Lake Park dominates to win ITT 3A boys team championship
By Michael Newman
Bloomington, Ill --- 3A Boys Coaches have been looking in many different ways to defeat Lake Park and derail their attempt at their fourth straight 3A state championship. After the Lancers’ dominant performance in winning the Illinois Top Times 3A Boys Team Championship in the Shirk Center, that idea has dimmed a little bit more.
Lake Park has a bevy of great field event athletes. Last spring, they qualified two relays. Now, they have an elite hurdler that will challenge for an outdoor individual championship. At this time last year, Antonio Shenaut was only a freshman sprinter.
“He was a freshman sprinter last year. He just started hurdling this season,” Lake Park Coach Jay Ivory said with a slight smile on his face.
He was brought up to varsity just before their varsity conference meet where he finished second in a photo finish. In Saturday’s final which was only his third varsity race, he won by one hundredth of a second over all-state hurdler Andrew Helmin (Providence Catholic HS, New Lenox). His 8.16 winning time is the fastest 600 HH time in the state and a US#50. Not too bad for someone who is a novice in the event. When I caught up with him, he thought that he had finished second.
“Well I finished second. It was kind of close. I have room for improvement. I think I ran a bad race,” he said. Once he was told that he won, a large smile went across his face. “I did not even know that. I just ran. I’m ready for outdoors.”
“I’m so excited for him,” said Lake Park senior Scott Filip. “I am really glad that he found that comfort zone and had that exposure in this meet. Hopefully he will be able to carry on to the outdoor season and score in the hurdles as well.”
Filip had his own adventures of his own on Saturday. He did not have his best day in the High Jump where he finished fifth. In the Long Jump, he trailed Pekin’s Cole Henderson entering the sixth and final round. He popped a 23-2 ¾ for a one half inch win over the Pekin junior. This is the second time this year that he has won on the last jump of the competition.
“I don’t want to get into a habit like that because it is getting comfortable,” said Fillip. “All the jumps were consistent with upper 22’s and low 23’s the entire day. I was just waiting for that one to happen. It happened on the last one but it was not as good as I wanted it to be.”
Speaking of last round, Brandon Lombardino (Grant HS, Fox Lake) was down to his last attempt to capture the championship in the Shot Put. Jared Kern (Harlem HS, Machesney Park) had his first put over sixty in his career going 60-2. His performance was over two feet better than his previous best. Riley Kittridge (Waubonsie Valley HS, Aurora) also had an improvement in the event on Saturday with a put of 59-11. Lombardino stepped into the ring and let it rip. The result was a new PR of 62-1 which was good for a US#4 rating.
Minooka left the Shirk Center with a bad taste in its mouth last year when they were disqualified in the 4 x 400 Meter Relay. It was 180 degree turn as the Indians swept all three of the Boys relays.
The 4x800 Relay was going to be a wide-open affair and it showed on the first leg. Lane Tech’s Pablo Hutsalyuk broke away from the pack led by Crystal Lake Central, Niles North, and Minooka and gave the Indians a one second lead as he handed the baton to teammate Jonathan Vara. The Lane Tech junior split 1:59.5 but he had company as Minooka sprint specialist Chris Wilson had closed the Lane Tech lead to less than a second with his brilliant 1:57.4 leg.
The race was won on the third leg by Minooka’s Cam Knudsen. The runner who is having a breakout senior campaign gave Minooka a 1.4 second lead over a charging Niles North and a fading Lane Tech. Minooka’s Alex Pierce opened a three and a half second lead as he entered the final lap. Randy Mortell of Niles North and Lane Tech’s Marcello Burbano were gaining ground but the margin was too great. Burbano out leaned Mortell for second. Minooka’s winning time of 7:58.10 is the fastest in the state. Lane Tech and Minooka follow in second and third within the state as well.
Pierce was told by his Coach Nick Lundin in the last lap to slow down near the end. His coach wanted him o save a little strength for the 800 that he would run 30 minutes later.
Minooka had the same luck in the 4 x 200 Meter Relay . They took the lead after the second exchange from St. Charles North and would not give it up. The margin of victory was tight (21 hundredths of a second) but Minooka had their second relay win of the evening.
The last race of the night was the 4 x 400 relay, the one they were DQ’d in last year. Early on, it was St. Charles North and Plainfield North slugging it out for the lead. Then for Minooka on the third leg when Jake Smith, an athlete who had just come out for track from basketball, carried the Indians to the lead and the stick to anchor Chris Wilson. His 49.4 anchor was enough to seal the sweep for Minooka but it was only a quarter of a second margin over Plainfield East.
The 3200 Meter Run would be redemption for Tyler Yunk (North HS, Belvidere North). The senior was having a great cross country season along with his teammate Garrett Lee. He injured his hip at his conference meet which affected him in his state meet run. Yunk and Lee’s plan in this race was to get a fast time for Arcadia according to Belvidere North Coach Troy Yunk.
The first eight laps the lead was flip flopping back and forth between Lee, Yunk, Caleb Beck (Oswego HS, Oswego), Jonah Hanig (Highland Park HS, Highland Park), and Jesse Reiser (McHenry HS, McHenry). They went through the mile in 4:41. It was quick, but not as quick as Yunk wanted. The pack of Yunk, Beck and Lee broke away from Reiser as they traveled the next 400 in 68.6 as the aggression of the pace picked up. The third half had done its job as Beck and Yunk traveled the third half in 2:15.6. Lee was starting to fade back to Reiser. Yunk made one more surge to break Beck and it worked. He had opened up a two second lead on the Oswego runner and getting larger with every step.
Yunk’s winning time of 9:11.17 is just barely the fastest time indoors in the state ahead of Jack Keelan (St. Igantius Prep, Chicago). Part of Yunk’s incentive was the race that Grant Nykaza ran in Florida the night before.
“I heard about Grant’s race on the way up here. I thought if Grant should do it, I should be able to. It is good to have someone who is a good friend like Grant who you can train with and race against just like Garrett and Paxson,” Yunk said afterwards. “The pace kind of went out easy. My plan was to go with eight laps. With four to go I made a surge to see if I could break Beck. It worked and I was able to cruise in the last 50.”
For those watching the 1600, fans thought they would be in for a special treat when Jamison Dale (Jones College Prep, Chicago trucked through the first 600 in an amazing 1:31.9. It was a plan that they started working on last week at the Nelson Daniels Invitational in Wisconsin. “That what was good about last week. I went out in 62’s then ran 65 for the rest,” Dale said. “It felt great. I just thought I should do the same.”
Dale’s early pace guaranteed that this race was not going to turn into a sit and kick affair. His teammate Luke O’Connor led the pack with Evan Prizy (Schaumburg HS, Schaumburg), Alex Gold (Deerfield HS, Deerfield) and Caleb Beck close behind. Dale charged through the 800 in an incredible 2:03.4 while the rest of the pack was back at 2:09.4. They were still in contention but where they?
Dale’s lead had grown to 8 seconds as he passed the 1200 in 3:08.4. The pack was lead by a charging Paxson Menard (North HS, Belvidere) who was running a strong lead.
The fast pace was showing on Dale’s face and legs as he ran the next 200 in 34 seconds. He did not have much left in the tank. His margin of victory was only three seconds (4:17.34) as Gold and Menard closed their last 400 in 64 seconds. Still, the race strategy was something that Dale had to do to get ready for what he will deal with at state in May. “Definitely. We are in 3A this year. They tend to go out a little harder and we need to be ready for that,” he continued. “I did what I had to do to take it out hard. I always get out kicked so I know I can’t leave it to the end. It’s happened all four years so I know what I have to do.”
The 800 could have been the most surprising race of the night. Race top seed Kevin Grahovec (Marmion Academy) pushed the pace to a quick 1:27.3 with 200 Meters to go. He still had David Cerney (Barrington HS,Barrington), Chase Skidmore (East HS, Oswego), and Cody Dyer (South Hs, Plainfield). In the final 50 meters, Grahovec thought he had the race won but he knew he had a big pack just on him. Just as he was to cross the finish line, the 6-3 frame of Connor Rachford (Bartlett HS, Bartlett) slipped by on the right hand side. Rachford won by the smallest of margins: one hundredth of a second. Grahovec could not believe that this was happening to him. At the ICOPS meet at the beginning of March, he was out leaned by Marist’s Kyle Hauser by two hundredths of a second. Lighting had struck twice for the Marmion senior.
“I knew it was going to be the best runners out there. I just went out to see what I could do,” Rachford said. “All I could do was latch on and see what I could do at the end.”
“I just turned back and I should not have,” a dejected Grahovec said. “I tried to cross the line first but it just did not happen.”
The sprints were a coming out party for Cole Henderson. (Pekin Community HS, Pekin). The junior had grabbed the headlines last week by giving Jonathan Boey his first loss of the season in the 55 last week at Charleston. It was the same story on Saturday as he blazed out of the blocks. His margin of victory in the 60 final look liked light years even though it was 15 hundredths of a second over Malik Harrison (Springfield HS, Springfield).
“ In the prelims, I went back and I looked that my start was not as strong as I wanted it to be,” said Henderson. “ In the finals, I corrected it. I knew if I got out I would keep the lead.”
His 200 was a little bit closer. His seed time put him in the second section which he won in 22.55 seconds. In the third section, Odell McFarland (South HS, Downers Grove) won his section in 23.55. The timers had to go to the ten thousandths of a second. The verdict: Henderson 23.544; McFarland 23.550.
Malik Harrison (Springfield HS, Springfield) and Paul Ifanayi (Elk Grove HS, Elk Grove Village) ran the same kind of race and the goal was simple: get to the 200 meter mark first. Harrison passed by the 200 in an incredible 23.4 seconds with Ifanayi close behind. Harrison was able to hold off the Elk Grove sophomore to win the 400 (49.71-49.88).
“As long as I was in front and maintained my lead, that’s all that mattered,” said Harrison. “I could feel he was close behind me.”
In the other two field events, the Pole Vault was missing a little luster with the withdrawal of Plainfield Central junior Luke Winder due to a nagging back injury. Without the 16-10 athlete in the field, things would be a little more different. Both Chad Weaver (Providence Catholic HS, New Lenox) and Tim Ehrhardt (Lake Park HS, Roselle) both finished at 15-6, but Weaver won the event on fewer misses. For Weaver, it was a seasonal best.
“In the competition, I felt good. I thought I could have gotten 16-0,” Weaver said. “The 15-8 that I missed (at CCL) gave me huge confidence. I wanted to get 16-0 today so bad.”
The High Jump came down to a battle between Mike Monroe (Providence Catholic HS, New Lenox) and Jonathan Wells (Grant HS, Fox Lake) who both cleared 6-8. Neither were able to clear 6-9. Wells was awarded the win on fewer misses.