Why Do Birds Fly South?

Tony Holler Coaching Blogs 5 Comments

Why not?

Last weekend Plainfield North competed at the Belleville West Invitational hosted by Patton Segraves.

In the Plainfield North team meeting sitting on the pavement outside the Red Roof Inn (Troy, IL), I told my team, “This is the second best track meet in the state of Illinois.  The best meet is the IHSA State Meet.”  Later that day, another coach argued the Belleville West Invite was better than the state meet.  The state meet is cursed by the separation of athletes into three divisions.  At Belleville West, Cahokia runs against Edwardsville, Marion runs against Minooka, athletes are not divided.  At the state meet, the best track athlete in the history of Illinois, Ja’Mari Ward, is stuck in Class 2A, unable to compete against the “big schools”.

Many coaches ask, “How can you afford a trip to Belleville?”  My answer is simple.  Every kid brings a $20 bill with them to pay for lodging (four to a room).  Every kid brings food and/or money for food.  Anyone who can’t pay is taken care of with funds raised by our Fast Cat 5k/10k.  We take school mini buses and we pay for our own gas.  If you want to read more about my ideas on fund-raising, see my pre-Bernie socialist rant from two years ago, MONEY.


We don’t leave school early.  No class time is missed.  We are out of class at 2:10, on the road by 2:30.  We arrive at the Red Roof Inn by 6:30.

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3 hours 39 minutes to Troy, IL.  We stay in Troy for the Edwardville Winston Brown Invite as well.  There are five hotels and five restaurants at this exit off of I-55.  Perfect.  We reserve 12 rooms.  36 kids in nine rooms, 3 rooms for coaches.


Don’t ask me how Neuqua Valley affords the trip to Arcadia in California.  Don’t ask me how East St. Louis affords the trip to the Kansas Relays or the Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans.  I only know short trips.

We make two trips south in April.  Why?

  1. Weather (typically 10 to 30 degrees warmer in April)
  2. Competition (Cahokia, Edwardsville, etc.)
  3. Team building
  4. We learn how to survive an overnight experience similar to the state meet
  5. My track athletes talk about it all year

Ask yourself, does your team love your schedule? If not, change it. (picture from 2014)

If you coach somewhere on the water-logged wind-swept frozen tundra of the northern parts of Illinois, you are either kicking yourself for not going to the Belleville West Invite or you are delighted you did.  Great weather and strong competition makes everyone better.  A rising tide lifts all boats.  My son, Alec, had a first-year hurdler PR the week before running 16.57.  At Belleville West, the same guy ran 15.51.  Backyard meets in cold, rainy, windy conditions don’t produce those kinds of numbers.

Seven schools from the Chicago area attended the Belleville West Invite.  Minooka won the meet.  Lockport placed 3rd.  My team was missing our entire junior class because of the ACT (next year, we will take it in February!).  With the addition of the Harley-Hampton twins, Homewood Flossmoor won the 4×1.  In matter of fact, Chicago schools swept the relays.

  • 4×1  Homewood-Flossmoor 42.92
  • 4×2  Lockport 1:29.94
  • 4×4  Minooka 3:21.82
  • 4×8  Plainfield North 8:08.43

Matea Valley’s Jordan Cagigal won the 400 running 49.79.  Thornton’s Remi Simmons long jumped 23’1.5 to place 3rd in a loaded field.  South Elgin placed in the stacked 4×1.  Belleville West Invite Official Results.

Most meets in the northern parts were canceled.  If your meet was not canceled, your kids had a freakin’ miserable experience .  Never underestimate the harm done by miserable experiences.  I always vote to cancel rather than put my team through something they hate.  Track coaches fight an ongoing battle with “track sucks”, why perpetuate the negativity?  I want track to be every kid’s favorite sport.


Edwardsville is looking to expand their Winston Brown Invitational, April 23rd.  It’s not too late to get in this year.  It’s definitely not too late to get signed up for 2017.


Competition brings out the best in all athletes. Last year’s Winston Brown featured dozens of athletes who won medals at the state meet, including these four sprinters.

The Winston Brown Invite has everything going for it.  The competition is first class.  Class 2A champs Cahokia attends.  Class 3A champs Edwardsville host the meet.  Triad, St. Rita, Mt. Vernon, O’Fallon, Alton, Collinsville, and Carbondale attend.  Edwardsville offers at-large entries (extra entries).  The weather will typically be 10 to 30 degrees warmer than Chicago.  The meet is run on a fast track.  FAT with a large scoreboard gives instant results.  I love the fact that four fresh-soph relays count towards varsity points at Edwardsville.

In an attempt to recruit teams from the north, Edwardsville is willing to waive the entry fee for northern teams attending for the first time.

The Winston Brown meet records are freaky.

  • Shot Put 57’10”
  • Discus 182’0″
  • Pole Vault 14’0″
  • High Jump 6’8″
  • Long Jump 24’5″
  • Triple Jump 50’6.5″
  • FS 4×8 8:23.30
  • V 4×8 7:56.14
  • FS 4×1 44.36
  • V 4×1  42.07
  • 3200  9:04.46
  • 110 HH  14.12
  • 100  10.75
  • 800  1:52.44
  • FS 4×2  1:32.64
  • V 4×2  1:28.31
  • 400  48.59
  • 300 IH  38.63
  • 1600  4:15.54
  • 200  21.94
  • FS 4×4  3:28.52
  • V 4×4  3:20.13

Several of the meet records should fall this year.


I love the fresh-soph relays at Winston Brown, all four count in the team scores. You think Cahokia takes fresh-soph seriously? Check out this handoff from 2014.


If you want to hear more about how Plainfield North travels, read Get Out of Your Neighborhood.

If anyone would like to further discuss the possibility of attending Edwardsville’s Winston Brown Invite, don’t hesitate to contact Chad Lakatos (618) 559-9773 or Alec Holler (630) 849-8334.

Comments 5

  1. I have been to the Belleville West Meet before and it is Amazing. The officials are nice to the kids and the coaches. I never saw one of them screaming at athletes, parents or coaches. During meet delays, they actually allow the athletes to warm up and be adequately prepared for their races, rather than rushing through the meet. I really like the fact that they post a time schedule and stick to it. Belleville West does an excellent job of putting on a Five Star Track meet.

  2. We would love to get some northern schools down at the Collinsville Invite in May as well! Over 25 teams and meet is over by 3:30! Best hospitality room around!

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