by Tony Jones
The relays will be fun to watch this season as all four events will feature traditional powers Cahokia and E. St. Louis Senior dueling weekend to weekend from late February to the state championship in May. However, there will be some newcomers on the scene to disrupt the flow. The Chicago Public League is ready to add another name to the medal chase with North Lawndale Prep in the three sprint relays- 4×1, 4×2, 4×4. Watch out for newly established power Jacksonville to stay on top of the 4×1 mountain. There are so many other scenarios to watch for. Below are thoughts to ponder for the upcoming season:
2012 State Champion: Burlington Central 7:48.31
Key returning teams: Cahokia, Dunlap, Highland, Pontiac.
Outlook: By the sheer numbers it would appear that Cahokia is the team to beat this year. The Comanches are one of two teams returning all four legs. There is no doubt this team wants revenge after finishing second in last year’s state championship despite being ranked #1 all season. Things will go smooth for Cahokia if they use their superior depth throughout the season and not wear out key personnel in crunch time. The smooth striding anchor Darren Payton (Sr.) will make sure of that. It is highly unlikely that Burlington Central will be able to defend its crown or even be among the storyline after graduating 3/4ths of their quartet. Among the losses were 800 finalist and anchor Clint Klein. Dunlap is the other team with four starters back ready to make a serious run to the top of the medal podium. The Eagle quartet placed fifth running 7:58.96. Other units to watch for are Highland and Pontiac.
2012 State Champion: Jacksonville 41.67
Key returning teams: Jacksonville, Decatur MacArthur, Maple Park Kaneland, Chicago North Lawndale Prep, Cahokia, E. St. Louis Sr.
Outlook: Jacksonville took the state by storm when they unexpectedly and swiftly waxed their competition off the track with ease. The 41.67 mark put up by the Crimsons was the fastest in all classifications. The unit from Central Illinois will be a force again this year with three legs returning that will include state 100 champ Reggie Bratton (Sr.). Decatur MacArthur may have what it takes to challenge Jacksonville this season. The Generals appear on the surface to be a team on the rise with three returning legs led by the speedy Jonathan Boey (Sr.). Boey was not 100% during the post-season last season, but the word is he will be ready to roll this spring. North Lawndale Prep indicated that they will put serious manpower into this relay this year. Last season the Phoenix produced a solid 42.87 without one of their best sprinters on it. Cahokia could have easily made the final last year, but for some reason the powers that be pulled the plug and ran several alternates. The result ended with the Comanches not making the final. Don’t expect such a similar fate to occur in 2013.
2012 State Champion: Glen Ellyn Glenbard South 1:29.38
Key returning teams: Cahokia2Maple Park Kaneland, Grayslake Central, Chatham-Glenwood, E. St. Louis Sr.
Outlook: This event has nowhere to go but up when you consider that tiny Class A outperformed this classification- not a single team broke 1:29 during the state championship series. Cahokia will probably be the team to beat but one has to wonder if Jacksonville can find four solid 200 runners and challenge the Comanches. Kaneland placed third in last year’s final- return three legs for a run for the title. Grayslake is the seventh best unit back for ’13.
2012 State Champion: Cahokia 3:19.09
Key returning teams: Cahokia, Chicago Brooks, Chicago North Lawndale Prep, E. St. Louis Sr.
Outlook: Cahokia has been dominant since the IHSA moved to three classes and the trend will continue unless someone steps up. It would be unrealistic to think that ESL will go another season without having a 4×4 on the track Saturday afternoon for the showstopper. The Flyers will somehow return to the fold after a one year hiatus. Brooks return three legs from a 3:22 team led by middle-distance ace Malik Lee (Sr.). They have the potential to equal their ’12 returns if they can find a replacement for the graduated Derrick Williams. Of course, North Lawndale Prep has to be included in this discussion. If there is a squad outside of ESL that can challenge Cahokia it is the Phoenix. The Public League quad crew ran 3:23 last season.