5. East-St. Louis resurfaces for an attempt at another trophy
We will get to the title favorite, Kankakee, later in the article. Many other teams are vying for trophy positions, and of course, Cahokia and East St. Louis lead the way, with East St. Louis as the biggest contenders to Kankakee. The Flyers qualified their 4x100 and 4x200, and have fourteen individuals, most with scoring potential, joining the fray. Kenneth Buchanon (So.) and Demarlynn Taylor (Jr.) lead the way on the track in the sprints (Buchanon) and hurdles (Taylor). The Flyers have been somewhat quiet during the regular season but we don't expect them to be quiet any longer.
After ESTL and Cahokia, we look to Mt. Vernon, Mt. Zion, Marion, and Limestone as teams in position for 30+ points, which will be the absolute minimum point total projected for top-5. It could take as many as 40 for top-5, and even 50 points for top-3.
4. The slate is clean for new champions in every field event, underclassmen can reign
The COVID-altered season acted as a glass ceiling for younger field event contestants from challenging the incumbent powers in 2021, and 2A Boys saw all six field events won by seniors. With every champion graduating, there will be six brand new champions, and some of the favorites are even underclassmen, representing a major change of the guards.
Nicholas Deloach (Jr, Cahokia) is the first name you need to know. Deloach has been the triple jump harrier for the entire division for the Comanches in 2021 and is the man to beat in the Triple. He will also contest the Long Jump, which is more open. Jacob Morrison (Jr., Mt. Vernon) provided 2A's first 7m jump from the Mascoutah sectional and is the paper favorite. he should be plenty pushed by Deloach and Nahzir Hill (Jr., Kankakee (Sr.)).
The high jump could be a duel between 6'7.75"-clearers Teegan Davis (Jr., Princeton) and Jamarion Suggs (Sr., Springfield (Lanphier)). They are both two inches clear of a crowded field of chaser, highlighted by Drew Rogers (Fr., Paris, not be confused with distance Drew Rogers), Jo'viano Howard (So., Cahokia), Deloach, and Jack Chvatal (Sr., Lisle (Benet Academy)).
Pole Vault also could be a duel and has the potential to be the most entertaining field event in 2A this year. Sophomores Paul Migas (Lake Villa (Lakes)) and Cooper Schaad (Geneseo) are familiar with each other and vaulting great at the right time. Schaad cleared 15'6" for the first time at sectionals, while Migas topped out at 15'9". The 17'1" 2A record appears safe for this year... but the rate of improvement these two have shown is evidence that this state meet might only be the beginning.
3. Jackson Gilbert leads deep fields in the long sprints
In 2021, Jackson Gilbert (Jr. Urbana) was the first athlete to cross the line as he and long jump champ Daniel Mboyo led the Urbana Tigers to a 4x100 state championship. Gilbert won't appear on a relay this year, but instead, the spotlight may be squarely on him as an individual as he contests the 200 for the first time at state and the 400 which he returns as the third finisher from last year. At 48.15, Gilbert is 2A #1 and perhaps the favorite for the single-lap race, but he will also bring his sprint strength into the 200 where he is IL 2A #3 with 21.69 from last week's sectional.
A double will be extremely difficult for Gilbert, especially with the full cast of characters that will meet him in the 200. It begins with the man who beat Gilbert at sectionals, indoor 60m individual champ Christian Keyhea (Sr., Mt. Zion). Keyhea was 2021's 100 runner-up, and although he returns in the 100 field as a top returner, the 200 may be his stronger event. Don't forget about Jayon Morrow (So., Kankakee) in both the 200 and 400 to challenge Gilbert as well. The stacked 200 also features Kenneth Buchanon (So., East St. Louis (Sr.)), Jyaire Hill (Jr., Kankakee), and EJ Nwagwu (Sr., Chicago (St. Rita)). Although many of these names will show their faces in the 100 as well, the 200 takes the cake as the deepest sprint.
The 400 is no slouch of a race either. Even a dominant Gilbert will need to fight off Patrick Hilby (So., Aurora (Central Catholic)). Hilby is a rangy 800 runner who is dangerous in both mid-distance events. Bringing 23.0-second top-end speed, he will be a serious candidate to take the 400 crown from Gilbert, and even sneak in the 800 as well (1:56.5 best).
2. Wilson Georges headlines distance races in Drew Rogers' final year
Drew Rogers (Sr., Herscher) will wrap a storied career as a multi-time state champion this weekend. Rogers has bounced back finely from a foot injury to defend his 3200 at Distance Night in Palatine and has run controlled races in a host of modest meets to make it to the state meet in both the 3200 and 1600. In any other year, Rogers would be the clear-cut favorite to go back to back in both events.
The wrench in those plans is Wilson Georges (Sr., Bartonville (Limestone)). Georges, who has never won an individual state championship, owns the fastest 3200 and 1600 times in 2A this year-- 8:56 and 4:09. Running a mix of national and local meets, Georges has been in the best form that he has shown in high school. The Colorado commit has decided that his best route to that elusive championship is in the 1600, which will be his only contest. A fresh Georges will be extremely difficult to beat and is poised to drop the best distance performance in the 2A meet.
Georges and Rogers will meet Distance Night 1600 champion Gavin Genisio (So., Benton) in the mile. Genisio also qualified for the 800 with one of the best sectional marks, trailing just Garrett Slack (Sr., Lincoln). Relative to the school sizes, the top-end of each distance race is very strong, and each winning time will be quick. How many can Rogers sweep up? Does Georges get his title, Or does Genisio make a statement as he caps his first half of high school?
1. Can Kankakee grab the second trophy in two weeks?
The Lady Kays of Kankakee entered last week's state meet with great expectations, and still managed to exceed their project point totals. With the help of a flawless set of relays, and a dominant double win from frosh Naomi Bey-Osborne, Kankakee won their first ever trophy, a championship one, no less. This sets the stage for their male counterparts to follow up with a victory of their own, although the task will be more difficult for them as they try to hold off East St. Louis and several other contenders. The first piece for Kankakee will be Jayon Morrow (So.), who should score in the 100, 400 and 200, and could win any of those three events. Morrow's potential as a soph is sky-high, and if his potential is realized, he could be amassing state title points in multiple individual events for Kankakee--that would mean game over for East St. Louis and the rest of the field. Morrow also appears on the card for all three relays, where he and joins Nahzir Hill and Jyaire Hill (both Jr.) in potential winning relays. Each Hill will take aim at all-state positions in the Long Jump, with Nahzir in particular being the best LJ entrant outside of Jacob Morrison (Jr., Mt. Vernon).
There is momentum headed into the weekend for coach Marques Lowe. Hoisting the trophy on the girls' side showed the state that the Kays are ready to go at the right time.