The MileSplit team breaks down the key team and individual matchups.
5. Eli Mojonnier runs to defend his title and make an additional statement
Outside of Jadon Robertson and Tony Phillips, the only defending champion is Eli Mojonnier (Sr., Bismarck (B.-Henning-Rossville-Alvin)) in the 800. Mojonnier made a hard push from the front of the race to hold off Hayden Colclasure and a charging Mark Masaka (Sr., Niles (Northridge Prep)). Mojonnier enters the field in hopes to go back-to-back with a 1:57.25 season's best, but his best mark may be the 4:21.48 in the 1600 he ran at Shelbyville on May 13. Mojonnier adds the 1600 to his event load, and as the owner of the IL #2 mark in the 1600, has a true shot at that event as well.
The 800 will be no cakewalk for Mojonnier-he will contend with a host of sub-1:57 athletes, including Isaac Stanford (Sr., Flora), Thomas Harmon (Sr., Elmwood), Isaac Jones (Sr., Astoria), and Caleb Kernaghan (Jr., Decatur (St. Teresa)).
Eli Mojonnier won last year's 800 race and will make a run at the 1600
4. Trophy Battle will be heavily affected by the relays
Some of the teams looking at trophy contention include Salt Fork (2), Newton (4), Erie (2), Winnebago (3), Rockford Christian (4), and Pleasant Plains (4). A common thread that connects each of these teams is several relay qualifiers, exact numbers denoted in parentheses. Decatur St Teresa also qualified all four relays. Not all of these relays mentioned will score, but there are huge opportunities for these trophy-hunting teams to make statements, especially after the 4x200 has ended. In particular, Pleasant Plains can be relevant in all four relays and event take home an event title. Winnebago has the best 4x400 seed time narrowly over Ridgeview and will have to hold off Rockford Christian who could win 4x400 and 4x800. Of course, the track record of Salt Fork speaks for itself, and should not be counted out in any of these races.
3. Sophomore Tony Phillips looks to repeat sprint double
In 2021, star frosh Tony Phillips (Kankakee (McNamara)) stole the 2A show with double gold in both the 100m and 200m and returns in each event this year to defend his titles. Phillips has been quiet during the year and has even endured losses to local competition throughout the outdoor season, but he looks to be in his best form as he heads to Charleston. The field won't make it easy for him, as the challengers begin with Tyreke Fortney (Sr., Peru (St. Bede)) who burst out during the indoor season after not appearing in the state series last year. Fortney's 10.66 is the most impressive sprint mark overall from the regular season, and also sports the best 100m seed time of 10.89. the 100 final will likely have Fortney and Phillips in lanes four and five squaring off head-to-head. The challengers also include Ryan Williams (So., Chicago (Hope Academy)) and Max Allen (Sr., Arthur (A.-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond)), who will be a factor in the 200 and 400.
Phillips made appearances with the Bishop Mac relays in the 4x100m and 4x200m. On paper, Bishop Mac doesn't look to factor into the final field of nine, but the power of star legs can sometimes carry teams at the state meet. What will we see from Phillips, on the whole, this weekend?
Ryder James is eligible for the 1A distance triple crown after his XC state title, but he has his work cut out for him
2. Chicago Distance studs re-match from the sectional showdown, but where does Ryder James fit in?
The top seeds in the 3200 and 1600 are dominated by the qualifiers out of the Chicago Hope Academy sectional. Razor-thin races between Ryan Hardiman (Sr.) and Akili Parekh (Jr.) of Latin, and Kieran Subra (Sr.) of Lycee Francais de Chicago. Subra in particular has shown a ton of promise but is just now realizing the potential. Hardiman and Parekh are more seasoned, having been state champions in cross country. Hardiman won in a kick in the 3200, and Subra punched back to win the 1600. Each of these three is dangerous and has distinct ways of getting to the line first.
Take a look further down the performance list, and you'll find 1A cross country champion Ryder James (Sr., Paxton (P.-Buckley-Loda) tucked in behind many other athletes. James has had a topsy-turvy track season in comparison to his cross country season and has run 4:17, 4:49, and every mile time in between in 2022. He did run 9:18 at Top Times but has struggled to crack 9:40 in the outdoor season. James hasn't been running like the perennial favorite in both events, but discounting the Mizzou signee would be foolish.
Finally, don't look past Miles Sheppard (Sr., Warsaw (Hamilton-West Hancock)), who cruised through sectionals into the state meet. Sheppard's 9:18 3200 is the best in the division of the year and has the cross country pedigree to back title as a favorite. He will also certainly set the tone in that event... can James and the Chicago boys keep it close early on?
Can Jadon Robertson (left) and Daniel Lucas (right) hoist a 1st-place trophy for Cowden-Herrick this year?
1. Jadon Robertson and Daniel Lucas lead the Cowden-Herrick charge towards a team title
When the two best athletes in the state are on the same team, that can mean significant moves for that team in the trophy race.
All eyes will be on Jadon Robertson (Sr.) as he travels around the entire O'Brien field complex competing in four events. The SIU signee is the defending high jump and 110-meter hurdles champion and finished just five inches behind Sam Roszak (North Shore Country Day c/o 2021) in the long jump. This year, Robertson adds the 300-meter hurdles, an event where he is an equal favorite as he is in the 110s. How will Robertson manage his heavy workload? Robertson pushed the 7-foot height in the high jump at sectionals, but he will have three other events to portion energy for, as he is a favorite in that event as well. The 110 hurdles have been his bread-and-butter, though, and he may collect a jaw-dropping state title there before he moves on. Robertson feels like a safe bet to score about 35 points or greater.
His efforts are augmented by Daniel Lucas (Sr.), a signee with the University of Iowa. Lucas is the defending SP champion and has improved considerably in the discus. Lucas's shot has exceeded 60 feet three times this season, and also topped 160 feet in the discus in early April. Lucas is a favorite in DT and THE favorite in SP but will be challenged in both events by Chris Boyd (Jr., Tuscola) and Garrett Taylor (Jr., Catlin (Salt Fork). Lucas will be motivated to match the efforts of Robertson and hopes to grab at least 15 points for the trophy hopes of Cowden-Herrick.
Fifty points should do the trick for Cowden-Herrick, who is the defending third-place team. A two-man squad is small, but it is strong. Can they finish the job?