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