Through My Lens 2015

Tony Holler Coaching Blogs 1 Comment

What  a weekend.

I checked my weather app hundreds of times in the ten days leading up to the 2015 IHSA State Meet.  The forecast remained ominous.  Thunderstorms on Friday and Saturday.  Despite a 2-hour delay due to far-away lightning and thunder, no one got wet.  I saw people outside the evacuated stadium applying sun screen.  I put on my Gortex after the 3A 4×4 was complete.  Only then did the skies open up with a torrential downpour.

“Though My Lens” refers to both a literal and figurative definition of my experience at the state meet.  I take pictures.  It all got started in 2005 when a photographer gave me a flash drive of pictures from the “Great Eight Meet” at Vanderbilt.  From that point, I realized that my website depended on pictures, great pictures, to promote my sport.  Since in-meet coaching is over-rated and sometimes counter-productive, I take pictures.  Though My Lens also refers to seeing things from my point of view.  I only know what I know.



I hate disqualifications.  I wrote a scathing article in 2013, A Tribute to Zion, bashing IHSA meet officials.  Zion reported to the tent after second call, 17 minutes before the start of the 110-Hurdles.  Because the other hurdlers had been released from the tent, meet officials callously told Zion Mason he would not run.  Since then, the pendulum has swung the other way.  Last year I posted pictures of relay teams receiving batons before they entered the exchange zone, no DQ.  This year I saw sprint relay teams (2A prelims) blatantly running inside of their assigned lane.  No red flags were seen.  Strangely, I saw no officials on the curves.  In the 2A 100m final, I witnessed officials ignoring a false start that was beyond obvious.

I guess DeKalb (false start in 3A 4×1) would argue there were too many false starts called.  We all see things through our own lens.


Kaneland Vault

Danny Walker of Kaneland won the 2A State Championship at 14’9.  Only a sophomore, Danny’s freshman PR was 7’6 and was injured for most of the year.


14’9″ as a sophomore, State Champ. Click to enlarge.

Kaneland’s vaulters are coached by Andy Drendel, son of Hall of Fame Coach Ralph Drendel.

Kaneland has qualified someone in the vault for 33 consecutive years and has produced four state champions.

Kaneland owns an inventory of 35 vaulting poles over 13-foot.  Wow.


Korfist & Activation


Chris Korfist activating his great sprinter, Mitch West, who later placed 4th in 2A. Only a sophomore, West ran 10.80 in the prelims and 10.92 in the finals. West is also a football star at Montini. Click to enlarge.

I will remember 2015 as my first “Activation” state meet.  My hands were sore from activating 15 guys, all of them from other schools.  Chris Korfist activated over 50.  Chris activated my sprint relay team on both days.  Edwardsville benefited both days and left with a championship trophy.  I have never seen any coach do more for athletes from other teams.  At the end of the two days, the hands of Chris Korfist were mangled.

On Sunday, June 1st, the day after the state finals, Chris Korfist “proved” activation using the $19,900 revolutionary 1080 Sprint.  More on this later.

For those interested, the Holler-Korfist Speed Activation Consortium is accepting all applicants.  We expect to have a mind-blowing two days of clinic presentations.  The clinic will be kept small to maximize the learning experience.  The consortium will be held Fri-Sat, June 19-20 at Montini High School.  Sign up here.

In addition, Douglas Heel will provide another Level One “Be-Activated” Seminar on July 18-19.  Email me or Chris for details.  ( or


Isaiah Michl of Edwardsville

  • March 28:  Isaiah Michl an 37.13 in the 300 (currently ranks him #19 in US)
  • April 11:  Despite a projected pace of 36.50, Michl pulled up with a hamstring injury, running 38.16 at Belleville West.
  • May 2:  After 21 days off, Michl returned to pull his hamstring again at Glenbard West (4×1)
  • May 22:  After 20 more days without a race, Michl returned to qualify for state.
  • May 29: Michl qualified for finals
  • May 30: Michl placed 3rd in state, running 38.00

Do the math.  In 41 days, Isaiah Michl ran only one race and failed.  In 41 days, the state’s best hurdler ran no hurdle races.  Sometimes you go through hell and it’s worth it.


Isaiah Michl finishing his last high school race. If healthy, he would have won by 10-meters. However, 3rd was a triumph in itself. Michl runs for the Illini next year. Click to enlarge.

My son, Alec Holler, posted on Twitter after the state meet a reference to The Shawshank Redemption:

“I feel like Andy Dufresne after crawling through five football fields of sh*t and coming out clean on the other side.”

When asked if Alec was referring to Isaiah’s injury-filled journey or the relief of finally winning the elusive state championship, Alec replied, “Both”.


Fill the Heats

Why should there ever be open lanes in the state prelims?

Can we agree that we all want the best kids to make it to state?

I have an idea that would not extend the prelims by a single minute.


Our heat of the 4×1 had no one in lane-1 and lane-9. Why not fill them? Click to enlarge.

Picture this.  28 guys qualify in the 400m.  Four heats of seven is now the case.  My fix:  Allow 8 at-large qualifiers based on the top-8 non-qualifying Sectional times.  These guys would fill lane-1 and lane-9.  If 35 guys qualify for 36 spots, only one at-large qualifier would make it.  If there are 37 qualifiers forcing five heats, 8 at-large would fill all five heats.  Win-Win.

This would be especially advantageous if inclement weather created slow Sectional times all over the state.


Tony Holler for IHSA  Track & Field Commissioner?

Check out the comment section after 10 Questions for a Sectional Host.  An enlightened coach proposed the idea of making me the IHSA Track & Field Commissioner.  There is no such position but I’m honored that someone would nominate me.

In a tribute to David Letterman, I came up with 10 reasons why I will never work for the IHSA.

  1. I’m a coach, not an ex-principal.
  2. I don’t have a masters degree or a PhD.
  3. I have strong opinions, innovative ideas, and I don’t work well in committees.
  4. I work with kids and IHSA officials don’t.
  5. I don’t like by-laws, rules, and regulations in the absence of common sense.
  6. I have found my purpose, teaching and coaching is my life’s work.
  7. I would have to recant all the bad things I’ve said about people getting rich working in education.
  8. I don’t wear a suit and tie unless I’m attending a wedding or a funeral.
  9. I don’t use a fax machine and I’m very good at Twitter.
  10. I’m not old enough.



How about Cahokia?  How do they do it?  Obviously Leroy Millsap is one of the best track coaches in the United States.  No one else can brag of winning four state championships in Alabama and seven additional state championships in Illinois.  No track coach can boast of 11 state track championships in two states.  If you want to see their “blueprint” just follow their “Official Twitter Account.” 😉


Jump and sprint superstar Ja’Mari Ward is getting the baton dangerously early (too early?). In the lead is Dwayne Collins, star quarterback at Chicago Phillips. Cahokia won with an incredible time of 41.12. Phillips ran 41.46.  Click to enlarge.


Plainfield North

It was 50-50 that our 4×1 and 4×2 would qualify at Sectional.  We shocked the world, running 42.07 and 1:27.07.

Odds were against our 4×1 and 4×2 making it to the state finals.  We went wild, winning both prelim heats.


Tommy Harris anchored only three 4x1s out of over 50 times running the race. The first time, Sectional winner. The 2nd time, Prelim winner (pic). The third time, 5th in the state. Click to enlarge.

Plainfield North placed 5th in the 4×1 and 3rd in the 4×2, re-establishing ourselves as a sprint school.  We were joined by Belleville West (seven straight years in the 4×1 finals) and Edwardsville (five straight years in the 4×1 finals).  We’ve rejoined the club.

I am proud that my teams have an average best time of 42.73 in 4×1 for the last 17 years. Those 17 years include three schools in two states.  Six of those years were spent at Class A Harrisburg.  My worst team during those 17 years was 2013 when we ran 43.38.

I am proud that we could place 5th and 3rd in the sprint relays without a sprinter who could qualify for state.  By the way, Edwardsville, like Plainfield North, did not have an elite sprinter.  Sprint relays are the best measure of your sprint program and sprint depth.


Throws Coach Turned Sprint Coach

Joey Speaks played offensive tackle on Harrisburg’s 1998 State Championship football team, played center on the Sweet-16 basketball team, and threw the shot put for my 2001 Harrisburg State Championship track team.


Seven coaches who started in Harrisburg. Joey Speaks is the big guy on the far left. Click to enlarge.

Joey Speaks is the football offensive coordinator at O’Fallon and, in the past, served as throws coach for Ron Koch’s track team.  Last winter, Joey emailed me wanting a quick overview of sprint training because he was going to be O’Fallon’s new sprint coach.  We emailed back and forth all year.  He also spoke often with former teammate Patton Segraves, the coach at Belleville West.

Things worked out well.  O’Fallon’s 4×1 ran 42.33.  Their star sprinter, DeMontez McCray ran sprint times of 10.80, 21.49, and 48.02.  The secret … “not killing them and staying out of their way”.   Joey Speaks bought into quality over quantity, less is better, & sprinters are cats.

This should be good news to every track program in the state.  Find a varsity football coach and convince him to be your sprint coach.  Any track program without a football guy as sprints coach and throws coach will not achieve maximum success.



My distance coach, Andy Derks, had a great season and a bad Sectional.  However, one week later, magic happened.  Coach Derks paced his star freshmen running in the incredibly successful “Race at State”.  Andy Derks, 17 years out of high school, went 4:30.81.  Freshmen Ben Otstott ran a freshmen school record 4:35.10.  See 17-second video of finish.

By the way, Plainfield North junior Jack Sebok won the “Race at State” mile running 4:27.46.


Chad Lakatos

Leroy Millsap may be the king of Illinois track coaches, but Chad Lakatos isn’t far behind.  No coach in Illinois history has won Class 1A and Class 3A state titles.  Herrin’s track program was awful before Chad Lakatos took over in ’04.  In a three year period Herrin won 3rd in ’06, State Champs in ’07, and repeated as State Champs in ’08.

When Chad went to Edwardsville for the 2008-09 school year, Edwardsville was 3A-awful.  Edwardsville has proceeded to win 2nd in ’12, 2nd again in ’14, and won the 2015 3A State Championship last weekend.  That’s six trophies in ten years at two very different schools.  More amazing, Chad won those trophies at schools with very little track & field tradition.


Chad seemed pretty anxiety-ridden all year, but that’s what happens when you’ve got a chance to win it all. Here, he finally gets to celebrate a job well-done. Click to enlarge.

Another interesting fact:  Edwardsville competes as a team, not just a few dominant individuals.  Edwardsville scored in four field events, both hurdles (two different guys), three relays, and the 800.  #Team

Edwardsville has won SW Conference Championships in ’10, ’11, ’12, ’14, and ’15.  In addition, the Tigers won Sectional Championships in ’11, ’12, ’14, and ’15.



We saw history made last weekend.  My money was on Kahmari Montgomery all along but to run 10.50, 20.96, and 46.24 on Saturday, wow!

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 4.23.43 PM

Kahmari captures the triple crown. Photo Brian O’Mahoney, Daily Southtown Click to enlarge

Here is a behind-the-scenes scoop on Kahmari Montgomery

  • Kahmari was happy-go-lucky in training as a sophomore and junior.  100%-focused as a senior.
  • Kahmari was trained like a cat, less is more, quality over quantity.
  • “If trained old-school, Kahmari would have rebelled.” -Coach Jon Pereiro
  • Toughest workout all year, 2 x 200 with 30 seconds rest, full recovery, and another 2 x 200.  That’s it.
  • Outside of meets themselves, Kahmari had only a handful of lactate workouts
  • Kahmari’s fastest Freelap 10m-fly was 0.93
  • Kahmari hated the 400

Two of the best young coaches in the state. Jon Pereiro of Plainfield Central with Mike Adamson of Plainfield East in the background. #TrackTown Click to enlarge.

Our state was touched by greatness.  People will talk about K-Mo for many years to come, a legend in his own time.


My Favorite Moment

As the skies darkened and 4×4 concluded, Edwardville could finally celebrate.  The dream had finally come true.

I watched as my former quarterback, 2-guard, and star-sprinter Chad Lakatos celebrated with my son, Alec.  My wife hugged them both.  Then I hugged them both.  My hug with Alec brought us both to tears instantaneously.  We both know the investment.  We both know the pain and suffering.  We both know the difficulty in controlling dozens of moving parts, trying to herd cats in a single direction.


Sometimes you just got to let it all out. Click to enlarge.

My son, Troy, attended the state track meet for the first time in several years.  He had forgotten the majesty of it all.  Troy works in advertising for Mindshare in downtown Chicago.  Later that night, Troy said “Nothing in my job will ever make me so happy that tears will come to my eyes.”  Troy gets it.











Comments 1

  1. Another great article Tony!

    Your 10 reasons why you will never work for the IHSA are the same top 10 reasons why you should be the first IHSA Track and Field Commissioner. Another great idea about “filling the heats”. More athletes on the track means more fans in the stands spending more money at the event. It also helps in establishing traditions at some schools which in turn helps to build the sport by attracting more athletes. Common sense.

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