Date: Saturday, March 26, 2022
Top five athletes to watch: Alexandria Edison (Sr., Homewood-Flossmoor), Rylee Lydon (Jr., Crystal Lake (Prairie Ridge)), Alex Johnson (Jr., Huntley), Dominique Johnson (Fr., Huntley), Aly Negovetich (Sr., Fox Lake (Grant))
Much of the star power in this classification is showing up to Top Times, and there will be excellent matchups across all events. One highly anticipated matchup that could represent a changing of the guard will be in the Pole Vault. Defending state champion Lilliana Ifft (Sr., Bloomington) will face newcomer and fellow state leader Tessani Foster (Sr., Plainfield Central).
Foster has made waves in the recent months as a relatively new vaulter by raising her clearance height rapidly from December up to the 12'9" clearance she made at the SPC Conference meet. Ifft's all-time best is just a quarter-inch higher, so the battle between the two may produce something special off the track. The meet record of 13'3" may be slightly out of their reach, but don't underestimate the ways each athlete may rise to the challenge.
Most of the big players have come to dance in the sprints. The discussion of sprints must start with Alexandria Edison, who is the state leader in both the 200m and 400m. Edison beat Mariam Azeez of Lincoln-Way East head-to-head in the 200m state lead, and Rylee Lydon in the 400m, so she is already battle-tested entering Top Times. She is also the #2 seed in each of the Long Jump and 60m. Her rise from depth piece to mainstay star for Homewood Flossmoor can be announced officially with the state as an audience this weekend. Edison's ceiling is to be the star of the whole weekend.
Another athlete in four events is Lydon. The 400m state champ in 2021 was also runner-up in the high jump and appeared in the 200m. Lydon will be competing in each of these events as well as the long jump, and although she isn't the favorite in any one of them, she will be competitive in each of them. In particular, she will seek retribution in the 400m against Edison for the head-to-head loss sustained at the D117 Winter Grand Prix.
If there are other athletes who can steal Edison's thunder, look no further than the Johnson sisters from Huntley. Alex has continued where she left off last year as the state's elite horizontal jumper and a key piece for Huntley's sprints. She is the heavy favorite in the long jump and one of the triple jump favorites. Johnson will look to secure a spot in the 60m dash finals as well. Not to be outdone, freshman sister Dominique owns the state lead in the triple and appears in the long jump as well. Both will be members of the Huntley 4x200, who have a hill to climb out of the slower section if they want to compete for a win. Even then, look to the Johnsons to control their own narrative at Wesleyan.
Perhaps the deepest field in the 3A girls meet is the 3200, headlined by Aly Negovetich and Grace Schager (Jr., Carol Stream (Glenbard North)). Both athletes have run busy schedules in the indoor season with multiple races under 11 minutes and 5 minutes in the 1600 (Schager also won the F 15-19 age group at the Shamrock Shuffle running 5:48 pace for five miles!).
Negovetich is rewarded for her consistent season with the target on her back as the top seed in both the 3200 and 1600. Five additional athletes enter with sub-11 times and this field depth suggests that the pace will be fast from the start. A winning time under 10:30 could happen.
In the 1600, we will see the first major meet appearance from Brooke Johnston (Jr., Lake Zurich). This will be a true test for Johnson as she compares her mettle with those of the other distance studs. Johnston and Negovetich have already matched for iconic races, and more of the same may come in the 1600.
The relay to watch is the Prospect 4x800 team. The quartet of Hailey Erickson (Jr.), Cameron Kalaway (Jr.), Audrey Ginsberg (Sr.), and Lily Ginsberg (So.) ran a dominating 9:21 at Mustang Relays. Prospect is the odds-on favorite and will be subbing Bridget Derengowski (So.) to feature their depth. The Ginsbergs will also return in the 1600 and most of the 4x800 appear in the 4x400, which looks to be a showdown with state leader and 2021 runner-up Evanston headlined by Abrielle Artley (Jr.) and Jacklynn Okereke (Sr.).
Angela Alozie (Jr., Homewood-Flossmoor) could sneak away with the 400m win and also runs the 60m and 200m.
Inara Ukawuba (So., Naperville (Neuqua Valley)) is the 60 hurdle favorite.
The man of the hour will be Metea Valley's main man, Jalen Johnson. Johnson's 2022 indoor season has been a wrecking tour, accumulating three sub-23 200m performances, a 6.96 60m spot, IL #1 in the 55 hurdles (7.64), and a 50.60 400 conference championship to boot.
Johnson is the favorite in the 60m and the 200m and will be matching up with Gabe Czako in the 60m, where Czako owns the IL #1 time. Without Tyler Colwell in the meet, there is some firepower absent, but this clears the path for Johnson to stake his claim as the king of the indoor season. The Czako v. Johnson hurdle matchup will be one of the more anticipated matchups at the 3A level, although Johnson's workload will be heavier. Czako will also appear in the 200 and 4x200 for Lockport, and is one of the stars of short distance in Illinois but has had a relatively quiet season for his profile and can finally be noisy this weekend.
The horizontal jumps will be the other epicenter of star power. Toriano Tate will hope to do something special in the long jump, after already clearing 23 feet this indoor season.
He will be pushed by Desmond Horton, who is also a strong favorite in the triple jump after having pushed 48' at Proviso East in February. Glenbrook South junior Ryan Schafer will also look to prove his mettle against these stars and defend his top seed time.
Of course, the shot put ring will belong to Kyle Clabough. The Wisconsin commit has topped out north of 63 feet so far this season and will likely not be challenged by the field, but will instead have his eyes on the 68' all-time Top Times record set by John Meyer four years ago.
What will the 1600 bring in 3A? This is a fairly open field that may have as many as ten athletes who are in contention for the win. The best seeds, sub-4:20, are Riley Newport (Jr., DeKalb) and Tim Neumann (Sr., Downers Grove South), but the field is punctuated by other accomplished runners like Ryan Watts (Sr., Edwardsville) and Jake Phillips (Sr., Marist).
One distance athlete to keep an eye on is Brett Wasick of Bolingbrook, the top 800 seed and the third 1600 seed. Wasick's 4:21 1600 at the Southwest Suburban Conference meet to finish third was a massive eye-popping performance because it represented nearly a half-minute personal best! His 800 track record speaks for itself (1:56 PR from 2021) but he is now a major player in the 1600 immediately. What does he have in store for the weekend?Caden Simone (Sr., Lincoln-Way Central) has come on strong during his final track season and is the best seed in the 3200.
Oliver Burns (Jr., Plainfield (North)) and Ethan Forsell (Sr., Oswego) will be in the mix there as well.