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Edwardsville’s 1:31.29 4×2 overshadows Brown’s 3 wins at Arkansas HS Invitational

The Edwardsville Track Club quartet of Bennett Gray, Brian Crowe, Isaiah Michel, and Craig James celebrate their victory at the Arkansas HS Invitational on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Edwardsville track.

The Edwardsville Track Club quartet of Bennett Gray, Brian Crowe, Isaiah Michel, and Craig James celebrate their victory in the 4 x 200 Meter Relay at the Arkansas HS Invitational on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Edwardsville track.

By Michael Newman

FULL RESULTS

Aailyah Brown (Lincoln-Way East, Frankfort IL) captured 3 wins Saturday evening at the Arkansas High School Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Center on the campus of the University of Arkansas. However, her exploits were overshadowed somewhat by an early season fast 4 x 2 by the quartet from Edwardsville.

Running as the E-ville Track Club but having all 4 runners students at Edwardsville HS, the Tigers ripped off an eye popping 1:31.29 to set a school indoor record and to win the Boys 4×2 relay. What is amazing is that Edwardsville ran 1:31.46 at the end of February at the Normal West Invitational last year. The E-ville relay team of Bennett Gray, Isiah Michal, Craig James, and Brian Crowe are ahead of last year’s team that had graduated all-state sprinter Cameron James as part of it. A time like this, especially in January,  will put the rest of Illinois on notice that they could go close to 1:30 by the time the indoor circuit ends.

Brown had another great night dominating the races that she was entered in. She romped in the 60 Meter dash winning by a sizeable fifteen hundredths of a second victory. Illinois Elite Club teammates Kayla Hylton (Lincoln-Way North HS, Frankfort IL) and Alexis Hyshaw (Lincoln-Way East HS, Frankfort IL) finished fifth and sixth. Brown’s time of 7.60 is her fastest of the young 2013 season.

The Lincoln-Way East senior came back later in the meet to win in a convincing 24.58, over a half second ahead of Brianna Swinton (Parkview Arts-Science HS, Little Rock AR). Hylton (25.95) and Alexis Pierre-Antoine(26.06)  finished sixth and seventh overall in this event.

The Illinois Elite Club 4×2 team of Aaliyah Brown, Asia Brown, Kayla Hylton and Imani Haynes started off the night with over a second win running 1:41.51 to dominate the race.

Cahokia made their presence known in this meet in the Triple Jump and in a big way. Cahokia Track Club athletes placed 2-3-4 in this event. The Comanches were led by Freshman Ja’Mari Ward who jumped a personal best of 46-9. Senior Chris Moore (45-1 ½) and Junior Jalon Monigan (44-11 ½) finished behind their teammate. Monigan came back later in the 800 to run 2:01.

Edwardsville senior Julian Harvey had a great night in the field events. He finished 3rd in the Long Jump jumping an indoor personal best of 22-5. Harvey also finished 2nd in the High Jump clearing 6-5.

Maya Neal (Neuqua Valley HS, Naperville IL) usually will be in four events when it gets close to state meet time. On this night, the talented sophomore  concentrated on the 60 Meter High Hurdles. She finished second in the finals running 9.02.

Aaliya Harmon (Rich Central HS, Olympia Fields IL) finished second last week at Texas A&M with a 18-4 effort in the Long Jump. Saturday night she won the event jumping 18-7, a seasonal best for the senior.

In the evening’s final event, the 4 x 40 meter relay, Cahokia showed that they are already in mid-season stride. The foursome of Marlin Brady, Jalon Monigan, Michael Monigan, and Darren Payton ran 3:25.07 to place second. This is the same quartet that won this event at the Illinois state meet last May. To show the depth of 400 meter runners Cahokia has, their “B” team ran 3:32. If this is an indication of the strength of this team this spring, it will be tough to knock off the Comanches in this event in May.

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Monday Morning Finish Line – January 7, 2013

Welcome to the 2013 Track season!

This is the first of the Illinois Prep Harrier Monday Morning Finish Line Video shows. I will do one more in January. When Dyestat Illinois opens in the next month, this feature will continue on that site.

Illinois Prep Harrier will continue as we continue into this season. Dyestat Illinois is not something new. It is just a continuance of what I started with Illinois Prep Harrier. I am excited for what is to come and I am sure you all will be as well. There are many stories to tell in the 2013.

Thank you for letting me serve you in doing this.

Any questions: newman.dyestatil@gmail.com

Brown repeats double win at Texas A&M High School Classic

Aailyah Brown on her way to the win in the 200 Meter Dash at the Texas A&M Classic on Saturday. Photo Credit: Dwayne Pierre-Antoine

Aailyah Brown on her way to the win in the 200 Meter Dash at the Texas A&M Classic on Saturday. Photo Credit: Dwayne Pierre-Antoine

FULL RESULTS

By Michael Newman

Aaliyah Brown (Lincoln-Way East HS, Frankfort IL) comfort level showed Saturday on the track that she will call home for the next 4 years. The Illinois senior defended her 60 Meter and 200 Meter Dash titles at the Texas A&M HS Classic held inside the Gilliam Indoor Track Season.

Aaliyah Brown after her win in the 200 Meter Dash at the Texas A&M Classic on Saturday. Photo Credit: Dwayne Pierre-Antoine

Aaliyah Brown after her win in the 200 Meter Dash at the Texas A&M Classic on Saturday. Photo Credit: Dwayne Pierre-Antoine

Brown, who in December had verbally committed to Texas A&M, started her afternoon by winning the 60 Meter Dash in 7.55 seconds. She was 7 hundreths of a second ahead of Rushell Harvey (Westside HS, Houston TX). Brown just missed the meet record that she set a year ago of 7.46. She came back in the 200 to win in 24.60. She ended her day by running on the Illinois Elite Club 4 x400 Meter Realy. Those efforts earned her the Girls Running co-athlete of the meet. She shared that honor with Sophomore Rebekah Topham (Griswold IA) who destroyed the fields in winning both the 1 mile and 2 mile runs in meet record times (5:04.10 / 11:09.10).

Shamier Little (Lindblom HS, Chicago IL) started off her 2013 as well at this meet. The future Aggie placed third in the 60 Meter High Hurdles (8.75) and then came back and finished third behind Brown in the 200 Meter Dash (25.04).

Two freshmen sprinters on the Illinois elite squad may their 2013 debuts and showed that they will make a difference in the Girls sprint fields in 2013. Kayla Hilton (Lincoln-Way North HS, Frankfort IL) ran a personal best of 7.80 to place sixth in the 60 Meter Dash. She came back in the 200 to finish seventh in the finals (25.22). Hylton finished just ahead of fellow Illinois Elite teammate and freshman Alexis Pierre-Antoine(Lincoln-Way East, Frankfort IL) in the 200 (25.73).

Aaliya Harmon (Rich Central HS, Olympia Fields IL) made her presence known in both the horizontal jumps. The second place finisher in the 3A state meet in 2012 looked like she has not lost her step in the Long Jump. Her leap of 18-4 ½ earned her a second place finish. She also competed in the Triple Jump where she finished seventh (36- ¼).

Watch Brown’s win in the 60 Meter Dash on Saturday

Coming in 2013…

dyestatil

Coming soon…Dyestat Illinois

As you know in June of 2012, ESPN decided to drop its high school website which meant dropping Dyestat.  A stripped down version of Dyestat (Dyetrack) was brought back for the fall cross country season with efforts to obtain funding for the site.

At the beginning of November, John Dye announced ceasing operations for Dyestat.

A few weeks ago, Runnerspace announced the acquisition of the Dyestat name and all of the assets connected with it including the Dyestat and Dyestat IL domain names, the Dyestat archives, and the Dyestat TFX database.

I am happy to announce in 2013 that Dyestat Illinois will be back…better than ever!

A launch date has not been determined yet for Dyestat Illinois but hopes are to have the website up and running by the end of January.

This will not be the same Dyestat Illinois that closed its doors last August. There will be new features that will be introduced in the first few weeks after the site is open. Along with that, we will give you coverage of both Boys and Girls Track & Field in Illinois starting with the indoor season in February and culminating with unprecedented state meet coverage from Charleston in May.

We also are hoping to have the TFX database that you love and enjoy up and running by the end of January.

Illinois Prep Harrier will still be around but will be reconfigured. Stay tuned for news on that. One feature that you liked from the fall season, Monday Morning Finish Line, will move to Dyestat Illinois.

I am excited for what the 2013 season will bring and the stories that Dyestat Illinois will be able to bring you.

If you have any comments or things that you would like to see on the new Dyestat Illinois, please contact me at newman.dyestatil@gmail.com.

Michael Newman

Editor – Dyestat IL

Reflections of High School Running in Illinois in 2012: Some of my top moments

By Michael Newman

One of the perks of covering a state meet is talking to each state champion. This time, it was state record holder Madeline Perez of Glenbard West. Thanks to Madeline for sending this picture in.

One of the perks of covering a state meet is talking to each state champion. This time, it was state record holder Madeline Perez of Glenbard West. Thanks to Madeline for sending this picture in.

We are getting near the end of 2012. What a year it has been in running in the state of Illinois. I have been fortunate to see many events in so many places throughout the state of Illinois. I never have done a year in review before. I thought it would be a unique thing to do to end the year for Illinois Prep Harrier.

I started the year covering Boys running throughout Illinois for Dyestat Illinois. I ended the year in a different place, a creation of mine, Illinois Prep Harrier. I was able to cover everything in Cross Country this fall both Boys and Girls. It stretched me a couple of times but it was worth it.

I tried to summarize my highlights month by month. I think if would have done it in that format, I would still be writing this in 2014. Instead, I want to take a look at some of the top moments of the year in both track and cross country.

I did not rank them. I am just doing this in random order.

1                     The rise of Madeline Perez and Girls Distance Running in Illinois

The junior from Glenbard West caught my eye in the first race of the season at the Hornet Red-Devil Invitational in Hinsdale. Madeline Perez was a runner that in the preseason I thought would be a runner that may challenge for the top 5 in November. When she ran 16:59 on the rolling course at Katherine Legge Memorial, I thought that she may be running much faster by the time of the state meet.

Perez did not have a perfect season by any means. Early in the year, she was defeated in consecutive weeks by Kaylee Flanagan of Lake Park. The second race at Detweiller Park, Perez finished second running 16:29. Flanagan broke the course record running 16:20.3. Fans started to talk of what Flanagan could run in November. No talk about Perez and what she could do. She came down with an upper repertory and sinus infection that slowed her down for the next month.

When she recovered, she had found the gear that she was missing earlier in the year. She just missed the course record that Flanagan had set earlier in the year at Lake Park by one second. The big thing was that she defeated Flanagan by over 40 seconds. Two weeks later at the state meet, I was on the lead truck watching Perez move away from the pack. When she passed by the 2 mile in 10:36, everyone at the park on that day knew something special was going to happen.  She shattered the course record by 18 seconds. She just missed breaking 16 minutes by two seconds, but considering that she is a junior, she will have a couple of chances to take the record down further in 2013.

The improvement in Girls Distance running had a staggering effect which I think will continue to grow during this track season. Four years ago, the winning time in the girl’s 3A race was 17:09. In 2012, that time would not have even placed in the top 25. Perez improved her state time in one year by over one minute. The same improvement could be said about runner up Emma Fisher of York where her time was a minute faster.

We could see some special times this spring. Could the 4 x 8 record be broken after it was only set a year ago by Wheaton-Warrenville South? Are we looking at low 4:40 times in the 1600? Last year, the 3200 was won in 10:28. I would not be surprised if it goes under 10:15 at the end of May at state.

2                     A grand way to send a track to retirement

The plans for O’Brien Stadium in Charleston were to put a new football surface in after the conclusion of the Boys state track meet. As always, the state meet brought many exciting finishes and outstanding performances.

The one race that will be etched in my mind forever was the last race on that blue oval: the Class 3A 4 x 400 Meter Relay. It wasn’t who won the race but how the race was run. If you were to ask me which school was crowned the champion in that race, I would have to go back and look at my notes. I did not remember that Belleville West held off Minooka and Bloom to win the race. I did remember the sacrifice that Derek Suss of Plainfield North made for his team. This is what I wrote in my recap of the meet starting with Suss in the third leg:

James Cole had the baton for Belleville West, Tevin Hopkins for Minooka, and Derrick Suss for Plainfield North. Coming around the first turn, Suss made a move to try to take the lead. All of a sudden he slowed down and popped into the air. In 2011, he was out all season with a hamstring injury. That injury hit him again. He crumpled to the ground in pain.

The announcer called for a trainer as the rest of the race moved by Suss. The young man got up and waved everyone away from him. This was the senior’s last race and he was going to finish it. “I was going to finish that race. In my mind, no one was going to stop me,” Suss said while he received medical attention.

The race was still going on, but it seemed that all the attention of the remaining crowd had their eyes on Suss. Bloom Townships Kaleb Williams made a move on the outside to get his team into contention. The final leg had Tevin Suggs of Belleville West holding off Chris Wilson of Minooka and Micah Frasier of Bloom Township for the win. It was the first win in this relay for Belleville West. It was also the first for Belleville West coach Patton Seagraves. When he ran at Harrisburg, he anchored their 4 x 4 relays all 4 years, but could never win the title. On this day, Suss delivered to give Seagraves that winning satisfaction.

Suss was still trying to make it around the track as the rest of the runners finished. And he was going to finish. He was moving slowly. But he was getting encouragement. Man he was getting encouragement. All the athletes on the infield waiting to get their medals from previous races were lining the infield cheering for their fellow athlete. The crowd was standing giving him encouragement to get that final exchange off. If he got the exchange off, his squad still would receive a medal and attain all-state recognition.

I do not think there was a dry eye in that stadium as Suss approached his teammate Evan Flagg with the baton. I think it was a requirement of those who were still in that stadium that there was not a dry eye. Who could not be moved by this?

Suss finally made the exchange to his teammate and fell to the track. His teammates and his coach Tony Holler rushed around him. His coach gave him a tearful embrace. Plainfield North finished the race with a time of 5:47.44, perhaps the slowest final time ever for the 4 x 400 Meter Relay. That time did not matter. It was a matter of perseverance and desire to do something for his teammates that kept Suss going.

“He has been accepted to the Air Force Academy. He has a 32 ACT. He pulled a hamstring last year and missed his entire junior year,” Holler said after the race was over. “He did not get to run at the state meet. He made it through his entire senior year because he worked so hard. It was really eerie when he went down and pulled that same hamstring. In our pre meeting of today, I told them a story. The most heart wrenching story that I have ever seen about Derek Redmond in the 1992 Olympics. He pulled a hamstring and his father came along side and helped him across the finish line. I told our men that was the type of team that we wanted to be. And it happened. I am so proud of that kid.”

The effort of Suss should serve as an example of what athletics should be. There is glory in doing your best and winning the competition, but there is more glory in persevering and completing the goal that you set out to achieve.

For those who left the Stadium of that day, I am sure that vision of Suss limping around the track to finish will stay in their minds hopefully forever. It was a forever moment for Suss. It was a forever moment for Holler and the Plainfield North track team. It was a forever moment for this blue oval and the legacy of great moments in Illinois high school track history.

3                     Multiple Distance Races in the heat

I wish I could comment on the great double that Jessica Ackerman of New Trier accomplished with two all state performances in the 3200 and then less than an hour later in the 800. I still regret not going down to the Girls State Meet last May. There were many performances that I would have loved to have seen and written about.

I can, however, tell you about the great distance doubles that I saw the following week at the Boys State Meet. The temperature at O’Brien Stadium on the day of the final was 96 degrees. The temperature on the track approached 115 degrees. It was hard to believe that anyone would be able to accomplish a distance double. Don’t tell that though to Steve Schroeder of Monticello and Michael Clevenger of Decatur MacArthur. Both seniors were state champions in cross country the previous fall. The hot conditions would only be a slight deterrent to their goals.

Schroeder’s task would be a little more difficult. With Monticello in the hunt for a team trophy in Class 1A, Schroeder announced after the prelims on Thursday that he would run on his team’s 4 x 800 Meter Relay team, then run the 3200 Meter Run and the 1600 Meter Run.

Clevenger would coast in his heat of the 1600 Meter Run on Friday. Meanwhile, Jamison Dale of Jones College Prep set a Class 2A record in his heat of 4:15. Clevenger’s task of doubling in the 3200 & 1600 would be tough with Dale and Will Brewster of Grayslake Central in both of the races.

Schroeder’s teammates would keep them close to race leader Elmwood as they handed the baton off to Schroeder. His 1:55.1 anchor would secure the win for Monticello and ten points. He went off the track immediately afterwards to find some shade. He would return less than a hour later to run the 3200. The hot temperatures took its effect on the field but it did not seem to faze Schroeder. He moved away in the last 800 for an easy win. “This race was more of an endurance test for me. The race was mostly tactical. I know the time wasn’t impressive, it was just getting the points for the team,” he said.  His luck ran out a couple of hours later as he ran against a fresh Grant Nykaza of Beecher in the 1600. Schroeder tried to stay with Nykaza and he did…for 1400 of the 1600 meters in the race. Nykaza made a race winning move in the last 200 that Schroeder had no energy to stay with him.

“I was telling myself over and over again I was ready for it and I just had to keep myself mentally upbeat that I could do this,” Schroeder said. “I just tried to stay with Nykaza. I waited to make my move and he made his even stronger.” Still, it was a great day for the mentally tough Monticello senior. Monticello scored 31 points, 28 of those were accounted by Schroeder. That was enough for Monticello to take home a third place trophy.

Just like Schroeder, Clevenger was not worried about time. All that mattered was that he cross the finish line on his last lap of both races in first place. The 4:48 mile that the pack went through in the mile was slow but that did not matter to Clevenger.

“The times were not great. The heat had something to do with that. What was I supposed to do? It was a matter at the end of who could run the fastest last 400,” he said. “When we went through the mile, it felt like tempo running and I was feeling really good. When I crossed the finish line, it was like phew, I got through that one.”

He ran his last mile in 4:30, the last half in 2:06, and the last 400 in 58.9…good enough for a state championship.

He doubled his pleasure in the 1600. The only way that he would complete the double that eluded him the year before was that both races became tactical in the extreme heat. He made his move with a 56.4 last 400 to secure his fifth state championship. “It’s unexplainable how I felt getting the 1600 for the first time. It felt like the first time all over again when I won my first state championship. It felt like it was the best conclusion to my high school career,” Clevenger said.

Two weeks later, his kick again proved deadly as he made a move with 250 meters to go to win the Midwest Distance Festival Mile in 4:09. It was the fastest time for that distance in the state in 2012.

4                     And they all cheered…

The last moment was not a state championship performance, but the roar of the crowd during the race made it seem like it.

The Proviso West Invitational at the end of February is just one of the first big indoor meets of the season. The meet does not determine a state qualifier or as a tune up for a big meet. It does give teams a chance to run on a fast 200 meter oval against some good competition.

The one mile run is contested towards the end of the meet. There were some fans that had left this meet by that point. Those who stayed saw a measure of will power achieved by Calvin King of Proviso West.

Now King does not have the typical distance runner’s body. He stands about 6’ 3”, weighs about 300 pounds. There he stood on line waiting for the gun to fire off in the first section of the race. People were asking what was this guy doing in the race. A fan at the race tweeted “From a true fan perspective, I’m all for kids accomplishing goals, but a 300 lb shot putter is a bit too much”

It did not matter what size of a body he had for me. His coach put him in the race…and he ran.

He was there to see if he could beat his seed time of 14:00.

He was lapped early in the race and often. The runners finished in the race and King still had 4 laps to run. Though he was the only runner still on the track, he was not alone. Fans in the stands were standing cheering the young man on. Athletes from all team lined the track to cheer him on. Each step seemed like it took forever, but he would not stop. The cheers got even louder as he closed to the finish line. His time was 11:11. He had run almost three minutes faster than his seed time.

It was not the prettiest mile that I would watch this year, but his desire to finish would stick with me. He did not win this race but that did not matter. He won in the hearts of everyone that was there.

–          –  –

This year was a memorable one for me. ESPN dropped Dyestat in June and it left me with many decisions. One of them was where I would cover Illinois Cross Country this fall. One of the things that swayed my decision was when my daughter was looking at the Dyestat Illinois website. When she asked me how come there are more articles about the boys, I had to think hard what I wanted to accomplish in the fall. I had been the boy’s editor for a long period of time and watched the girl’s races from a far. Not having the opportunity to write about the girls athletes in the past, I wanted that opportunity. The only way that I would be able to do that was if Illinois Prep Harrier was started.

It was a shame that Dyestat had to close down this fall. With Runner Space buying the assets for Dyestat, it will be fun to see what they will do.

One other thing that I noticed was the coverage in the main stream media for cross country decreased. For the first time that I can remember, there was not a reporter that I noticed from the Chicago Tribune at the state meet. There is a need for coverage on the internet and I am just happy that I was a small piece of that. There are more running websites in Illinois that will be starting up in January that will be covering the sport. I think that is a great thing. The more exposure for these young men and women is a plus for track & field.

I am excited for 2013. This will be my first time that I will be covering Girls Track along with Boys Track and I am looking forward to that. There will be many changes that will occur to Illinois Prep Harrier coming up sometime in January which I am very excited about.

I think once you see it, you will be too. At least I hope you will.

When I was running, my coaches would tell me that you were as only good as your next workout, your next race. That is the same philosophy I use when I write. I may think that a piece that I have written is good, but I know I will have to do better next time. It is the force that kept me improving when I ran. It is the same force when I look at this website.

Thank you for your support throughout the last year. I am fortunate that I am able to serve to you with this website.

Have a great holiday season and a blessed Christmas.

See you in 2013!

2013 Midwest Distance Festival meet moving to Lisle

Benedictine University Finish Line

The 2nd annual Midwest Distance Festival will have a new home in 2013.

I am pleased to announce that the Midwest Distance Festival will take place on June 8, 2013 on the campus of Benedictine University at the Village of Lisle-Benedictine University Sports Complex in Lisle, IL.

After the 2012 meet was completed, I evaluated how the meet went along with feedback from athletes, coaches, parents, and fans. The conclusion that I came up with was the best prospect for this meet to grow was to move it to the facilities at Benedictine University. It has nothing to do with the Joliet Memorial Stadium track. I would like to thank the staff of St. Francis University, the City of Joliet, and the Illinois Track & Cross Country Coaches Association for the hospitality for the meet last June.

Another change is the meet day is being moved from Friday night to Saturday night. For the 2012 meet, I did receive some concerns that the meet was on a Friday night and people were having trouble getting to the meet site by the first race. The other concern that I had last year is that the meet lost at least 10 athletes who could not compete on Friday night because they were involved in ACT testing the next morning. ACT testing will be held on the morning of the meet. I am hoping that the change of date will work for more athletes that may have the same conflict.

I was pleased with the fields that we had for the meet considering there was only 3 weeks to organize the meet. I was happy with the quality of the boy’s races last year. I was happy with the quality of the girl’s races, but not the size of the fields in those races. As the meet director, that is my fault. One of my big goals for 2013 is to have high quality fields in any of the girls race that we will be holding.

Nine states were represented last year in the inaugural meet. We are looking for more states to be represented at the Midwest Distance Festival this June.

As of now, the events for the meet will remain the same.

Boys: 2k steeplechase, Freshman mile, 800 meters, 1 mile run, 2 mile run

Girls: 800 Meter Run, 1 Mile run

All: Open  5k

If you have any suggestions for additional events, you can e-mail me at midwestdistance@gmail.com.

Future announcements will be forthcoming as we get closer to the meet. The meet website we hope to have running by the beginning of February along with the meet entry standards. There is a Facebook page (Midwest Distance Festival) where you can watch for future announcements.

I look forward to seeing you  all in Lisle on June 8, 2013 for the 2nd running of the Midwest Distance Festival!

Michael Newman

MDF Meet Director

midwestdistance@gmail.com

Illinois Prep Harrier Cross Country Awards – Boys Runner of the Year

At the Palatine Invitational at the end of September, Jack Keelan leads Grant Nykaza by 10 meters with less than a half to go. The finish was much closer. (Photo by Steve Bugarin).

At the Palatine Invitational at the end of September, Jack Keelan leads Grant Nykaza by 10 meters with less than a half to go. The finish was much closer. (Photo by Steve Bugarin).

You’ve read the 3 articles honoring the 3 runners of the year in each class: Grant Nykaza of Beecher, John Wold of Glenbard South, and Jack Keelan of St. Ignatius. The two other runner that I considered as finalists was Alex Riba of O’Fallon and Quentin Shaffer of Prospect.

When I announced the finalists, I stated that the entire season including the post season would be considered, but the emphasis would be on races within the regular season.

Riba and Shaffer both had great post seasons. Riba ended up winning the Nike Midwest Regional with Shaffer finishing 4th. Shaffer had an excellent race at Nike Nationals finishing 12th. But it came down to the state meet and Keelan and the final word in that race.

John Wold had an abbreviated season due to an injury. Though he was undefeated in the 5 races that he ran, it was not enough to push him over the top.

So it came down to two runners that I considered: Nykaza and Keelan. They did race in the post season at the Midwest Footlocker Regional with Nykaza in fifth and Keelan back in the pack. I did not consider that race in my final consideration.

The race that made the difference was the Palatine Invitational. In my mind, it was one of the most amazing tactical races that I’ve had the pleasure to watch this season. On the curvy Deer Grove East course, every turn that the two made, one would surge only to have the other counter it. In the final 800 meters, Keelan made one final move that would break Nykaza…or so he thought. With 300 meters to go, Keelan had a ten meter lead. Nykaza unleashed a torrid kick that would catch the St. Ignatius senior about 10 meters before the line.

The margin of victory in this race was only six tenths of a second between the two with Nykaza getting the narrow win.

I cannot punish Nykaza for being in Class 1A. He did go out to run against top flight competition in Indiana and the following week after Palatine in Chicago where he dominated a not so tough field at Loyola. He ran 14:21 at state, but I am certain if he was in a fast race he would have been in the lead pack.

My determinant for Runner of the Year was not going to be who had the fastest time. We will save that for track. It came down to head to head competition and racing on the course. We will never know who would have won at the state meet since they were in different classes. But on the one day, a winner was determined.

With that…

I congratulate Jack Keelan on a great season. He set his goals and achieved them. Who could ask for anything else?

For the Illinois Prep Harrier Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year, it will go to Grant Nykaza of Beecher. Congratulations on a great season.

Illinois Prep Harrier Cross Country Awards – Girls 3A & Overall Runner of the Year

16:02 at Detweiller says it all for Glenbard West’s Perez

Madeline Perez's 16:02 at state was the performance of the year in Illinois.

Madeline Perez’s 16:02 at state was the performance of the year in Illinois.

When I decided to do the Runner of the Year Award, I looked at the top runners out of all the classes. I wanted to see if I could include a runner from the other two classes in the overall award. I made a reasonable judgment that it would not be possible. Class 3A for Girls this year has been memorable to say the least. When the course record at Detweiller Park can be broken twice in a season, it was more than memorable.

Kaylee Flanagan of Lake Park started the season off on a hot note. In her first four big invitationals, she set four course records including the 16:20.3 that she ran at the Richard Spring Invitational at Detweiller Park in the middle of September.  Her first loss of the year was a 12th place finish at the Wheaton North Falcon Classic. It seemed that she was not the same after that. She did finish 4th in the 3A race.

Emma Fisher of York was a runner that we saw a vast improvement from. She had two wins during the year: the first meet of the year at the Leavey Invitational and then the West Suburban Silver Meet where she defeated Madeline Perez.

Courtney Ackerman of New Trier had a good regular season but seemed to get better as the month of November went along. She had some statement wins during the year at the First to the Finish Invitational and the Wheaton North Falcon Classic. Courtney finished third in the 3A state meet running a personal best of 16:27. She qualified for both the Nike Cross Nationals and the Foot Locker Nationals. She was one of two runners from Illinois to qualify for both races (the other was Scott Milling of York). Ackerman finished a strong 6th place in horrible conditions at Portland. Last Saturday in San Diego fighting off a head cold, she ended her season by finishing 18th.

It is hard to argue against Madeline Perez of Glenbard West but her season left the ROY debate open. The junior started off the year with a strong win over Ackerman at Hinsdale. The next two weeks she placed 2nd to Flanagan at Lake Park and then at Peoria. In the race that saw Flanagan break the Detweiller Park record, Perez ran 16:29.

After that race, she had an upper repertory and sinus infection that she tried to run through with affected her performances. During that period, she finished 9th at Wheaton North, was defeated by Fisher in two races. The West Suburban Silver race that she lost to Fisher, the gap was only 10 seconds. The week before, Fisher had defeated her by thirty seconds.

Then she started to feel better and she picked up where she left off. She dominated both the Lake Park Regional and the Niles West Sectional. Her time of 16:28 just missed Flanagan’s course record, but it showed that she could run a special race at state.

Boy did she ever!

When she passed by the two mile point at the state meet in 10:36, she was not racing against any competitor but the clock and history. Her 16:02 smashed Flanagan’s record by 18 seconds. She will have a chance to go under next fall in her senior campaign. A fun fact is that her coach Paul Haas ran for York at the state meet in 1986. His time was 15:56. So she has that to go after as well!

Therefore, I am proud to congratulate Madeline Perez as the Illinois Prep Harrier 3A and overall Girls Runner of the Year in Illinois.

Illinois Prep Harrier Cross Country Awards – Boys 3A Runner of the Year

Keelan dominance in races results in 3A Runner of the Year

Jack Keelan of St. Ignatius    on his way to a win in the 3A state race.

Jack Keelan of St. Ignatius on his way to a win in the 3A state race.

Jack Keelan of St. Ignatius had unfinished business when he started this cross country season. What pushed him through the track season was that he did not get the opportunity to race in the 2011 state meet. The two all state performances that achieved in track in the 3200 and 1600 meter runs gave him the confidence to be able to go after the one thing he wanted in the fall: a state championship.

The question would be who would push him at state. The one runner that surprised many in 3A was Quentin Shaffer of Prospect. He opened eyes at the Peoria Central Invitational running 14:28. He opened more at the Nike Cross Country Nationals where he placed 12th in Portland.

The O’Fallon duo of Patrick Perrier and Alex Riba would also push. Perrier had a great season just getting outkicked by Garrett Lee of Belvidere North at the Richard Spring Invitational. The 14:28 that he ran in mid-September showed that he was able to go faster at state. Riba had a viral infection that hampered his training and racing during mid season. He came back strong at the Regional and Sectional meets. The race after the state meet, the Nike Regional meet, may have been his best as he sat back and won on a blistering last quarter kick.

All eyes would be on Keelan. He was undefeated against 3A runners during the regular season. It seemed that he was trying different strategies getting himself ready for Peoria. He did have one set back at the Palatine Invitational (we will talk about that at in the Overall ROY article). Before state at the Niles West Sectional, York’s Scott Milling pushed Keelan for the first 2 ½ miles before the St. Ignatius senior broke away for an easy win. Milling seemed to peak at the right time this year with a 6th place state finish along with qualifying for both NXN and Footlocker. He finished 27th in both of those races.

The state meet race was a battle of wills. Riba pushed the pace to try to break Keelan. The thing was Keelan was not going anywhere. He made a move with about 900 meters to go that broke the race open for his state championship. His time of 14:05 makes him one of the ten fastest runners in state meet history at Detweiller Park. He came back the following week to finish 5th at the Nike Regionals.

His dominance during the season was strong enough that he was the one runner qualified for this award.

I am pleased to congratulate Jack Keelan as the Illinois Prep Harrier Boys 3A runner of the year.

Illinois Prep Harrier Cross Country Awards – Boys 2A Runner of the Year

It’s Wold’s late charge that earns him Runner of the Year

John Wold moves away from Alex Baker to win the 2A state race.

John Wold moves away from Alex Baker to win the 2A state race.

Heading into the 2012 Cross Country Season, the one race that everyone had high expectations on at the state meet was the Boys in Class 2A. So many quality runners were returning that it would be a must watch race at the state meet. It was.

Garrett Lee of Belvidere North emerged early in the year not only in 2A but throughout the state after convincing wins at the Lake Park Invitational and the Richard Spring Invitational. Lee only had one defeat heading into the state meet which was to teammate Tyler Yunk early in the year at the Crystal Lake South Invitational. He did win the Belvidere Sectional by under a second to Alex Baker of Crystal Lake Central.

John Wold of Glenbard South had a frustrating first half of the season. He came into his first race at the Leavey Invitational in great shape. The hope was dashed when he had to drop out of the race due to a recurring foot injury that he had during the track season.

He let his foot heal and came back at the Metamora Invitational. He won that race by only nine seconds over Jonathan Schaap of Mahomet-Seymour. Each race that he ran and won he gained more and more confidence. He knew was ready for a championship bid at the Wheaton Academy Sectional where he dominated the race at the start to easily win. He took out the first mile in 4:37 and was able to maintain a pace to run 14:32 on a course that is longer than 3 miles (3.04 miles).

The state meet came down to the last mile when Baker and Wold broke away from Lee. In the last 400 meters, Wold broke away from Baker to storm to a six second win. The domination that Wold showed at the end of the year clinches this award for him.

I happy to congratulate John Wold the Illinois Prep Harrier Boys 2A Runner of the Year.