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home : sports : putnam   April 29, 2016

3/28/2013 10:37:00 AM
Boys track and field preview

La Salle-Peru junior Logan Zeman is back after placing ninth in the high jump at the Class 2A State Meet last year.NewsTribune file photo
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La Salle-Peru junior Logan Zeman is back after placing ninth in the high jump at the Class 2A State Meet last year.
NewsTribune file photo
Jared Bell
NewsTribune Sports Writer

After experiencing one of the most successful track and field seasons in the area’s history, local boys track and field stars will look for a repeat performance this spring.

In all, 10 athletes who qualified for state individually or as part of a relay return this season and all hope to once again run on the blue track at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston for the IHSA boys state meet held on May 23-25.

Below is a look at the area’s 2013 boys track and field scene this season:

La Salle-Peru
Head coach: Marty Makransky
IHSA classification: 2A
Returning outdoor state qualifiers: Damion Allen (400), Logan Zeman (HJ)
Season outlook: After nine years as an assistant at Princeton, Makransky takes over at L-P.
“The kids have warmed up to me, and I feel like I’ve made a good connection with them,” said Makransky, a business teacher at L-P. “They are a good bunch of kids. They work hard and I’ve had very good attendance for practice, which is really important to me. I’m expecting some good years from this team.”
The junior Zeman returns after he finished ninth in the high jump at last spring’s Class 2A state meet. He also tied for third in the event at last weekend’s indoor state meet and has already jumped 6 feet, 7 inches in indoor this season.
“He’s real focused on state,” Makransky said. “He knows the field is deep and that he has to work real hard to get back to where he was. Some of the guys who were supposed to be (at state) last year didn’t make it and they are coming back, so he knows he has to work that much harder.”
Also back is Allen, a junior who qualified for state in the 400-meter dash. He finished seventh in the 400 at last weekend’s indoor state meet.
“He’s really motivated to get back down there,” Makransky said. “He’s focus, comes to practice and works hard every day. He’s been a silent leader for us.”
Behind the two is a mix of 40-plus athletes, including returning junior Clay Vaini, who will compete in the sprints and jumps.

St. Bede
Head coach: Mike Skoflanc
IHSA classification: 1A
Returning outdoor state qualifiers: Neal Knauf (110H)
Season outlook: The Bruins have talented seniors who are expected to lead a 23-man roster.
The senior Knauf is back after making state last spring in the 110 hurdles, while senior Steve Gualandri — the team’s co-MVP last season — will compete in the triple jump and 300 hurdles.
Skoflanc believes the two — along with junior shot putter Michael Slingsby — are the team’s best chances to qualify for state.
“I think we have to look at kids like Gualandri, Knauf and maybe Slingsby as the three main kids who have a really good shot at the state meet,” Skoflanc said. “We always put an emphasis on those kids, especially our seniors. We really want to make sure they get prepared and get their shot at getting down to state.”
Also returning are senior distance runner Sam Brolley and junior Leo Lopez, who will run the 400 and 800 after running mostly the 800, 1,600 and some 3,200 last season.
Newcomers who are expected to contribute are sophomore sprinter Justin Shaw, who played baseball last year, and freshmen Baylee Hopps in the hurdles and triple jump and John Barnes in the shot put.
Skoflanc said the Bruins don’t have a lot of overall team speed but do have some quick athletes and they’re “going to try to parlay that into some technically good relays.”
“With 23 kids, we’re going to be able to fill most of the events,” Skoflanc said. “We’re going to have field events covered and middle distance and sprints. Our distance is going to be thin. We want to compete at meets where we can compete.”

Head coach: Rob Malerk
IHSA classification: 1A
Returning outdoor state qualifiers: Landon Piccatto (TJ)
Season outlook: The Red Devils return plenty of top-notch talent this season.
Leading the pack is the senior Piccatto, who last spring placed 11th in the triple jump at the 1A state meet.
“I think he wants to get back to state in more than just one event this year,” Malerk said. “His main goal is to get to state in the 300 hurdles, but I know he’d love to continue on and advance in the triple jump, and his long jump has come along really well, too. There’s a real possibility he could be (at state) in three events.”
Beyond Piccatto, Hall returns a strong 1-2 distance punch in sophomore Al Baldonado and senior Joseph Parochetti.
The top two runners on the Red Devil cross country team last fall, Baldonado and Parochetti finished 1-2 at last weekend’s Walleye 5K in Spring Valley, and both are expected to compete primarily in individual events this spring.
“Al has really been working hard in the offseason, both in the summer and the winter,” Malerk said. “I really think they can push each other, and I can see those two making state, too.”
Outside of the three, the Red Devils will feature a young team looking to improve this spring.

Putnam County
Head coach: Chuck McConnell
IHSA classification: 1A
Returning outdoor state qualifiers: None
Season outlook: Despite having just 13 athletes, about half of this year’s Panther team returns from last season.
The group is led by sophomore Mario Flores, an all-around athlete who will likely be featured in the distance races but could experiment in other events.
“He’s been on the cross country team with me and is also coming back in track, too,” McConnell said. “He’s probably our top distance person right now.”
Flores also should be part of a quartet that McConnell hopes can become a solid 3,200 relay. The other possible relay members include seniors Max Boggio, Dylan Croisant and Jacob Levy as well as junior Jarred Clark.
“I think I have a really nice group for the 4x8,” said McConnell, whose team competed at last Saturday’s Cogdal Relays at Illinois State University.
In addition to Boggio, Croisant and Levy, senior Dylan Kostellic will throw the weights and complete what McConnell thinks is a strong senior core.

Head coach: Brock Sondgeroth
IHSA classification: 2A
Returning outdoor state qualifiers: None
Season outlook: The Trojans are a fairly young team as they feature just six seniors and three juniors but do have 11 sophomores and 10 freshmen.
“We’re pretty young but a lot of them have experience,” Sondgeroth said.
The leading returning athlete is senior Ethan Sack, a veteran distance runner who will compete in the 800, 1,600, 3,200 and the distance relay and also is expected to be one of the main point scorers for Mendota.
Behind Sack is a group promising of youngsters.
Sophomore Wyatt Martinson returns to run the sprints and compete in the long jump, while fellow sophomore Ryan Reeder is back in all three jumping events and the 110 hurdles.
Also returning is sophomore Jared Fritz, a mid-distance runner who will be part of Trojan relays.
“We’re working on dropping our times and improving our distances and heights, but it’s just so hard because we haven’t been outside at all,” Sondgeroth said. “I have high expectations for a lot of our kids, but it’s just tough right now.”

Head coach: Trent Swords
IHSA classification: 2A
Returning outdoor state qualifiers: Travis Pointer (SP)
Season outlook: Pointer returns this season after the senior qualified for state in the shot put last spring.
This year, he’s aiming to improve and hopefully return to state.
“We try not to get too focused or wrapped up in what everybody else is doing around the state. We just try to focus on him improving,” Swords said. “I know he’s looking to improve on his season and from meet to meet. Hopefully, at the end of year, as things pan out the way we anticipate them to, he’ll throw better at the sectional and hopefully at state.”
Also back is senior Austin Burant, who won the long jump and placed in the triple jump at the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference Indoor Meet earlier this month.
“He had a real good start to the season with the indoor long jump championship,” Swords said. “We are really excited about his start. He has worked incredibly hard, so it would be a great opportunity for him if he’s able to perform at the sectional level and get to state.”
Also back is senior Billy Moore in the pole vault, junior Cyrano Rayfield in the weights and junior Laron Coleman in hurdles once he’s healthy.
“I think you will probably see us score more consistently in the field events,” Swords said. “But I think we’ll have a nice, solid track team through and through.”

Head coach: Jessica Kuhn
IHSA classification: 1A
Returning outdoor state qualifiers: Luke Hill (3200, 3200 relay), Isaac Jewett (300H), Channing Voss (3200 relay)
Season outlook: After coaching the Lady Crusaders the past few years, Kuhn takes over the boys program in addition to the girls.
This year’s Crusader squad is led by the senior Hill, the 2012 NewsTribune Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year who finished second in the 3,200 at last weekend’s indoor state meet.
“He has been training all year and is looking great,” Kuhn said. “He has his two-mile time down to about 10 minutes.”
Joining Hill in the distance events is junior John Weissensel, while the senior Jewett is back after he qualified for state in the 300 hurdles. Jewett also will compete in the sprints and jumps this season.
“We have a pretty dynamic group this year,” Kuhn said.
One addition to Marquette is the throwers with sophomore Jack MacBean back to pair with seniors Jack Donahue, Clay Armstrong and Taylor Komater.
“This year we have a lot of throwers, which is nice because we’ve always lacked that on the boys’ side,” Kuhn said.
Also back for Marquette are returning seniors Voss in the mid-distance and Doug Skromme in the mid-distance and hurdles.

Head coach: Dan Foes
IHSA classification: 2A
Returning outdoor state qualifiers: None
Season outlook: After years of success with upperclassmen, the Tigers are in a bit of a rebuilding mode this season.
However, Princeton does return experience in senior Austen Stewart, who finished fifth in 1A in the high jump two years ago but missed qualifying for 2A state last year.
So far this season, Stewart — who also is a sprinter — has already jumped a personal-best 6-8 in the indoor season.
“Austen certainly has the experience and has done a lot of good stuff the last few years,” Foes said. “We’re excited for him and, if the weather ever comes around and we can get outside, we really think he can have an outstanding year and hopefully reach higher heights.”
Beyond Stewart are three four-year varsity athletes in Cody Griffin, Collin Schertz and Derrick Wooden.
However, outside of the four, is a large but inexperienced group of freshmen, sophomores and juniors, led by junior Caleb Strom and freshman Tai Tomaszewski.
“Anytime you lose kids like (2012 state qualifiers) Evan Suarez or Ben Staton or James Dove, that’s going to be difficult to replace,” Foes said. “But with that being said, we know kids are going to move on and it just gives other kids an opportunity to step up.”

Head coach: Josh Johnson
IHSA classification: 1A
Returning outdoor state qualifiers: None
Season outlook: The Little Giants have three seniors in Jesus Torres, Victor Calderon and Cristian Lara-Luna. Other team members are junior Jesse Lopez, sophomores Hector Madrigal, Jacob Aden and Julio Hernandez and freshman Jesus Garvia.
Johnson could not be reached for comment.

Bureau Valley
Head coach: Nick Hartz
IHSA classification: 1A
Returning outdoor state qualifiers: Logan Hoffert (300H, 1600 relay), Daniel Trone (1600 relay)
Season outlook: Hoffert returns after the senior finished seventh in the 300 hurdles at state last spring.
At last weekend’s indoor state meet, he finished 18th in the 60 hurdles but will again specialize in the 300 hurdles once outdoor meets begin.
“Logan has been working really hard and is ready to get outside for the 300s,” Hartz said. “Honestly, he’s faster than he was last year, but he just needs to get practice with the hurdles out on the track.”
Hoffert also returns from last year’s state-qualifying 1,600 relay along with the junior Trone. Sophomore Parker Neuhalfen — who was part of the relay last season — is not running track this spring in favor of AAU basketball and Ryan Johnson graduated.
To fill the other two legs, Hartz has as many as four runners who could take the spots with senior Kristian Konneck and junior Tucker Schoff currently on the relay and sophomore Ryan Taylor and junior Kane Eastwood both able to fill in.
The relay finished fifth at indoor state last week.
“I think a good 4x4 is one of the best things you can have,” Hartz said. “It really ends the meet well for you and, if you do well in the 4x4, it usually leads to a good meet the next time.”
The rest of the Storm feature a veteran squad with a junior class that is 14 deep, as well as a 3,200 relay that finished ninth at indoor state.

Head coach: Keith Baldwin
IHSA classification: 1A
Returning outdoor state qualifiers: None
Season outlook: Baldwin takes over the Knights program after he spent the last five years coaching Fieldcrest’s junior high track teams.
Despite being the boys coach, Baldwin and girls coach Carol Bauer have combined teams and split the athletes into sprinters, who Baldwin coaches, and distance runners, who Bauer coaches.
Even with the mixing of athletes, Baldwin is coaching many of the same athletes whom he had when they were younger.
“I coached them all in junior high,” joked Baldwin, whose younger sisters Maria and Annette are both on the girls track team. “Because of that, it’s helped to make it an easier transition for me.”
Back this season is junior sprinter Christopher Leigh, who narrowly missed qualifying for the indoor state meet in both the 200 and 400.
“We are really excited about his upcoming season,” Baldwin said. “He just missed indoor state in both of those events, but he is running a 24.44 (in the 200) and a 54.88 (in the 400). Once we get him outdoors, I think those times are only going to go down.”
Also returning is junior Dawson White, who will compete in the hurdles and should be part of the Knights’ 800 and 1,600 relays.
Outside of the two, Fieldcrest has just 10 other athletes looking to fill the open events, including sophomore distance runner Levi Schmillen.
“We have some really talented kids this year, but we don’t have a lot of depth,” Baldwin said.

Head coach: Clark Owsley
IHSA classification: 1A
Returning outdoor state qualifiers: None
Season outlook: After the Timberducks were hit hard by graduation the past few years, Henry still returns talent.
Junior Alex Pettis is back after a solid cross country season, which was highlighted by a 14th-place finish at the 1A state meet.
This season, Pettis should lead H-M’s distance runners and hopes to qualify for the state meet.
“Getting 14th at (cross country) state, he P.R.ed and really showed what he was capable of, so I look for him to be a big contender in the mile and two mile,” said Owsley, who also coaches Pettis in cross country. “I think his training is going well and he is getting back into shape. I look for him to be one of those guys to compete for a couple of spots at the state meet.”
Beyond Pettis is a group of inexperienced H-M athletes, many of whom are new to track and field and with whom Owsley has been experimenting with in different events.

Head coach: Jeramey Wittenauer
IHSA classification: 1A
Returning outdoor state qualifiers: None
Season outlook: This year’s Clipper team includes 32 athletes, including six from LaMoille.
The group includes sophomore Jeffrey DeLong (long jump/relays), freshman Josh Gross (relays) and sophomore Luke Becker (throws), as well junior Ben Hosto (distance), freshman Alan Stamberger (distance) and freshman Clay Stupfert (throws).
“With some of the LaMoille kids I have to go along with the Amboy kids, I think we have a good, young core,” said Wittenauer, now in his seventh year as A-L coach. “Some of (the LaMoille kids) are young and maybe a year out from really excelling, but they are expected to contribute and really help us.”

Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6939, or at Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.

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