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UEC athletes strut their stuff indoors

Published: Friday, March 21, 2014 11:16 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Mary Beth Nolan for Shaw Media)
St. Charles North’s Erik Miller clears the high jump bar Friday on his way to win high jump in the Upstate Eight Conference indoor meet at Batavia High School. Miller won the high jump to help St. Charles North place fourth as a tean.

BATAVIA – St. Charles North senior Erik Miller missed school Thursday with bronchitis.

On Friday, he won the Upstate Eight Conference boys indoor track title in the high jump and took fourth in the long jump.

This resilience thing is nothing new for Miller, an Illinois State recruit who earlier this month set the York Invitational high jump record just days after North’s basketball season ended.

“Basically just confidence. Knowing that I’ve done it before,” Miller said. “You’ve got to have a little edge to yourself. Like, don’t be cocky, but you’ve got to be pretty confident, you know.”

That’s a credo that’s starting to sink in for track teams statewide, as indoor conference meets signify the dawn of outdoor season.

Meet host Batavia feels as excited as anyone. The Bulldogs totaled 86.5 points to finish third in Friday’s 14-team event, trailing only champion Neuqua Valley (116) and runner-up Waubonsie Valley (99).

The girls conference meet will be held at Batavia today.

“Everybody comes here because it’s, I think, one of the best facilities in the nation as far as high school goes. And we’re here to defend it,” Bulldogs distance standout Ryan Wieties said. “This is our home, and we’re not going to let anybody just take over it sitting down.”

Wieties delivered Batavia’s lone event victory, winning the 1,600 meters in 4:27.78 after withholding a late charge from Neuqua’s Michael Widmann, who was one-hundreth of a second slower.

Fellow Bulldogs junior Chris Orlow, the eventual third-place finisher, established the pace for the first three-quarters of a mile before Wieties harnessed his kick to grab the lead.

“Our goal was have [Orlow] lead it and then I come in and we work it together, and the last lap is every man for himself,” Wieties said. “Our goal was to get points, and that’s what we did.”

North produced two event champions, with Miller’s winning high jump standard of 6 feet, 3 inches preceding Kaleb Kirby’s 14-0 effort in the pole vault.

Kirby, who cleared a personal-best 14-9 at York, admitted it wasn’t his best night, but was just as quick to assert his confidence in his ability. He’s a returning state qualifier and has visions of Eastern Illinois’ famed blue track yet again.

“I feel like indoors is just a lot of practice,” Kirby said. “The big heights are outside, and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Another returning state qualifier, Geneva’s Tim Roels, took the 200 in 22.93 to cap a busy night. After nearly false-starting in the 55, he rebounded to win his 400 heat – placing fifth overall – and put it all together in his final event.

Progression is all you can ask at this point of the season. The Vikings’ Jason D’Amico showed plenty of his own, taking second in the shot put (48 feet-1) in his first week back with the team after basketball season.

“Every meet, you want to do well. I mean, you compete, and when you compete, you want to do well,” Roels said. “It’s kind of like a building ground for outdoors. You really want to get a good building block right now, because in the outdoor season, you’ll be even better.”

For a handful of athletes, the meet also offered a final tune-up for next weekend’s Illinois Prep Top Times event, the unofficial indoor state championship held at Illinois Wesleyan’s Shirk Center in Bloomington.

After Illinois Prep Top Times, a brief break awaits before the transition into the outdoor season – ideally to regular spells of the kind of mild, sunny weather that warmed the area for parts of Friday afternoon.

St. Charles East athletes are clamoring more than most. The Saints’ outdoor track is flooded as the Chicago area region thaws out from the third-snowiest winter in history.

“We’re all itching to get outside, trust me,” said East’s Kyle Decker, who took second in the 55 hurdles in 8.1 seconds. “It seems like every day it’s been warm, we’ve had to do something inside and it’s just really hard. I want the weather to cooperate.”

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