A Track Coach’s Guide to the 6A State Championship

Tony Holler Coaching Blogs 10 Comments

AAU, travel teams, lacrosse, club sports, personal trainers, 7-on-7 leagues, showcases, and combines.  Many football players choose not to compete in track because sports-performance businesses have other ideas.  Parents are easily persuaded.

(Authors note:  In my original article I listed a dozen specific organizations who compete for athletes.  I could have listed many more.  One organization reacted immediately on Twitter using four different accounts.  In addition the co-owner commented twice on this article and commented on a previous article I had written on Freelap.  Email was also sent to ITCCCA.  Since my objective is, was, and always has been …  to increase participation in track & field and to encourage multi-sport participation, I decided to delete the specifics and stay general.)

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Entrepreneurs in Chicagoland prey on wealthy parents.

Education-centered interscholastic athletic programs are in a cold war against the outsiders, and it seems like the outsiders are winning.  Specialization is a cancer that spreads.  The high price of college causes low-information parents to look for investment opportunities.  Since high school sports are relatively free, they are mistakenly undervalued.

The best argument is always the truth.  The truth must be shouted from the rooftops.

Lets talk about the IHSA 6A State Championship that can be seen at 1:00 Saturday on CSN.  Lombard Montini (13-0) will play Crete-Monee (11-2).  61% percent of Montini’s and Crete’s starting football players run track.  Yes, 27 of the 44 Montini and Crete starters ran track last spring.

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Mitch West of Montini in black socks. In the lane to the right is superstar Josh Eiker of Galesburg, the top sprinter in Illinois (10.41). Eiker is a senior this year and has committed to Illinois. Mitch West is only a Junior.  Click to enlarge.

Montini’s Mitch West ran 10.80 last year at sectional.  At the state meet, Mitch ran 10.92 and placed 4th in 2A.  Saturday, Mitch West will be a key player for Montini’s football team.  Last Saturday, West made a diving catch to spark Montini’s incredible 4th quarter comeback against Prairie Ridge.

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Mitch West celebrates after making an incredible catch last Saturday. Click to enlarge.

Mitch West starts in the defensive backfield for Montini and is also used a wide receiver.  On the Crete side, Juawan Treadwell is a key starter.

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I took this picture at Lockport in 2014. When I found out the winner of this race was the brother of Laquon Treadwell of Ole Miss, I did a double take. Juawan Treadwell ran a 51-second 400 and was only a freshmen. Click to enlarge.

In Crete’s 40-37 win over Hinsdale South last Saturday, Juawan Treadwell returned a interception 100 yards to put the Warriors ahead 20-17.  Last spring, Juawan ran 11.05 in the 100 meters.  Like Mitch West, Juawan was only a sophomore last spring.

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Juawan’s older brother, Laquon, is a projected first-round top-10 pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Click to enlarge.

Juawan’s football teammates are also his teammates in the spring.  At Crete, football players don’t hibernate in the weight room.  Here are some of the most notable Crete-Monee track/football athletes who will play at 1:00 Saturday.

  • Eric Vallot (senior-DB/RB): 100m 11.28;  200m 23.12
  • Kevin Pate (junior-WR): TJ- 38’10”  LJ- 19’10”  400- 52.8
  • Franklin Douglas (senior-DB/WR): TJ- 40’8″
  • LaVall McNulty (senior-DE): Discus- 166’5″ SP- 45’5″(he also placed 6th in 2A Wrestling last year at 182 pounds)
  • Drew Hamilton (senior-OT): Discus- 124’9.5″  SP- 46’3″
  • Xavier Ledet (sophomore-RB): TJ- 38’2.5″

Brian O’Donnell started coaching track at Crete-Monee in 2007.  Prior to 2007-08 Crete-Monee had only eight state medalists in the 60-year history of the school.  Since then, 5 relays and 14 individuals have medaled.  Wow.  This explosion in track coincides with similar success in football.  Crete-Monee High School won only one playoff game in school history prior to 2007.  Since 2007-08, there have been eleven glorious playoff victories.  #SpeedKills

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Sprinter and running back Eric Vallot. Click to enlarge.

On the other side, Mitch West will be surrounded by some notable Montini track athletes.

  • John Embrey (Sr, linebacker): first year of track 44’1″ in shot; improved 40-time from 4.78 to 4.55 in one year; alternate on sprint relays despite weighing 225 pounds.
  • Justin Blake (Sr, QB):  first year of track 6’0″ in HJ; 55m 6.59; ran indoor track then played baseball
  • Will Smith (Jr, RB): 100m 11.39 as a sophomore; also the point guard in basketball
  • Nick Foster (Jr, S/OLB): 100m 11.40 and 200m 23.35 as a sophomore

Four football players ran on Montini’s state-qualifying 4×2.  17 of Montini’s 22 starters ran track or trained with the track team last year.  19 of Montini’s 22 starters are multi-sport athletes.

Eric Brechtel and Brian O’Donnell are cross country and track coaches.  Chris Andriano and John Konecki are football coaches.  Brechtel and Andriano coach at Montini.  O’Donnell and Konecki coach at Crete-Monee.

During last week’s Hinsdale South vs Crete-Monee game, Coach O’Donnell tweeted six game updates.  He continued to tweet pictures (@WarriorsTandF) and articles after the game was over.  When ten of your track kids play key roles on the football team, you are heavily invested.

On the other side, Coach Eric Brechtel and his side-kick, Chris Korfist, kept the west end zone shoveled as Montini came from behind to beat Prairie Ridge to earn a birth in the 6A championship game.  Like Coach O’Donnell at Crete, Coach Brechtel has skin in the game.

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It took a team effort to keep the field playable at Montini last Saturday.

What can we learn from these schools?

First of all, the head football coach is critical.  Crete-Monee’s football coach John Konecki is a strong advocate of track and field.  At Thornwood, Konecki coached the throwers.  Montini’s legendary Chris Andriano was a college football and track athlete.  Andriano must have been pretty good, he’s a member of the Millikin Hall of Fame.  In addition, Andriano served as Montini’s head track coach for several years.

Recently I posted this tweet that has been viewed by over 20,000 people.

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Incredible stats coming from TrackingFootball.com. Click to enlarge.

Believe it or not, one football coach, @coachyusef, commented on my tweet, “I want football players, not track stars.”  This guy probably follows Ben Carson on Facebook and thinks the pyramids were grain silos.

The next football coach who derisively mocks “track speed” in my presence better hope I’m in a good mood.  Track speed is the #1 quantifier of athletic talent for college football.  Have you noticed that people who taunt track coaches and dismiss speed are overweight and antisocial?  Why is it that slow people grow up to be football coaches who disregard track?  SMH

Montini’s boys track program was nearly non-existent when Eric Brechtel took over in 2013.  Brechtel’s first team had only 30 on the roster.  When you have 30 on your track team, you must “Promote, Recruit, and Attract”.  Last year, Montini had 60 boys on the track team.

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2014 Montini track team at the top. 2015 at the bottom. Wow.

Eric Brechtel needed an assistant, so he hired John Grayson.  Grayson had a football-baseball background.  Eric Brechtel sent Grayson to observe a Plainfield North track practice.  After practice, John and I talked for over an hour about speed training.  As linebackers coach for Montini’s football team, John Grayson has helped to connect the football and track programs.  Eric Brechtel continued to nurture the track-football relationship by becoming football’s biggest fan.

In the summer of 2014, Eric Brechtel struck gold when he brought Chris Korfist on board.  Inexplicably Elmhurst York let the best sprint coach in the state become a free agent.  Stranger yet, York had just won the 3A state title with Korfist’s sprinters scoring 20 of their team’s 40 points.  Despite a school enrollment of only 660 kids, you will soon see Montini challenging Cahokia in every sprint event.

Chris Korfist will also have a huge impact on Montini’s football program.  When Montini beat East St. Louis 24-14, everyone marveled at Montini’s team speed.  Not me.

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Who was the fastest player on the field when Montini played East St. Louis game? You guessed it, Mitch West. Who caught a key 36-yard touchdown pass? You guessed it, Mitch West. Click to enlarge.

Chris Korfist also brought “Be-Activated” to Montini.  Last year Nazareth won the state championship as an activated team.  This year we may have two activated state champions, Nazareth in 5A and Montini in 6A.  See the article I wrote last year about Nazareth, Three Reasons Why Activation is a Game Changer.

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Chris Korfist doing an activation technique on the vastus medialis oblique (VMO) of Dex Kelly before the Nazareth vs Lake Forest playoff game last November. This year Korfist will be on the Montini sideline. Click to enlarge.

I personally know of five football teams who have committed to activation.  There may be more.  All five activated teams made the playoffs and two are playing for state titles.  The overall record of those five teams, 45-12.

If football coaches and/or track coaches are interested in learning more about connecting their football and track programs, consider attending the Dec 11-12 Track-Football Activation Consortium, ironically held at Montini High School.  Two football coaches who have committed to activation will be speaking.  For more on the speakers, see The Fusion of Track and Football.

Good luck to Coach Brechtel and Coach O’Donnell as they root for their track athletes this Saturday.  Good luck to the kid-centered football coaches at Montini and Crete, Chris Andriano and John Konecki.  I wish more football coaches preached the value of multiple-sport athletes.

Follow @WarriorsTandF and @MontiniTrack_XC for game updates.  Look for Coach Brechtel and Coach Korfist activating athletes on the Montini sideline.  Keep an eye on #1 for Montini (Mitch West) and #9 for Crete (Juawan Treadwell).  Enjoy the game.

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Addendum:

Headline:  “Montini’s Speed Leads to Another Title

Final Score:  38-15

Those five track kids mentioned above?

  • Mitch West 4 catches for 40 yards, 1 rush for 12, 1 INT, 8 tackles
  • Will Smith 3 carries for 29 yards
  • John Embrey 11 tackles (led the game)
  • Nick Foster 10 tackles (3 tackles for a loss)
  • Justin Blake 199 rushing, 104 passing

My take?  If QB Justin Blake found a way to run track along with playing baseball, Montini would win the 2A 4×1 next spring.  Justin Blake is incredibly fast.  Fastest guy on the team?  Last year Blake only did indoor track but still managed a 6.59 in the 55-meter dash.  To me, Justin Blake looked like a potential state champ!

Oh, and by the way, Nazareth won 5A

Headline:  “Nazareth Speed Proves Too Much for Lincoln-Way West

Speed must be important.

By the way, Montini and Nazareth are two of the five teams who have committed to “Be-Activated”.

Comments 10

  1. Great article coach! The class 4A game is loaded with multi sport talent too. Belleville Althoff has made a title game run with D1 BASKETBALL players who start for a top 5 hoop teams in the state & defending state runner up in 3A hoops. Hoops coach says they will play Saturday in tourney title game if they’re healthy. And of course Phillips gets it done with track stars #9 Skanes ( 3rd leg of 41.46 4×1) and #2 Munson (2nd leg on relay and in photo w/Mitch West) helps lead the way, #23 as well. Crazy that most feel 4A & 6A games will be best games this weekend

  2. Another great article as always Coach. Down here in little school world we will be rooting for the Arcola Purple Riders in 1A. Arcola QB, Clayton Strader was an all-state 300 hurdler and lead leg on state championship 4×100 (42.and 4×400 relay teams! Not to mention class 1A boys track state champs Tolono Unity looking for the class 3A football championship (would be their 4th title this calander year!!) and many track guys making plays on the field for them.

    1. Small School Love!!!! Tolono should be able to put (TitleTown) under there town’s welcome sign. Incredible 2015 sports year for the Rockets! Arcola was good this past spring in Charleston! Let’s not forget other multi-sport athletes in the other class title games either, I just don’t know many names off the top of my head.

  3. I’m reading Bob Ladouceur’s fine book Chasing Perfection, about his years as (now former) coach of the De La Salle Spartans of Concord, CA (nation’s longest winning streak, 151 games from 1990 to 2002). The chapters on the offensive and defensive lines are a hoot. De La Salle wins games in large measure because the linemen win the neutral zone – they are incredibly fast and they’re drilled endlessly on the micro-segments of the first three steps. I haven’t got to the part where (and if) Coach Lad explains how he trains his players for speed, but it’s a no-brainer that he does. All of this is leading up to big love for Tony’s articles and kids-first coaching.

  4. Ignorant and unnecessary beginning to the article written by an insecure coach who’s accomplishments in the sport have been subpar at the best. I personally have won more state championships than you have coached in your 3 decades of coaching. I was an all-american track athlete in high school and a collegiate runner. I am USATF certified. My track experience AND my training helped me play in the NFL. But enough about us, it is about the kids right?

    It amazes me how some under qualified coaches put their egos if front of the athlete. They do not want what is best for the athlete, they want what is best for them. Your first paragraph just screamed out “I’m a insecure, childish little man that isn’t good enough to speak off my results, so I bash others.”

    “The best argument is always the truth. The truth must be shouted from the rooftops.”

    Acceleration has helped develop over 100 state champions in track. Just like high school coaches aren’t the same, programs aren’t either. I invite you to our facility & LEARN about our modalities. You might see our technique is heavily influenced by Dr. Mann/Dan Pfaff & our development of athletes is based off of t&f research. I know multiple athletes that have ran for you and it is all the same. You are a selfish, senile old man that only cares about himself. Did I write a blog about it? No, I’m sure there is two sides to the story.

    “Athletes don’t care how much you know, they care about how much you care.”

    Sport and training should work together. A majority of the athletes you mentioned ALSO train with us. Those athletes that want to separate themselves from their competition need to put in the extra work. With a couple dozen athletes on the track do you have time to individually correct mechanical flaws for every athlete? Can you individually train every athlete based on their structural design and how they adapt to your training? Do you sit down with each and every one of them to go over nutrition, regeneration, mental preparation, and individual goals? Or do you just throw a bunch of darts on the dart board hoping to hit a couple bullseyes?

    You obviously do not hate private sectors. You promote one at the end. So maybe it is just more of your insecurities oozing out onto the keyboard. I coach HS football as well and some of my athletes PAY Chris for training. WHAT A NO-NO!!!! You must desperately want the money and attention, so we will be sending our staff to your clinic. We have TONS of questions about how smart you are. There isn’t a “cold war” between private sectors and high school sports. You just made it a “cold war” between private sectors (besides Chris) and you.

    Hope you can dust the topee off, shine your false teeth, put on your best cardigan, and have a great Thanksgiving. Think twice this year before you look out the crack of the blinds while sitting on your rocker, shouting at those “Dang Kids” to keep it down. Let them live a little, for it is Thanksgiving. Be thankful.

    You’re Welcome,

    J.R.

    1. As I sit here reading the multisport forum I thought it would be perhaps a scholarly exchange of ideas on how coaches could better work together. I hoped to gleen some ideas on what to do with girls sports where VB demands year round participants, basketball you must play AAU, so what does the track kid do? They run club in the summer. Back to my original observation all I have seen so far are petty insults that really need to stop.

  5. maybe you should re-read the article. The article is not against extra training, it’s against the people that advocate one sports specialization versus overall athletic development.

    You haven’t personally won more championships than Coach Holler coached. I looked you up. Two individual indoor titles and one title on a relay. It would be interesting to see how good of a track/football coach you would be in rural Illinois, in a small school, without rich parents and without the best of the best walking through your doors.

    1. Hey “Coach Jones”, aka Tony’s son?! You could have come up with a more creative name than that. 😐

      If that was the true intentions of the article, why mention us at all? Why mention facilities that help athletes train for their sport, including track? Why mention other sports? It should have not been about us at all. It should be about athletes thinking it is okay to just train during their off-season and not compete at another sport. It should have just been about how it is pretty cool to see track athletes in the state football championship.

      I believe track coaches are as much a victim to specialization as anyone. I’ve never heard of a coach pushing an athlete specialized in track to play a multi-directional sport. It should work both ways. Football players also need to train deceleration, hand-eye coordination, PC strength in a low COM position, lateral explosiveness, ad/ab strength, TA strength, etc. Things that a linear sport such as track do not prioritize. That is where we come in, to cross train and complete the athlete’s development.

      We’ve trained 4 of Coach Holler’s “Hall Of Fame” athletes LOOONNG before they were “Hall Of Fame” material and helped them build a strong, efficient foundation so that they could see success on the track. 2 of those kids could barely walk without tripping over their feet when they first started training with us. We’ve also helped Plainfield North win state championships on the women’s side as well.

      You will have to use your true identity if you would like to continue this debate though. I don’t deal with ghost-writers. Thanks Mr. “Jones”!

      1. Nah, I’m not a Holler, nor am I one of his former athletes. I don’t normally use a pseudonym but to be honest, your attack was so personal and volatile, I didn’t feel like getting in to a personal battle.

        I suppose you saw it has an attack on your livelihood, so I get it.

        I just wish instead of attacking coach holler, you just explained the pros of your job unstead of just trashing someone personally.

        For the record, I don’t really care one way or the other about places of business like yours. Heck, we don’t even really have those where I am at. But we do have club sports that try to convince kids to play all year around. We have aau coaches who promise d1 scholarships.

        Anyways, as a peace offering, my name is Coach White (yes, I still have a boring vanilla name) and I coach at Madison. It is one of the smallest public schools in Illinois, along with being one of the poorest. 98% poverty. This school eliminated football in 1992 because of money. I helped bring football back in the form of a co-op, which I helped coach. I have the dirt and gravel remains of a 440 cinder track. I have no assistants and measley stipend of $3400. I’ve also coached been a head varsity basketball coach.

        I could have followed a similar path of finding Clyde Hart manuals and having my kids do 3×10 in the weight room on our Universal Gym (yup, we still have one). But I didn’t. I lucked in to finding a Coach Holler clinic pdf while googling off season programs. I also found a Korfist PowerPoint.

        I’ve emailed both coaches time and time again asking questions and advice. They’ve always answered and offered encouragement.

        Madison has since been a mainstay at Champtionship meets in Illinois. Our track schedule basically makes us an official member of the Southwestern Conference. We get to race against Edwardsville, Cahokia, East St. Louis, Belleville, Triad, etc…nearly every week. Quite a schedule for a 1A school with a range of 60-80 boys, 9-12 in the whole school.

        I have Coach Holler to thank (along with Korfist, Lakatoas and Millsap) to help move us a long. When my guys..only 5 of them…one the EIU indoor meet, one of the first things I did was go and shake Coach Holler and Coach Lakatos hand and thank them for all the advice.

        I completely agree that kids need to fill in the gaps in their training. I don’t even have much debate with you about. I agree! I encourage my students to play multiple sports. I even work with our baseball coach so kids can do track and baseball.

        I admit it probably wasn’t my battle. But coach holler has been a mentor. He’s been anything but an old curmudgeon. He convinced me to buy an fat system. As far as I know, I’m the only 1a coach south of Springfield with one.

        You can see my athletes times here: http://parser.dyestat.com/search.jsp?schID=7456. There’s probably nothing too crazy there. Indoor state champ 3x and an outdoor state champ once and few all state times. But we are a competitive and good 1A team. I think we put out our best team every year. We can usually hang and/or beat a few 2a/3a teams. Madison had been off the track map since the late 80’s/early 90’s. Coach Holler and Coach Lakatos were a big part of that, even if it was indirectly (the kids have the talent, I just put them in the best situation).

        I still think the point of the article was about training or club sports that take away from high school participation. I don’t think he was trying to make a personal. I don’t think he was against supplemental training. After all, some schools don’t have any training to do and coaches fight and do not support each other.

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