St. Charles North won a pair of 3A boys relays at Saturday's Illinois Prep Top Times finals at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, the unofficial indoor state meet.
The North Stars aspire to qualify each of their four relays for the outdoor state meet in Charleston on Labor Day weekend.
With a wealth of sprint and distance depth, there's reason for optism on Red Gate Road. Several athletes are brimming with it, which truly is the idea as relay spots are fluid week to week.
"I tell the kids nobody's job is safe, so to speak," North coach Don Spencer said. "I urge each and every one of them to run their best all the time, and I think that keeps them going and motivated."
At Prep Top Times, the quartet of Jack Feeney, Grant Loess, Connor Larson and Josh Phelan finished second in the 4x200-meter relay with a team-record run of 1:31.46. Later on, Feeney and Larson teamed with Zach Kirby and Tyler Larson to take third in the 4x400 in 3:27.29
By whatever configuration, North's 4x100 and 4x400 teams have been invited to compete in the prestigious Penn Relays over the last weekend in April. North Stars coach Don Spencer, who will step down to spend more time with family at season's end, applied in late 2012 and heard of the acceptance from North athletic director Dan Dolney in February.
Spencer credits Dolney and the school's athletic boosters.
"[Dolney] was just as excited as I was," Spencer said. "He said, 'Let's make this happen,' and we did."
Burlington Central girls coach Vince Neil tracked the exploits of the Rockets' athletes at Prep Top Times remotely.
While an assistant coach represented BC in Bloomington, Neil traveled to the Sterling Invitational with the rest of the team.
Split-squad workouts and competitions are nothing new this time of year, or on weekends during outdoor season.
"That's just part of track, you know, especially when you work with multiple different events," Neil said. "Your mind is in 18 different areas and that's just normal. It's just another day of track and field with that, I guess."
Athletes learn to adjust, knowing they'll eventualy be around the full squad more than just huddles at the end of practices.
"At this point in the season, they become pretty self reliant and they know what they need to do," Neil said. "Especially those kids downstate; they really stepped up and performed."
Kayla Wolf repeated as 2A champ in the 800, while fellow senior Katie Trupp captured separate medals in the high jump (second) and pole vault (third).
IN THE GROOVE
St. Charles North, Sr.
What he did: One of several standout North sprinters at the Illinois Prep Top Times meet over the weekend, Kirby was part of the 3A third-place 4x400-meter relay team and took third in the individual 400. He recently committed to North Central College.
Burlington Central, Sr
What she did: Trupp was a double medalist in the girls Class 2A finals at Saturday's Illinois Prep Top Times meet, finishing as runner-up in the high jump (5 feet, 6 inches) and third in the pole vault (11-6).
WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEK The St. Charles East girls are just getting started. Paced by the championship 4x400 relay of Elizabeth Chmelik, Jordan Shead, Allison Chmelik and Britney Williams, the Saints challenged for the 3A team title at the Illinois Prep Top Times meet in Bloomington. East captured the Upstate Eight indoor title earlier this month.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
How athletes finish their recuperating. While teams still have held workouts during spring break, there traditionally is a welcome lull between the end of indoor season and the beginning of outdoor meets in April. "The kids have worked hard and are looking forward to the little break," Batavia boys coach Dennis Piron said. "Hopefully, we'll get a patch of good weather as we start to get outdoors."
COACH SLY SAYS
Pretty solid showing for Chronicle-area athletes at the Prep Top Times meet downstate.
Some years that's a harbinger for outdoors and and some years it's not, but either way, it exposes sprinters, runners, throwers and jumpers to a big-meet atmosphere again.
Here's to seeing athletes progress with their training and finishes in the next few weeks in the build-up to the excitement of the state meet in Charleston. Things already were competitive, but now it could get crazy.