Ashleigh Anderson (Sr.) as well as Zeibert to challenge for the win. Surtz will return with Rosary in the 4x400 at the conclusion of the meet.
As mentioned, the 2021100m hurdles state champion, Brianna Dixon, is in the field in the 60m hurdles and the high jump. Dixon will have to contend with an improved Scales but can swing the narrative back in her own favor with a big win. Dixon's attention, however, will be split by her potential win in the high jump. Dixon and Waterloo junior Molly Grohmann share 5'6" seed marks. If Dixon steals a win in both of these events, the post-meet coverage may be focused on Dixon rather than Scales.
In the shot put, we will see Claire Allen who was the closest athlete to former prep star Jayden Ulrich last year. Allen's 39'4" this year is only narrowly better than Maya Cook's (Sr., Mattoon) converted mark, but she has pushed the 41' barrier in the past and will look to dip into that well to win this event this year. Can Cook or another thrower disrupt Allen?
1A State cross country champions Tolono Unity will put a 4x800 team on the track with the potential of breaking ten minutes. Also watch for Delaney Fitzgerald (Sr., Normal (University)) Becca Heitzig (So., Lincoln) and Woodard in the 3200, Mia Rodriguez (So., Marian (Catholic)), Ali Rapps (Sr., Geneseo), and Orosco in the 400, and Ross in the Triple Jump. Ross will also be a major player for Lindblom in the 4x200, 200, and 60 hurdles.
Top 5 Athletes to Watch: Wilson Georges (Sr., Bartonville Limestone), Michael Schumacher (Sr., Arlington Heights (St. Viator)), Jayon Morrow (So., Kankakee), Christian Keyhea (Sr., Mt. Zion), Zac Schmidt (Sr., Burlington (Central))
Few athletes have had as eye-popping of an indoor season at Wilson Georges. With a 4:12.00 mile and a 9:00 3200m, Georges could be on a collision course for Drew Rogers (Sr., Herscher) and Alexander Partlow (Sr., Carbondale) at the end of the season.
Georges was quiet for a month before returning to the track last weekend and will appear in the 4x800 and the 1600 this weekend. What shape is Georges in now? Watch his speed on the anchor leg. Georges will be primarily challenged by Michael Schumacher, fresh off a huge 1600 PR. Schumacher is also the only athlete better than 9:30 in the 3200, so he may be able to make major statements in both races. Does he deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Georges, Rogers, and Partlow? This is his chance to get to that level.
The sprints are somewhat open, although the fastest 100m returner, Christian Keyhea, enters the field with the only sub-7.00 seed. Keyhea was runner-up to Kyle Burgoni in the 100m in 2021 and can solidify his status as a dangerous person to watch with a victory in the 60m. Keyhea will also appear on Mt. Zion's 4x200 but will be buried in the third-fastest section.
Jayon Morrow could conceivably win both the 60m and the 200m, and will also be a key cog in the Kankakee 4x200 and 4x400 legs. Morrow's anchor spot on the 4x400 gives him the prime chance to be the athlete of the meet, especially with a huge leg for a winning team. Morrow's performance will be a preview of what we can expect outdoors from a dominance perspective.
An athlete that has snuck under the radar a bit is Zac Schmidt, a 49.2 400 meter athlete who has managed 51.71 this indoor season, which is an indoor best. Five athletes, led by Allan Potter (Jr., Burbank (St. Laurence)) have better seed times than Schmidt, but he will be present in the fastest section of the 400 by being athlete #6. Schmidt appeared to be the state favorite in the 400 entering the season but has his work cut out for him in this event if he is going to have that status entering the outdoor season.
In addition to Potter, Jackson Gilbert (Jr., Urbana) and EJ Nwagwu (Sr., Chicago (St. Rita)) have broken 51.00 on the indoor season. Gilbert and Nwagwu are also in the 200m mix, along with Potter's teammate Adrian Williams (Sr.).
In the 60m hurdles, we are set for a good duel between Alec Sledge (Sr., Mt. Vernon) and DeWayne Johnson (Sr., Pontiac). Kankakee and St. Laurence will have their eyes on each other in the 4x200, but don't ignore South Shore's ability to win the relay.
Kankakee is also the favorite in the 4x400 but Richmond-Burton and Kaneland will be formidable opponents. Schmidt will be anchoring Burlington Central in the 4x800, and they are the slight favorites over Marion and Sandwich.
Other individuals to watch include Lee O'Bryan (Sr., Oak Park (Fenwick)) in the 800, Paul Migas (So., Lake Villa (Lakes)) and Kyle Hensley (Jr., Mt Zion) in the Pole Vault, Tim Maidment (Sr., Woodstock) in the Long Jump, Teegan Davis (Jr., Princeton) in the high jump, James Kaunas (Sr., Johnsburg) and Nicholas Deloach (Jr., Cahokia) in the Triple Jump, and Caleb Smith (So., Salem) and JehChys Brown (Jr., Centralia) in the Shot Put.