Plainfield North hosts a 16-team invitational this Saturday starting at 10 a.m.
We run on a 178-meter 4-lane track where the curves are nearly impossible.
We seed on the fly and time races with stopwatches.
We do live scoring using a Google Sheet … check it out.
Once a spectator filed a complaint about the lack of seating in our field house. I told her to stop complaining or go home.
Somehow we make it work. Somehow the atmosphere is thick with excitement. Somehow performances are extraordinary.
I tried to explain our meet when I wrote The Gauntlet Mile for Freelap two years ago.
Once on a camping trip I saw a sign “Always Leave the Campsite Better Than You Found It.” If everyone would leave things better than they found it, we’d live in a better world. Finding myself the fourth quarter of my coaching career, I think about this often. I would like to leave track & field better than I found it.
The Pntrack Invite is my attempt to improve the track & field world.
Inaugural Embarrassment (2007)
The Monday after the inaugural 2007 Pntrack Invite, my athletic director, Jeff Johnson, called me to his office. His message was pretty simple. Belleville West and Herrin were well-coached track teams and my team was sub-par.
Belleville West and Herrin had become great track programs. Patton’s Belleville West program was headed towards 3A excellence, placing top-6 in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015. Chad’s team (Herrin) won Class A in 2007 and 2008. Both programs were heavily influenced by “Feed the Cats” and the Harrisburg teams I had coached from 1990-2004.
My 2007 Plainfield North team had no seniors and only three guys who could manage a sub 4.60 40-yard dash. In comparison, we had 32 athletes under 4.60 this winter. Plainfield North looked like a rag-tag group of rookies. We had ugly uniforms. The schedule I inherited was awful. We were pathetic in the technique events (hurdles, jumps, pole vault, and throws).
The next year we were conference champs.
Eric Thompson, Herrin (2007)
Eric Thompson won the long jump at our invite in 2007. Eric jumped 23’6″ and his record still stands. For those of you new to track and field, Eric Thompson went on to lead Herrin High School to the 2007 State Championship (Class A). Herrin scored 77.5 points while Eric Thompson won the high jump (6’11”), the long jump (23’6″), the triple jump (45’2″) and anchored Herrin’s dominant 4×1 team (43.09). You can’t do better than four gold medals.
Luke Vaughn, Champaign Centennial (2013)
Luke Vaughn was the best thrower to ever compete in our invite. Luke’s record throw of 59’7″ in the shot put may stand for many years.
One of our special races is our “Dunkin Donut 55″, a race where the best six shot putters compete for a dozen Dunkin Donuts. Luke Vaughn’s race had an unfortunate ending when he placed 2nd and broke his hand punching a wall.
The next year as a freshman at Memphis, Luke threw the 16-pound college shot 58’2″ and the college discus 187’9”.
Strong-Ware-Pagan-Gilmore, Plainfield North (2009)
Our 4×2 relay team in 2009 was headed for greatness. We were ranked IL #1 indoors, running 1:31.73 in our first meet.
This quartet put together, in my opinion, the most amazing performance in the history of the @Pntrack Invite. Somehow this group ran 1:31.3 on a 178m track where the field house record for the 200 is 22.8 (Carlos Baggett, 2016). It blows my mind to think this group averaged 22.8 for an entire 4×2. Robert Gilmore led off with a 22.8 followed by Ware at 22.4, Pagan at 23.0, and Strong at 23.1. The energy in the field house that day was palpable. Plainfield North won the meet with 130 points. Second place went to Hillcrest who later won Class 2A with 93 points.
As a cautionary tale, our outdoor season fell apart. Robert Gilmore tweaked his hamstring and never got right. Dominique Ware chose to attend his senior graduation instead of the IHSA State Meet. Dion Strong missed practice the week of conference and was suspended for our biggest team meet. Erran Pagan missed practice the week of Sectional and watched from the stands as our 4×2 ran qualifying time without him only to get disqualified for a late exchange.
Jamison Wilson, Hillcrest (2009)
Jamison Wilson triple jumped 48’0″. We have a wall at the end of our pit that sometimes discourages jumpers, but not Jamison Wilson.
Jamison Wilson, only a junior in 2009, went on to lead Ron Towner’s Hillcrest team to 93 points at the state meet. Wilson placed 2nd in the triple jump (47’0), anchored the winning 4×1 (42.42), placed 3rd in the highs (14.61), and ran lead-off in the 4×4 placing 1st (3:20.51).
As a senior, Wilson again led Hillcrest to the 2A state title. Jamison Wilson long jumped 23’6″ (1st), triple jumped 45’3″ (7th), won the high hurdles (14.35), and placed 2nd in the 300 hurdles (37.93).
Jacob Arnold, Plainfield North (2008)
As a 5th semester sophomore in 2007 (figure that one out), Jacob Arnold shocked the world splitting a 47.8 in the 4×4 on a windy Tuesday afternoon. In may of 2007, Jacob became the first all-state track athlete at Plainfield North.
As a 7th semester junior in 2008 Jacob Arnold was meet MVP at the Normal West Invitational. Jacob’s 6.48 in the 55m made him a well-known sprinter. Jacob still holds the 55m record for the Pntrack Invite at a hand-held 6.2.
Jacob Arnold missed most of his junior track season with a doctor’s excuse despite continuing to train at Acceleration. Jacob’s track career at North did not end well. I saw Jacob at one of our playoff games last fall. Jacob still holds track records at Rockford College … Track & Field Records.
Note: Jacob was allowed by the IHSA to play football as a 5th-year senior but was not allowed to play a spring sport the same year.
Andy Jatis, Providence (2015)
Everything at the Pntrack Indoor is up close and personal. Andy Jatis set the meet record in 2015 year vaulting 15’7″. Jatis placed 2nd in the state in 2015 with a vault of 16’0″.
Dan Mazar, Edwardsville (2010)
The mile record of 4:27.0 set by Dan Mazar of Edwardsville stood for six years until it was broken last year by Demetri Pancini (4:24.7) from Lincoln-Way North.
Dan Mazar set the our 1600 meet record his junior season. Mazar broke hearts in Edwardsville when he moved to Rockwood Summitt in Missouri his senior year. Dan Mazar won the 800 in Missouri with a time of 1:50.87 and got beat by .01 in the 1600, running 4:12.51. The photo finish became famous.
Jarvis Carter vs Alex Ruscitti (2015)
2015’s 400m “Battle of 119th Street”, Plainfield East’s Jarvis Carter won a titanic battle with Alex Ruscitti from Plainfield North. Both guys broke the previous meet record of 52.3 (the 200 and 400 are tough races on a 178m track). Carter ran 51.6 and Ruscitti ran 51.9.
Both of these warriors returned to battle in the 4×4, with Carter running 52.8 and Ruscitti running an inspired 51.7 split.
The Gauntlet Mile (2015)
The Gauntlet Mile was an experiment in 2015. It worked. The picture tells the story.
Zack Riley, Herrin 2009
After back to back state championships, Chad Lakatos made the move from Herrin to Edwardsville. Zack Riley was a sophomore on Chad’s 2008 state championship team.
In 2009 Chad Lakatos brought Edwardsville to the Pntrack Invite and new Herrin coach, Rob Long, brought Herrin. Zach Riley jumped 6’6″ setting the meet record. Riley did not attempt a higher mark. High jumping 6’6″ on a slick floor without spikes is quite an accomplishment. In May of 2009, Zack Riley high jumped 7’0″ to win Class A.
As a senior, Zack Riley led Herrin to its 3rd state title in four years (2007, 2008, 2010). Riley won the long jump (23’4″), won the high jump (6’8″), and anchored Herrin’s 4×1 & 4×2 relays to gold medals (42.77 and 1:28.88).
Lacrosse Star Wins 55 Meter Dash, 2017
Clay Paysen had never participated in an outdoor track meet. Clay played lacrosse and now plays at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, PA.
We knew Clay was fast because he ranked #1 in our 30-yard fly (2.74) and #2 in our 40-yard fly (3.70). We also knew Clay would play lacrosse and not run track for us in the spring. However, I never gave up hope.
At the Pntrack Invite, we have open entries in the 55 and we run dozens of heats. Clay was entered in one of the extra heats. He ran 6.40 hand-held, good enough to make the finals.
In the finals Clay ran 6.18 hand-held beating Montini star Mitch West who ran 6.27. Mitch had placed 4th in the IHSA 2A 100m dash as a sophomore.
One race convinced Clay Paysen to join our track team in the spring. Clay balanced his lacrosse schedule with our track schedule and led us to a school record 41.72 in the 4×1 (IL #4). Clay became an all-stater when our 4×2 finished 5th in the state. Clay sent me a text this week asking if I would save him a Pntrack Invite t-shirt. I texted back “no charge”.