by Tony Jones
Location: North Central College Recreation Center; 440 South Brainard Street, Naperville IL
Track size: 200m Super X Mondo surface.
Schedule of events:
5:30p- doors open
6:00p- deadline for scratches (scratches only)
6:30p- Girls 4x800m (3 heats)
7:15p- Boys 4x800m (3 heats)
7:45p- Girls 4x200m (6 heats)
8:15p- Boys 4x200m (6 heats)
8:35p- Girls 4x400m (6 heats)
9:05p- Boys 4x400m (6 heats)
The first Monday in March is usually reserved for the 10th Annual Downers Grove South Mustang Relays. However, a conflict in the Downers South programming schedule forced the meet to move to up one week earlier. The times should not suffer any letdown despite the early meet arrival. There is no automatic qualifier for the Illinois Top Times meet, which will put more emphasis on placement rather than just running fast. But teams who expect to compete late next month at Illinois Wesleyan know that being among the top 14 teams invited would like to have a strong showing here.
–Nykaza is not here for a circus show-
Some pundits will look at Grant Nykaza (Sr., Beecher) and wonder what is going on here. He will be entered as an individual to compete against full relay teams. This showcase was brought together because Nykaza’s team is short on quality races, and he needs a fast mark in order to receive a bid to the prestigious Arcadia Invitational in California in early April. Nykaza is extremely excited about competing as a one-man wrecking crew against a squad of four men. It may be the only way to stop the state’s arguable best overall distance runner. He recently ran a tempo run at 9:20 pace through six laps- hitting right on 70-second quarter miles each rotation. So, he is very fit for this time of the year. Nykaza will compete in heat #1 with a time of 9:10. Whether he reaches his goal mark or not, it is going to be worth the price of admission.
-The Brown Franchise will be ready for DGS attack-
Before the Frankfort (Lincoln-Way East) girls can even think about running and smashing their way to meet records and state indoor all-time bests, the Griffins will have to await the arrival of superstar Aaliyah Brown. She is after all the team’s franchise athlete who may be a few hours short of landing in Chicago from Seattle. Brown competed in the Brooks PR Invitational at the University of Washington last evening, where she finished second in the 60m. Her high school coach Caroline Gerritsen confirms that Brown will be competing Monday evening at NCC: “Yes [Brown will compete] in one of the two relays. That is the plan, but we have alternatives just in case [she can’t go].” That ‘just in case’ is a safety value… but don’t count on using it when the stage lights shine bright.
-Girls event preview-
Meet record: Schaumburg 9:22.68 (2011) Key teams to watch: Roselle (Lake Park), Mt. Prospect (Prospect), Hoffman Estates, LaGrange (Lyons Twp.), Yorkville, Naperville North, Chicago (Lane Tech). Race outlook: It’s hard to say who the favorite will be since none of the key teams have yet to compete at full capacity. Prospect would appear to be the early favorite but the Knights don’t usually load up for this meet. If they run all-state returners Brooke Wolfe, Lauren Poplawski, and Christina Santiago then it could be an easy time for the Lady Knights. Lake Park will load up using their top distance runner Kaylee Flanagan. Flanagan may lead off the Lancers because of her front running prowess as well as her ability to set an early tone. Let’s put a finger on Lyons Twp as a team with the potential to win it all despite only one standout runner on its roster. Naperville North has improved as a middle-distance squad during the past few years. The Huskies must be taken seriously. Coach Kirk Macnider will have his Hoffman Estates group ready as well. Yorkville is always tough whether in the 2A or 3A ranks. Tony Prepster’s picks: 1. Lake Park, 2. Prospect, 3. Lyons Twp.
4x200m- Meet record: Bolingbrook 1:42.96 (2012) Key teams: Frankfort (Lincoln-Way East), Bolingbrook, Chicago Whitney Young, Plainfield North, West Aurora, Naperville (Neuqua Valley). Race outlook: The pre-meet tough talk will come to an end as a few of the state’s top sprint squads will merge and meet head on. Bolingbrook is the defending champion and record holder but they don’t have a chance on paper to beat Lincoln-Way East. The Griffins will be led by Aaliyah Brown, the state’s best sprinter. But LWE has more than Brown among its all-star quartet. Look for Alexis Hyshaw (Jr.), Asia Brown (Fr.), and Alexis Pierre-Antoine (Fr.) to aid in the attack. The record could be lowered to one of the fastest ever marks in state history if the race is clean and clear of traffic jams for the first two legs. But the Griffins are still a work in progress with three newcomers. If they fail to live up to expectations, watch for West Aurora and Neuqua Valley to jump to the front of the pack. Whitney Young has the fastest mark among the lot coming in at 1:50.64. Tony Prepster’s picks: 1. LWE, 2. Bolingbrook, 3. West Aurora.
4x400m- Meet record: Chicago Whitney Young 3:59.04 (2011) Key teams: Frankfort (Lincoln-Way East), Plainfield North, LaGrange (Lyons Twp.), Minooka. Race outlook: The first thing that jumps off the page is the 3:55 seed time that Lincoln-Way East is entered in. It is either utterly arrogance or supreme confidence that they think in believing such a mark. Even if Aaliyah Brown were to run on the squad and produces a 55-second split, there is nothing to suggest that the other three girls can average 59-point to 60.0 legs- not in a field void to push such a fast pace. Still, the Griffins should take this one with in a breeze. Lyons Twp will battle against Minooka for runner-up honors. Whitney Young’s meet record will stay intact. Tony Prepster’s picks: 1. LWE, 2. Lyons Twp, 3. Minooka.
-Boys event preview-
x800m- Meet record: Lyons Township 7:59.48 (2011) Key teams: Minooka, Downers Grove North, Chicago (St. Ignatius), Orland Park (Sandburg), Hinsdale Central, Naperville (Neuqua Valley), Skokie (Niles North), Chicago Lane Tech. Race outlook: That tired phrase ‘it doesn’t matter until May’ will be left on the back burner in this affair. There are too many unknowns in this field to play games. Defending state champion Lane Tech will see if they have the parts to make another state run using three new legs. The Indians only return Illinois State University bound Marcelo Burbano (Sr.). Last year’s state runner-up Niles North sits in a familiar spot as Lane Tech in that only returner is in their line-up. Micah Beller (Sr.) is the Titans lone holdover. Downers Grove North may be the team to get things started after running 8:11 over the weekend at the Proviso West Invitational. If DGN is the team to start the fight, then expect Minooka to finish it. The Indians have showed some real sustainability in recent years with a state title and a fifth place finish. They may get back to the mountain top this year as well with Joey Santillo (Sr.) as its most experienced runner. But the Indians have some serious back up in the names of Eric Pierce and Cam Knudsen. Ahh, and there are the Eagles of Sandburg lurking. Pat McMahon and Nick Prajka are very strong middle-distance runners to lead their team for the first team at DGS. If the Eagles have two supporting pieces they will possibly walk out of the NCC building as champions. Tony Prepster’s picks: 1. Minooka, 2. Downers Grove North, 3. Sandburg.
4x200m- Meet record: Plainfield South 1:30.50 (2011) Key teams: Chicago Heights (Bloom), South Holland (Thornwood), St. Charles North, Maywood (Proviso East), Chicago (St. Ignatius). Race outlook: This event will have more question marks than the 4x8r simply because there isn’t enough data out to predict as the best teams. There is one thing that is for certain though: NASCAR entertainment and dropped batons for laughs. But the coaches there will be some growing pains and patience in developing their quartets. St. Charles North and Thornwood may be the team to beat because of the talent on their squads. The North Stars faithful have been chomping at the bit to run on a fast surface after producing a 1:16.11 4x160m no spike clocking recently. That’s a very solid projection over the real distance. Thornwood will have the state’s best long sprinter Kenneth Allen on its quartet. If they can get the stick around the track in one piece it would not be wise to bet against the T-Birds. Watch Proviso East in heat 4 of 6. The Pirates may have been seeded too low. At the very least they should turn a few track heads. Tony Prepster’s picks: 1. Thornwood, 2. St. Charles North, 3. Bloom Twp.
4x400m– Meet record: Plainfield South 3:22.63 (2011) Key teams: Minooka, South Holland (Thornwood), Chicago Heights (Bloom Twp.), St. Charles North, St. Charles East, Naperville (Neuqua Valley). Race outlook: Let’s be definitive and give Thornwood the nod because they have the best 400m in the state by far in Kenneth Allen. All the T-Birds have to do is get him the stick in relatively good striking distance and the rest will be history. The rest of the chasers will be the St. Charles schools east and west, and Bloom for top four honors. Tony Prepster’s picks: 1. Thornwood, 2. Bloom Twp., 3. St. Charles North.