Boys 3A State Preview: An Amalgamation For The Masses

The MileSpilt IL posse: Tonyprepster, Ray Lewis, and Coach breakdown the 3A side of the game at 43:50 of the video


Date: May 24 (prelims); May 25 (finals)

Location: O'Brien Stadium; Eastern Illinois University

Schedule: HERE

Power Rankings: HERE

WATCH LIVE: Illinois Boys State Championships

Sixty-Six Qualifiers in the 100?? + 3A Preliminaries Schedule. How Late will we go?

There's no way around it - the 3A state meet is set to kick off at 2:20 pm Friday with a record number of competitors toeing the line in many events. One of the most eye-popping figures is 66 boys running in the 100m across eight preliminary heats, 55 in the 300-meter hurdles, 52 in the 4x200, and 50 in the 4x400 relays.

The primary suspect for so many qualifiers is the deflated state standards due to a couple of tough years following the pandemic, and teams have taken advantage by getting back to the strength that the state saw pre-COVID. Eventually, these qualifier numbers will normalize, but for now, this means packed dorms and a long Friday afternoon that is optimistically projected to end at 7:30 p.m.

There are 13 total combined heats of the 4x400 and 4x200 relays, which means a lot of opportunities for clogs in the schedule, and eight 100m heats mean that only a single non-winner will make it through to the final. Scratches will also be a huge factor, especially if a lane five athlete scratches due to injury or anything else. Finishing third in your heat automatically eliminates you from advancing. The environment will also be similar in the 300-meter hurdles with seven heats. 

Extended rest on Friday will be necessary since few athletes or relay teams can afford to coast on Friday into Saturday to secure a lane. We always want the track performances to dominate our conversations surrounding the meet, but it will be hard to ignore the field size this weekend at the 3A level. 

The Showstopper is back!

Due to weather, the Joliet Central Sectional was moved to Friday night from Thursday. This means the sectional was contested during the Girls' state meet, removing some of the luster from one of the best overall meets on the Boys' side of the year. There is little doubt the 4x400 was the biggest result from this meet. Plainfield North ran 3:17.42 to hold off a loaded field. This is the fastest time any Illinois team has run in seven years. 

This time was essential for Plainfield North to win because Naperville Central, Neuqua Valley, and Hinsdale Central were hot on North's heels, all running under 3:20 (Hinsdale Central got to their 3:19 mark on the heels of a 46.50 FAT split from Aden Bandukwala). Although these four teams all are the fastest seeds in the 4x400 heats, they will have to hold off contenders in Grayslake Central, Homewood-Flossmoor, Mt. Prospect, Chicago Lane Tech, Belleville West, York, Bolingbrook, and Oak Park- River Forest. With 3:20 being needed to feel good about even making it to Saturday, it is fair to state that the 4x400 is finally back after some weak years. 

The 'Cats 3:17 is the fastest since East St. Louis ran 3:14 in 2017, the standard year for the 4x400. The 3A final that year saw Bloom Township follow in 3:15, and Neuqua Valley, Homewood Flossmoor, and Bloomington all finish top-5 in 3:18. How close can the class get to these marks? 3:19 has been good enough to win the state title the last three years, but this is no longer true. Keep an eye on the clock to wrap up Saturday for a 3:16 mark or better. 

Three Shots at Redemption for Jayon Morrow

One notable athlete will debut at the 3A State meet as a senior: Jayon Morrow (Kankakee), runner-up in each sprint triple crown event his sophomore year at the 2A level, part of a Kankakee state championship team. Morrow ran into injury issues after a dominant junior regular season and was kept off the podium entirely in 2023. A less busy senior year has put him in a prime position to realize his potential at this state, where he meets in the highest class, with Kankakee now one classification up. In addition to a sub-42 4x100, Morrow is again entered in 100, 400, and 200, with huge marks of 10.58, 21.50, and 48.22 under his belt. The sprints at the 3A level are another beast, but Morrow is just maybe the individual to tame it. 

O'Fallon junior Omar Mims has a track record of strong sprint doubles this season, making himself a major threat to Morrow in the 100 and 200. Mims ran a state-leading 21.43 into a headwind on May 4 at Collinsville and ran a season-best 10.60 at Danville last week. That same sectional also produced a new name to watch: freshman D'Mario Jackson (Danville), running an impressive 10.78 and 21.61 double performance to make it to his first high school state meet. Edwardsville duo Zach Lane (Jr.) and Clayton Lakatos (Jr.) flanked Jackson in the 200 and thickened the list of sub-21.7 200 runners. Caleb Schulz (Sr., Oak Park-River Forest) is another crucial contender who will have his eyes on the Edwardsville duo as their teams vie for the team title. 

Paul Migas Makes One Final Lunge at State Meet Record

The undefeated and tested Paul Migas (Sr., Lakes) heads to Tennessee to vault for the Volunteers after he concludes his high school career for his beloved team. Migas has separated himself from the rest of a great field this year with his performances throughout the indoor and outdoor seasons. There was no greater clearance than his 17-4.5 jump to win Texas Relays in March, which was good enough for the third-best performance in state history behind only Luke Winder (17-5) and Zachery Bradford (18-2.5). Migas is about 13 centimeters behind Bradford's state meet record, so watch for Migas to align his attempts to make three good jumps at 5.34, which would give him sole possession of the state meet record and also be good for US #3. 

Loaded 800m Takes Main Stage-

The most iconic moment from the 2023 3A state meet was Aden Bandukwala (Sr., Hinsdale Central) kicking home from last to first over just the final 400 meters to take his second individual state title in the 1600m. Bandukwala opted not to defend this title and instead has chosen to focus on his team's relays and the open 800, where he matches up with conference rival Ryan Eddington (Sr., Downers Grove North), and IL #2 Trey Sato (Sr., Grayslake Central). Banduwkala's 1:51 is second best in the class behind Sato, and Eddington's 1:52 is third.

Owen Horeni (So., Yorkville) is the fastest seed with his sectional 1:53.8 and is also a factor. And how about Marcellus Mines (Sr., Joliet West), who got his team down to the state in the 4x800 and entered in the 800 and 1600? There is a lot of intrigue in the 800, which also has team trophy implications as well as relay implications as well. And, of course, any race that Bandukwala touches is a must-watch. 

Oak Park-River Forest's Balanced Attack Must Execute to Hold off Edwardsville

Strength in the throws, jumps, sprints, and relays has buoyed OPRF to the top slot in the power rankings throughout the latter half of the outdoor season. Schulz is a major reason for this, but other stars include shot put favorite Kaden Garland (Sr.), vaulter Lukas Brauc (Jr.), and horizontal jumper Kwabena Osei-Yeboah (Jr.). Each of OPRF's relays, especially the 4x800, can hang around to compete and score on Saturday, and those points will be crucial because sprint and field dominant Edwardsville is hot on OPRF's heels.

Edwardsville begins with Malik Allen (Sr.), the state's best shot at a 50-foot triple jump this weekend. He also jumps the long jump, but the triple promises to be big points for Edwardsville, with last year's all-stater Gino Montgomery in the mix. Edwardsville's counter to Garland is Iose Epenesa (Jr.), whose better finals potential is in the Discus. Aside from the field points, Edwardsville needs to convert on their state-leading 4x100 and 4x200 relays, which are good bets to do so with groups that have executed safe but fast races multiple times throughout the outdoor season. The linchpin for the Tigers will be the points from Lane and Lakatos in the 200. 

Truthfully, the trophy picture isn't quite clear, as two teams are ahead of the field. While OPRF and Edwardsville have the highest ceilings and the best title chances, many teams can jump in and slot anywhere in the trophy picture. This includes O'Fallon led by Mims, their relays and some distance points from Zach Thoman (Jr.) and Dylan Ybarra (Sr.), Grayslake Central with their relays, field, and Trey Sato, Downers Grove North, led by their distance attack and powerful jumper Vince Davero (Sr.), Indiana University commit who can potentially win either horizontal jump, Kankakee on the heels of Jayon Morrow and their 4x100, and Loyola, Belleville West, Plainfield North, and Homewood-Flossmoor. With such a deep and unpredictable Friday on the way, consider re-evaluating your predictions after Friday's results.