BURLINGTON – Public address announcer Skip Stolley routinely updated fans at Friday’s Kane County boys track and field meet on the developing team duel between Kaneland and St. Charles North.
Entering the final track event, the 4x400-meter relay, the Knights held just a two-point edge on the North Stars.
The crowd began reacting as it should with such a proclamation before there came an important qualifier. Beyond Burlington Central’s back stadium fence, in the throws area, Kaneland had two shot put finalists to North’s zero. The Knights’ depth was all but certain to pull them through to the county title even if the relay didn’t eclipse North by four seconds.
Having the answers – that’s been the Knights’ M.O. since indoor workouts started.
“When we did some lifting over the winter, when 55 to 60 kids show up, then you know you’re going to have a lot of kids and you’re going to be a good team,” junior Dylan Nauert said. “You know when everyone’s willing to put in the work in the off-days.”
Kaneland scored 117 points to defeat runner-up North (101) and the rest of the 13-team field.
Here’s a glance at some other highlights from Chronicle-area athletes:
• Several North sprinters competed at last weekend’s Penn Relays, sending entries in the 4x100 and 4x400.
Regardless of venue, an experienced core that includes Jack Feeney, Zach Kirby, Connor Larson, Josh Phelan and Grant Loess stands out as North’s base for success.
Feeney, Larson and Phelan were part of Friday’s winning 4x100 and 4x200 teams.
“We’ve been hitting relays really hard this year. A lot of handoffs during practice,” Loess said. “We’ve had the same group of people for the past three years running the same relays, so we’ve gotten to know each other’s form pretty good.”
• The county title was Kaneland’s third overall and second outright. The Knights tied Geneva for the crown last spring, when the program again beamed with confidence in its athleticism across the board.
“We just have good coaches here, years on end,” said the Knights’ Nathaniel Kucera, who with Kyle Carter was part of the winning 4x400 and 4x800 relays. “It just helps push us and become better to our full potential.”
East Aurora (25), West Aurora (22) and Elgin (18) boast the most team titles in the event’s 95-year history.
Among Chronicle-area schools, St. Charles High won six titles before splitting into East and North. East won three championships in a row from 2004-06, tying it with Geneva. Batavia (four), Mooseheart (two) and Burlington Central (one) also have won titles.
• Friday marked the first time Central hosted the county meet, which is set to travel to Dundee-Crown next season and Streamwood in 2015. After that, it returns to Chronicle Country for three successive springs, coming to North (2016), East (2017) and Kaneland (2018).
High school will be far in the review for Central’s current athletes by then, so they made sure to absorb the novelty this time.
“A different experience to have this kind of meet at our school, because we really never have big meets here,” said the Rockets’ Ryan Olsen, who won the 400. “So it’s really cool just to see everybody.”
BC earned rave reviews with the help of an efficient timing company.
“I told my wife I’d be home at 1 o’clock [a.m.] with the weather and stuff,” Knights coach Eric Baron said. “Now you’ve got to find something to do for awhile.”
• Geneva senior Mike Bianchina outkicked the field in the final 150 meters of the 1,600, striking with energy to spare when the race didn’t start as fast as he anticipated.
There was also some “Why not?” behind the win. The Bradley-bound Bianchina, who’ll compete in track and cross country, sensed extra urgency in his final prep season after recovering from a fractured left leg he suffered during the 2012 track sectionals.
“Breaking my leg was a big thing that I did last year in sectionals. That was a little sad. It was a little depressing of a summer,” Bianchina said. “But I feel like just working back into it slowly really helped. When we have kids on the team that are injured now, I tell them you know, if you really want to get better, you’ve just got to do it slowly. It’s not all going to happen at once.
“It was a little rough watching my friends get better and better over the summer while I sat on a bike, but I feel like it’s pretty great to be able to come full-circle and compete again at such a high level.”