Boys track and field: Mix of veterans, newcomers sparking Grant
The Grant boys track and field team has logged numerous positives since the start of outdoor season, despite poor weather and cancellations.
Freshman Niko Dayment came within a half-second of breaking the school freshman record in the 1,600 run (4:42.54) at the competitive Lake Zurich Bear invitational. Coach Nick Nenni noted this is the 12th-fastest time run by a ninth-grader in the state so far this season.
Senior Logan Blancett has made good progress in the shot and discus, improving his discus throw by more than 5 feet (123-10) and taking fourth at Lake Zurich. Senior Charlie Hamann, who ran the opening leg on the Grant state 3,200 relay team in 2021, has added 300 hurdles to his mix. In only his third race in that event, he ran 42.98 and was fourth at Lake Zurich. "He shows lots of room for growth in the next few weeks," Nenni said.
The Bulldogs' 1,600 relay team also has done well despite lineup shifts due to injuries. The combo of seniors Jon Scimeca, Hamann, junior Angel Morales-Cobain and sophomore Memphis Roman ran 3:37.77 at Lake Zurich.
The Blue Devils ended the indoor season runners-up at the Lake Park meet held at North Central College, followed by a win at Carthage College. Thus far outdoors, the Blue Devils are 5-0 in dual conference meets and had five distance runners compete in the Palatine Distance Night with two runners in the main event with the best runners in the state. Warren also took third at Metea Valley, minus a couple key athletes.
Junior Caleb Levy ran 1:55.35 in the 800 at Palatine to finish sixth and log the second-fastest time in school history. "Caleb has been running well the entire season," Warren coach Jo Williams said. "He has battle injuries each of the past two seasons and has been limited in his training this year. He is ultracompetitive and hates to lose more than he likes to win."
Senior Luke Wiley ran 9:14 in the 3,200 at Arcadia in California, while junior Jaden Turner jumped 21-6 1/4 in his first time jumping outdoors this season (seventh-best jump in school history). Junior Cassius Callahan went 21-2 in the long jump, eighth-best in school history.
Junior Joell Belonga is in his first season running track for the Blue Devils and is turning heads. "Joell is another guy who is just now starting to figure it out as a junior," Williams said. "He has been our fastest guy in the 400. He has gotten better pretty much every meet he has run in. In our first outdoor meet, he won the open 400 with a time of 51.73. Once he gets a little more experience, he is going to have a monster season for us down the stretch."
Vernon Hills update:
The Cougars were third at their own Cougar Relays (missing second by a point) and took fifth at the 14-team Lake Zurich Bear invite (missed fourth by 0.5 points). Counting only varsity events at Lake Zurich, Vernon Hills was second.
Coach Ross Caton's 800 relay team won at Lake Zurich in 1:31.49, which is a current Class 3A Top 10 time. The 1,600 relay team was second, shaving 8 seconds of its time down to 3:31.83, another 3A Top 10 time.
Caton likes how senior Ryan Kuczynski and junior Jake Slavish have performed. Kuczynski anchored the 400, 800 and 1,600 relays at Lake Zurich and also took third in the 200, setting a PR at 22.54 and then rolling right into the 1,600 relay and running an anchor 50.6 split. "Ryan is doing everything we ask of him and is willing to do what he can to help the team," Caton said.
Slavish ran in the 400, 800 and 1,600 relays at Lake Zurich and ran the 300 hurdles for only the second time, taking third at Bear with a 42.82. He ended the night with a 50.7 split in the 1,600.
Senior Nathan Lee, competing in track for the first time, broke the 15-meter barrier in the shot put indoors. With top thrower David Mun out ill last week, Lee stepped in and competed in his first varsity invite, taking third at Bear with a chuck of 14.74 meters.
Payton Whitehead took second in the 800 at Lake Zurich with a time of 1:58.43, which ranks seventh in 2A right now and 25th overall in Illinois. Coach Travis Shepherd noted Whitehead is the second-fastest sophomore in the 800 at Lakes.
Other recent notables for the Eagles include Max McGuire taking second in the high jump at Lake Zurich at 6-2, a mark tied for ninth right now in 2A. Paul Migas is undefeated in the pole vault. "Paul has not been seeking top heights at the moment, but working on various technical aspects of his vault," Shepherd explained. "He has been impressive winning without a full run-through. Keep an eye out for him as things warm up."
Shepherd also likes the progress Nick Raffone and Quin Maloney have made. "Nick has improved his overall speed and strength," he said. "He contributes for us at a high level in the high jump and the sprints. He is an absolute difference-maker who has to be accounted for in every event he competes in. Besides, that he works hard and is a great role model for our young athletes. Quin runs cross country, but is new to the track team. He has acclimated well to training and has been a vital cog in our 4-by-8. He has impressed with his speed and the tenacity with which he attacks races."
Shepherd added one nice bonus for the Eagles this season has been field events. "Our field event coaches have done a wonderful job teaching the technical aspect of their events and have prepared our athletes for success," the coach said. "We have the ability to score multiple athletes in the vertical jumps and throws. In addition, we have a nice group of emerging athletes developing in the horizontal jumps. It's been a nice bright spot for us this year and we couldn't do it without the work from coaches Dan Jazo (vault), Steph Gates (high jump), Lorenzo Gomez (horizontal jumps) and Dan McLaren (throws).
Lake Zurich update:
The Bears finished second at the recent Leyden invitational. On the individual front, Dylan Myers recently ran 9:32 in the 3,200 on the Palatine Distance Classic undercard, while Ben Cooper won the 110 hurdles in 15.52 at the Lake Zurich Bear invite. Brayden Veil has run 15.80 in the 110 highs.
"Ben and Brayden, our two high hurdlers, are making great strides, consistently running under 16 seconds," coach Randal Dunbar said. "They continue to push each other each week to get better. Ben has also made some strides in the 300 hurdles, running 41.0 (hand time) in a dual."
Freshman Owen Peshek, Dunbar added, has made a huge impact on the team. "Owen is one of our top sprinters who has been able to hang with the best, and is one of our hardest workers on the team," he said.
A slew of positives are happening for coach Ryan Hornung's Corsairs squad. The 1,600 relay team (Luke Daniels, Jimmy Murphy, Deimos Teng, Gabe Lynch) ran 3:42.58 at Lake Zurich, which is ranked fourth in Carmel's sectional. The Carmel 800 relay (Luke Cerwin, BJ Mensah, Preston Pierce, Deimos Teng) ran 1:38.47 at Lake Zurich, which ranks it fifth in Carmel's sectional.
Sophomore Dev'ion Reynolds took fifth in the 200 at Lake Zurich (23.34; third in the sectional), sixth in the 300 hurdles at Lake Zurich (44.13; third in the sectional) and hit a PR in the long jump there at 20-11 (top mark in Carmel's sectional). "Dev'ion has proved to be a force on the team," Hornung said. "He's an incredibly talented and naturally gifted athlete who is open to trying anything coaches throw his way. He has consistently shown improvement and is surprising everyone. We are looking forward to many more years of his success on the team."
Cerwin ran a 51.85 PR in the 400, which is ranked fourth in Carmel's sectional and is seven-tenths of a second short of state qualifying time. "Luke has proved to be a leader on the team and is constantly looking to improve his 400 time," Hornung said. "His PR at Lake Zurich wasn't a surprise, given how hard he's worked this year. Thanks to his effort, we have more interest in the 400 than ever before and our 4-by-400 is proving to be competitive in our sectional thanks to his leadership. Typically, the 400 is the most dreaded race by many of our athletes because of how physically demanding and taxing it can be. In years past, we've had maybe a couple of competitive 400 runners. However, thanks to some of our upperclassmen and the leadership shown by our 400 runners, more and more athletes are viewing the 400 as the ultimate test of their abilities and want a spot in the 4-by-400. We owe a lot of that to Luke and senior Preston Pierce."
Also, PJ Biegel ran a PR 11:00.34 in the 3,200 at Lake Zurich. He has shaved 30 seconds off his time this season.
Ali Faiz won the mile at the Lake Forest invitational and took second in the 800 at Vernon Hills. Peyton Erdal won the 800 at Lake Forest, while Andrew Brooks won the 400 at Vernon Hills and was second in the 400 at Lake Forest.
Coach Stu Mendelsohn noted sophomore Jack Barry has run the third-fastest 400 time on the team "and continues to improve," he said. Classmate Oliver Allen, Mendelsohn added, continues to improve each meet in the 300 hurdles.