The HOKA Boys Mile field rushes past the starting line in one of the most anticipated events of the day
The Dr. Conrad Worrill Track & Field Center (Gately) was rocking and rolling when the doors opened to the public at 7 am. By 8 am, the adjoining parking lot and stadium were reportedly filled to the rafters.
Indoor track and field in the Windy City has never been so intense!
The morning session started with a flurry of mile sections from middle to high school. For the boys, eighth grader Karanveer Patil of Lake Zurich won the mile in a record 4:39.23. The future Lake Zurich HS product is already an emerging star after dominating the IESA cross country ranks during the fall.
Another young star, Landon Harris of Granite City, protruded from the morning session. Harris broke several IESA records as an eighth grader, putting the spotlight on him. He did not disappoint in his first visit to Gately. The freshman standout fought off a tough challenge from sophomore Caleb Mathias of Champaign Central to win 4:24.81-4:28.55.
The afternoon sessions started with the highly anticipated HOKA Mile. The introductions appeared to get the crowd's juices flowing before the start.
The first 400 was approximately 60.8, and later, the 800 in 2:06.0.
The favorite, junior TJ Hansen of Freeland, Michigan, seized the opportunity to open a gap on the field on the fifth lap. And he did, leading comfortably with laps remaining in 3:07. Hansen cruised home in 4:10.79.
Nationally ranked middle-distance runners Julian Carter II of Arkansas and Jason Meza of Morristown, New Jersey, plotted before the start of the 600. "We talked about going out in 23 and coming back in 50 seconds and see what happens after that," said Meza. The tandem was just about on point with their projections (50.2, 50.4). Carter had the slight edge and powered home with the win in 1:19.60. Meza clocked 1:19.83- the pair turned in US#3 and #4 marks, respectively.
There were two sections of the two-mile; the exuberant senior Hirsi Hirsi of Chicago Mather won the penultimate. Hirsi excited the crowd with hand gestures during the final three circuits before winning in a personal best at 9:35.47.
Conversely, in a more stoic demeanor, donning crispy HOKA kits were seniors Adam Burlison of Lubbock, Texas, and Gavin Genisio of Benton, IL. Working almost as a metronome, they clicked off exciting laps that led to a first half in 4:26. Burlison gradually began to pull away with 1000 to go, gapping a tired Genisio. Burlison trotted home in an indoor PB US#1 8:55.30.
If there is an event that track and field fans appreciate, it is the pole vault, especially when the competition is in zenith mode.
Enter the emerging superstar pole vaulter Paul Migas of Lakes. On Friday evening at the pre-meet gala hosted by HOKA, his bubbly personality showed brightly, "I'm having so much fun right now, and I cannot wait until tomorrow," he said with a huge smile.
Migas entered the competition without his trademark pole, which was "stolen" by a competitor at the Reno Pole Vault Summit last weekend. "I believe a competitor of mine accidentally took my pole when I was in Nevada," he said. Maybe Migas was playing nice since items like poles are sacred and guarded.
Migas cleared his first attempt, 15'6", but needed three attempts to advance to 16 feet. Super sophomore Isaiah Whitaker of Bloomington Central Catholic, on the other hand, was perfect through 16 feet. They both got through 16'6" on their first attempts. The pivotal moment came at the threshold of the 17-foot barrier. They both missed their first two attempts, and Whitaker bowed out of the competition.
Migas connected on his final attempt, sending the crowd into a huge roar! The next height would be 17'3", which he cleared comfortably on his first attempt. He asked for the bar to be moved up to 17'6" instead of the US#1 17'6.5." Migas was worried about the elements of completing that height on a secondary pole. "There is a difference when you don't have your main pole, especially with five inches to spare," he stated. However, Migas missed on his final attempt by a smidge. He strongly believes that he will get to the 18-foot barrier sometime during the calendar year.
The action was just as fierce for the ladies.
Things started in the field with the outstanding junior Dominique Johnson of Huntley debuting for the first time in January. The jumping fans were delighted to see her win and polish off the competition by over two feet with a U#13 39'10." Johnson would double back later and win the long jump with an 18'4.25" effort.
The pole vault competition was just as strong, with several national-level performers in attendance. The name that everyone was keyed on was junior Mya Strahm of Elmwood. Strahm came into the fray with an all-time best of 13'7" and was able to equal that. She did not but instead was able to win over a foot over Chelsea Wetzel of Dunlap with a clearance of 13'0."
Standout speedster senior Olivia Pace of Westerville Central, Ohio, made the most of her HOKA trip by sweeping the sprints.
After putting doubt in her competitor's mind with a 7.56 blowout in prelim #1, her closest foe was junior Courtney McDonald of Plainfield East at 7.67.
Pace returned to the final expecting at least a semi-battle. There was none. She burst out of the blocks like a supersonic jet, and it was over 30 meters. Pace's form was impeccable as she stormed to a 7.42, the second fastest in meet history.
Not be outdone was a blistering win in the 300m out of section #8. Pace clocked a personal best 39.65 and was the only one under 40 seconds.
Top-seeded Samantha Humphries of Flower Mound, Texas, was a featured HOKA mile athlete coming in, and the goal was to get as close to 4:40 as possible. That did not happen, as early race tactics followed by an early spill prevented that.
Humphries was in command over the final 400 and won in 4:50.89, the second fastest time in meet history. Jazwinski took second with a time of 4:51.69, and Cheeseman took the bronze at 4:52.52.
Charlize Trinity McKenzie of Cedarburg, Wisconsin, was smarting after a humble defeat to Allison Ince (Normal Community) in the Akinosun Invite 1600. "I will have a surprise for you all next weekend at the Misfits," she stated boldly.
That surprise came in the form of the 600m as she suffocated the field with a slick 400 (59.37), more than two seconds ahead of Kailey Littlefield of Texas. McKenzie kept her poise and rolled through the tape in a meet record and US#1 1:31.65.
Mckenzie later won 1000 in 2:54.16, the third fastest in meet history.
Freshman Mia Sirois of Barrington continues to impress during the early stages of the indoor season. She won the two-mile despite a deceptive seed time of 11:22. The cross-country all-stater ran 5:03 for 1600 at the Akinosun Invite a week ago, so the competition should have seen this coming. Sirois would go on to win in 10:47.93, the second-best time in meet history.