Not sure why, but it has not been a good spring for me in terms of blogging.
It has been true in the past, however, that state meets—both cross country and track—have been occasions where I’ve found both the inclination and the time. Both events include a lot of time with nothing to do, it seems, in the dorm and hotel rooms—and lots to think about, perhaps, late in the night or early in the morning.
Tomorrow we drive to Charleston, Il, and the campus of Eastern Illinois University, where our Saint Ignatius boys track team will compete on a newly resurfaced track–and where they will try to make some history. Our team qualified five individual boys in seven events at the 3A Saint Ignatius Sectional for which we were the host at Concordia University in River Forest, IL, last Thursday, May 16.
Senior co-captain Jack Keelan goes to the IHSA 3A meet as the top seed in the 1600 and the third seed in the 3200; he holds the top personal bests in both events among all the competitors: 8:50.74 in the 3200 and 4:09.62 in the 1600. Keelan attempted the 3200 and 1600 double last season, finishing second in the 3200 and seventh in the 1600 on a day where the temperature on the track must have been close to 100 degrees. The weather forecast for this Saturday is much better—around 70 degrees. Keelan will attempt to be one of only ten or so runners who have won the state cross country title and then both the 1600 and 3200 in track, inlcuding Madeline Perez of Glenbard West who completed the hat trick last week at the 3A girls state meet.
Junior Conor Dunham qualified in the 110-meter hurdles and the 300-meter hurdles. He is our school record holder in the 110s, after his 14.68 seconds effort at the sectional. But the 300s are his better event, and he has hopes for a medal with the number eight seed time of 39.43.
Senior Elliot Gibson cleared 12 feet and 9 inches to win the pole vault at the sectional. He has cleared better heights, including a 14-foot practice vault. Point tenderness on his right shin gave us a scare two weeks ago, and an MRI showed a small stress fracture beginning. He was cleared to compete, but his training has been limited. Gibson is also a key member of our 4×800 relay team.
Our final individual qualifier is junior Chris Hawkins in the 110-hurdles and the long jump. Hawkins bettered 15 seconds for the first time when he finished second behind Dunham at the sectional in 14.98 seconds. He finished second to qualify in the long jump at 21 feet and 6.25 inches, as well, but that makes him the last qualifier among 31 at the state meet. His better event is actually the triple jump, but his third place jump of 44-09.5 at the sectional missed the state meet automatic qualifying standard by a half inch.
We also qualified two relays. Our 4×800 team is seeded 12th at 7:55.01. That was our season best time. Senior Andrew Reardon ran 2:00.3 for the first leg, chasing a Lane Tech team which won the sectional race wire to wire. Gibson ran 1:58.5 on the second leg, and junior Chris Korabik moved the team to second place with his 1:59.4. Senior Sean Kampe was outkicked on the final straightaway by Jamison Dale of Jones College Prep, but his leg was a strong one at 1:56.9. We think we are a medal contender in this event. All of our boys think they can run faster.
Dunham, Reardon, Kampe, and Gibson also combined to finish second in the sectional 4×400 to qualify in 3:23.99, a time which ranks them 21st in a field of 26. But in the tightly bunched field, the sixth place team is just 1.7 seconds ahead.
Since 1964 when Ignatius first competed in the IHSA meet, we’ve only even scored in relays twice, 1980 and 1988. Only twice, in 1980 and 1988, did the team score points from more than one person. In 198o sprinter Darryl Canady won the 200-meter dash, finished second in the 100-meters, and then helped the 4×100 relay to fifth place. The team’s 22 points in 1980 were the highest point total for Ignatius at the state meet. In 1988 Jason Cunningham was fourth in the pole vault, Joe Ruiz was second in the 400, and the 4×400 was fifth.
We have hopes to better those totals in 2013.
A strong effort at the state meet would cap off a great season for our team. At the sectional last week, we won for the second year in a row, scoring 115 points to defeat Lane Tech (97 points) and Oak Park-River Forest (93) in a sectional meet for the first time ever. The week before we won the Chicago Catholic League outdoor championship for the first time since 1991, scoring 139 points to defeat Providence Catholic with 90 points.
It is worth noting that Providence, a team we defeated handily in our conference meet, goes to the state meet with a stronger team than we do. Pole vaulter Chad Weaver, 110-meter hurdler Andrew Helmin, and high jumper Mike Monroe are all seeded number one in their events, and Helmin is also number two in the 300-meter hurdles. That puts them on track to score 38 points, according to the seeds—and in range of a trophy and podium finish.
How many can we score? We don’t have those impressive seeds, and it is a little bit pie-in-the-sky to think we can match Providence.
But we do hope to better our seeds—and a really big effort could get us close.
That would probably include efforts that break several school records.
Keelan holds both the 1600- and 3200-meter records. While it is unlikely he will have to match his 8:50.74 record to win the 3200, a sub 9:00 effort is likely. Then he would likely have to come back and run a 1600-meter close to his personal best. He believes he can do this.
But if our 4×800 team wants to even qualify for the Saturday finals, on Friday they will likely have to break the school record of 7:54.9 which has stood since 1968.
Conor Dunham would have to better his school record of 14.68 to have a chance at the finals in the 110-meter hurdles, and he will have to challenge Sal Salvato’s 2009 school record of 38.67 in the 300 hurdles if he wants to win a medal there. Dunham’s personal best of 38.98 was set a year ago, but he should be ready for a big race this week. He is a runner who tends to rise to the level of the competition.
Longer shots for points would be Gibson in the pole vault; if he can clear 14 feet that would give him a chance at Saturday’s finals.
And then there is our 4×400 relay team. We do have a wild card available—or maybe it is a Hail Mary. Our top sprinter and team co-captain Andrew Eady set a personal best of 22.98 in the 200 meters last week, but he is without an event this week. He is on our relay card for the 4×400. If Dunham qualifies in the 300 hurdles for Saturday’s final, it might be a good coaching decision to replace him in the 4×400 just to save his legs for the next day. Who knows? Maybe Eady has a performance in him that could move the team up the list. The school record was set by the 1988 fifth place IHSA team, 3:20.4.