My first “Through My Lens” was written in 2014.
My camera has changed but my lens remains the same. Last Christmas I updated my camera to the Canon 7d Mark II. Best $1499 I’ve ever spent. 10 pictures per second and works amazingly well in the terrible light of indoor track. My one and only lens is the Canon EF 85mm 1.8. The lens is a “fixed lens” meaning I can’t zoom. If I want to zoom, I get closer to the action. At $369, the EF 85mm made my old beat-up Canon 20d a highly-functional camera when the light was decent. The night before the state meet, I finally figured out how to update my 7d’s firmware so that I could tweet my camera’s pictures though a link on my iPhone. I’m dangerous now.
This year, I was a guest photographer for Milesplit IL. From now on, I will only say good things about Tony Jones. “Illinois Prepster” got me into the competition area.
Through My Lens is not an article about cameras. Instead it is my take on the IHSA State Meet from my perspective (thus “through my lens”). This article will focus on people I know and stories I’ve been told though the filter of who I am. Even though I’ve become a huge fan of distance races (especially when we have multiple heats of the 3200), my focus will be slanted towards the sprints and hurdles. I think it would amazing to see dozens of coaches write a “Through My Lens” story about the state meet. The material available is nearly infinite.
Let me give you the sprint history of Yorkville High School.
The best sprinter in school history made his mark 123 years ago. In 1894, P.B. Cornell blazed his way to a silver in the 100 yard dash and a bronze in the 220 yard dash. His teammate, W.K. Skinner placed 3rd in the High Kick. Travel to the meet was tricky, the automobile was invented the next year.
The next century was not kind to the sprinters of Yorkville. Only one sprinter made his mark in history. Brian Davis placed 4th in the 200m and 3rd in the 400m (Class A, 1991).
Yorkville did manage a 7th in 4×2 in 1985 and 6th in the 4×2 in 1988 (Class A).
Let me sum up the sprint history of Yorkville:
- 19th century – P.B Cornell (2 medals 1894)
- 20th century – Brian Davis (2 medals 1991) and two relays (1985, 1988)
- 21st century – nothing until 2017
I know something about the Yorkville sprint program. I know that Coach Ben Draper (the brains behind the ITCCCA website and former Yorkville coach) contacted me when I first started tweeting Freelap times. Ben wanted to see Freelap in action. In December of 2014, I invited some coaches and sprinters to our field house, and the first Sprint Showcase was born. I did a short one-man clinic on sprinting, then we ran though the cones. I did the record, rank, and publish thing. Yorkville’s sprint coach, Alvin Lewis, took home the “Feed the Cats” idea and the magic began. 40 yard dashes and 10m flys became the focus of sprint training. “Record, Rank, and Publish” was the new plan.
Best times in the 4×1 at Yorkville H.S.
- 2013 – 45.54
- 2014 – 45.45
- 2015 – 44.32
- 2016 – 43.74
- 2017 – 41.86
This kind of progress give me chills. After the 4×1 at Sectional, I was happy we had won. When I asked my son, Quinn, about our time, Quinn said, “It must have sucked because Yorkville almost beat us.”
10 minutes later we celebrated running 41.67. Yorkville had run 41.86.
At state, Yorkville beat us in the finals. Damn!
I spoke with Alvin Lewis and the story behind the numbers is a powerful one.
Too many track coaches complain about their facilities. I’ve heard you can’t be elite in 3A without an indoor track. Well, Yorkville sprinted in their hallways, in gym shoes. The sprint group included up to 120 athletes (girls and boys together). One day a week, Yorkville went to the Vaughan Center in Aurora, but the priority on those days were field events and intervals by distance runners.
Yorkville also blows up the idea that specialization is an unwinnable battle. Yorkville’s 4×1 were all multi-sport athletes.
- Jake Eberhart (Sr) – basketball
- Peyton Frankenreider (Jr) – soccer
- Jackson Torok (Jr) – soccer
- Javell Moore (Jr) – basketball
The state of Illinois was fast this year, but next year will be ridiculous.
- Declan Rustay (Jr), Hoffman Estates – 10.40 State Prelims (actually 10.394 with a +2.1 wind, less than 5 mph), 3A Winner
- Marcellus Moore (Fr), Plainfield North – 10.40 State Prelims (lost to Rustay by .006), 3A Runner-Up, #1 freshman in U.S.
- Easton Bianchi (Jr), Sterling Newman – 10.52 at Three Rivers Conference Meet, Class A Winner
- Dubem Anikamadu (Jr), Huntley – 10.58 State Prelims, 3A 8th Place
- Miles Gascon (Jr), Neuqua Valley – 10.64 at Naperville North Sectional, 10.79 in 3A prelims failed to make finals
- AJ Henning, (Fr), Lincoln-Way East – 10.67 State Prelims, 3A bronze medal, 10.75 in finals
- Bobby Nuzzo (Jr), Mundelein – 10.68 State Prelims, 3A 7th Place
- Jermarrion Stewart (Fr), Collinsville – 10.70 Moline Sectional, 10.79 in state 3A prelims failed to make finals
- Courtney Lindsey (Jr), Rock Island – 10.71 Moline Sectional, 10.87 in 3A prelims failed to make finals
- Jarell Anderson (Jr), East St. Louis – 10.73 County Meet, 10.87 in 3A prelims failed to make finals
Illinois is the best cold-weather track state in the U.S. but we’ve never seen a sprint group like this.
100 meter times are just one part of the story. This past weekend, sophomore Josh Bridges of Homewood-Flossmoor ran 10.73. Josh’s sophomore teammate, Jesusean Adeyiga, was clocked at 10.76. Let me repeat, H-F has two sophomores running 10.73 and 10.76. Neither made the state’s top-10 list.
Homewood-Flossmoor won the state 4×1 with four underclassmen running 41.78. Coach Nate Beebe’s 4×1 may break the state record of 41.12 (Cahokia) next year. H-F has track success in spite of dealing with a football program that mandates the weight room in the spring, preventing their athletes from participating in track.
By the way, the 4×1 runners-up and 3rd place teams were Yorkville (Sr-Jr-Jr-Jr) and East St. Louis (So-Jr-Sr-Jr). I coached the fourth place team. My freshman, Marcellus Moore, and junior, Brian Registe will return. 2016 All-Stater Joe Stiffend will be back after missing his junior season. Stiffend was a key member of our 2016 IL #1 indoor 4×2 and our 4×1 team that ran 41.72 (IL #4).
The picture above is my only 1A picture. Sorry, I can’t do it all. I love Class A and spent the first half of my career coaching at a small school. Harvard-bound Kahlil Wassell (New Berlin) won silver for 2nd consecutive year. How about the little guy from Sterling Newman? Easton Bianchi proves, once again, the biggest strongest guy doesn’t always win. I have this argument with strength coaches on a daily basis. Their job is working in a weight room, so they sell a load of BS to athletes about how they will get big and fast by lifting weights. Those strength coaches are only half right. By the way, here is Easton Bianchi’s time progression from freshman to junior: 11.43 – 11.16 – 10.52. Can’t wait to see Bianchi’s senior year.
What an amazing job Milesplit did all year. Check out their final 3A rankings from mid-May, before Sectionals. In parenthesis is the team’s actual finish at the state meet.
- Edwardsville (1)
- East St. Louis (2)
- Bloomington (3)
- Plainfield North (8)
- Chatham-Glenwood (14)
- Huntley (27)
- West Aurora (5)
- Glenbard North (30)
- Lockport (16)
- Hoffman Estates (4)
Picking a trifecta ain’t easy. Try it next year. Milesplit picked six of the top ten teams at the state meet before anyone had run at Sectional.
Have you noticed how the same teams seem to show up every year. Just for fun, I combined team scores from the last four years.
- Edwardsville 175
- Neuqua Valley 123
- East St. Louis 122
- Bloomington 92
- Lake Park 91
- Evanston 91
- Aurora West 89
- Minooka 87
- Lakes 86
- Sandburg 74
- Plainfield Central 74
- Oak Park 64
Chad Lakatos of Edwardsville has become the first coach in the history of Illinois to win two state titles in Class 1A and two in Class 3A. At the age of 43, Chad’s team’s have won 8 state trophies (add one more if you count the 3rd place trophy he won as a junior at Harrisburg H.S. in 1991). Chad’s Edwardsville teams have been so consistently good, they are hardly noticed in their own town. This year they won each and every meet, at all levels, including the state meet. Every freakin’ meet! At the state meet, no Edwardsville administrator attended. On the way into Edwardsville, no police and fire truck escort. No parade. The trophy will probably be put into storage.
This is why, we as coaches must celebrate our champions. Chad is like an adopted son to me. My actual son, Alec, is the hurdle coach. I hear about every crisis. This year might have been the hardest year ever for the Edwardsville staff. I’m 100% certain, no other staff could have held it together.
Another Edwardsville takeaway … assistants matter. In the past four years, Edwardsville’s hurdlers have scored 77 points. Check out where Edwardsville’s hurdlers, alone, would rank among the top teams in the state. If Edwardsville would have taken only their hurdlers to the state meet for the past four years, they would have outscored my entire team by 24 points!
You don’t dominate without being strong in all 18 events. Matt Martin is an elite throws coach. In my opinion, AJ Epenesa (5-star football recruit AND a dominating basketball player) would NOT have participated in track at most schools, let alone score 37 points in the last three state meets. AJ was on the track team due to the guidance of Matt Martin. George Patrylak (distance), Carry Bailey (jumps), Dave Dougherty (pole vault) make up a staff unequaled in Illinois. Each of Edwardsville’s six coaches produced at least one state qualifier this year.
One more thing. Dave Dougherty took over the position of vault coach two years ago with zero vault experience. Through clinics, study, and hard work, Dougherty helped Edwardsville vaulters to heights of 14’9″ and 11’3″.
Marcellus Moore was a phenom before I met him. He was recruited by multiple schools in the Chicago area who routinely recruit. Last summer, Marcellus Moore ran 10.81 and 22.16 as a 14-year old at AAU nationals. The 10.81 is a national AAU record. Marcellus chose to stay home and attend his neighborhood public school.
I gave lots of thought to the coaching of Marcellus. Nothing changed in my fundamental approach. I coach 11.81 sprinters the same way I coach 10.81 sprinters. But, those 10.81 sprinters occupy more of my thoughts. My goals for Marcellus may surprise some. These goals were kept private, locked away in my brain, driving my decisions throughout the year.
- Stay healthy
- Have fun
- End the season well
Note, none of my goals included a 100 or 200 time. None of my goals included medals at the state meet. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely thought about it. “What if Marcellus runs disappointing times?” Nothing is promised in this sport.
Marcellus did not disappoint. He broke two school records in his first indoor meet. He went on to be IL #1 in both the indoor 60 and the indoor 200, winning both at Top Times. Outdoors, he broke two school records in his first outdoor meet at Belleville West, running 10.55 and 21.28. Marcellus won four gold medals at the conference meet and four gold medals at Sectional. He ran 10.48, 10.48, and 10.40 on May 11th, 18th, and 26th. At the state meet Marcellus won three medals placing 2nd in the 100, 4th in the 200, and 4th in the 4×1.
Most important, all three goals were achieved. Funny how happy and healthy kids perform well.
Marcellus was a huge fan of RPR. Reflexive Performance Reset is next-generation performance-based “activation”. Sprinters run faster and stay healthier with RPR.
Here’s an example of staying healthy. We had two weeks between our final indoor meet (Top Times) and our first outdoor meet April 8th at Belleville West. Marcellus went on a 7-day cruise. Too many people think hard work is the Holy Grail of training. For a sprinter, sunshine and sleep may be as important as any workout. See Sunshine, Dopamine, and Sprinting.
Here’s another example of putting health above training. Marcellus ran at New Balance Nationals on the weekend of March 10th. He returned from New York mentally and physically tired. Marcellus did not have the same training as his teammates the next week.
- Monday – go home and take a nap
- Tuesday – TrackTown Fresh-Soph City Championship at Plainfield North (we got beat by South)
- Wednesday – go home and take a nap
- Thursday – short sprint workout
- Friday – go home and take a nap
- Saturday – SPC Indoor Conference Meet (we won!)
The most important takeaway? Rest is often more important than a workout, especially for an elite sprinter. Contrary to archaic beliefs, elite performance is never the result of outworking the field. See Ten Sprint Facts I Wish Everyone Understood.
Marcellus Moore turned 15 on June 30th. He celebrated by running a wind-legal 21.29 in the 200. After running 10.40 and 21.28 as a freshman, what are my goals for Marcellus next year?
- Stay healthy
- Have fun
- End the season well
This fall, Marcellus will play wide receiver for our varsity football team. His position coach will be Quinn Holler. Quinn is also Plainfield North’s relay coach in the spring. Multisport coaches are just as important as multisport athletes.
Deion McShane – State Record 300 Int – 36.53
Three year progression:
- Fr – 37.43
- So – 37.04
- Jr – 36.53
- Sr – ???
AJ Epenesa, Repeat State Champ, PR – 206’5″
The state of Illinois will not soon forget this guy. AJ is a five-star football recruit who is headed for Iowa and then the NFL. During his four years at Edwardsville, starting every game for four years the exception a few games his freshman year (broken leg). Edwardsville’s four-year football record was 40-6. AJ was also a star-center on Edwardsville’s basketball team averaging 15 ppg, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 dunks per game. The team went 30-2. AJ started four years in basketball leading his teams to a gaudy 115-13 record.
AJ won discus at the IHSA state meet as a junior and senior. He won silver as a sophomore. Edwardville’s track team won four big trophies during AJ’s high school years, placing 2nd, 1st, 2nd, and 1st in the state.
One could make the argument that AJ Epenesa is the greatest high school athlete in Illinois history.
The picture above is AJ’s final throw of the state meet, maybe the final throw of his life. Here is my favorite story from the state meet. Going into the final throw, AJ was 2nd in the competition behind John Meyer of Lockport. A young kid made his way into the competition area and tugged on AJ’s uniform, “Are you winning?” AJ’s replied, “Not yet.”
I’m proud that I captured AJ’s last throw in the picture above.
God, I love this sport!
Zach Bradford – State Record 17’4″
Three year progression:
- Fr – 14’0″
- So – 16’1″
- Jr – 17’4″
- Sr – ???
John Meyer – Shot Put Champ
Three year progression:
- Fr – 50’7″
- So – 63’0″
- Jr – 67’2″
- Sr – ???
Interesting that John Meyer squared off against Camron Donatlan of West Aurora in two basketball games last year. Has a shot put state champ ever guarded a high jump state champ, ever, in the history of high school basketball? Both won their state championships as sophomores AND juniors. Both return for one more season.
Luis Cossio 400 Champ
Three year progression:
- Fr – 52.27
- S0 – 49.79
- Jr – 48.23
- Sr – ???
Soren Knudson – Triple Crown
Four year 1600 progression:
Four year 3200 progression:
Camron Donatlan 7’0″
Cameron Donatlan was a basketball player until he tried high jumping as a sophomore. Now Camron is a 2-time state champ. By the way, another West Aurora multisport athlete, DaVion Cross (football, basketball, and track) won the long jump (23’11”) and won silver in the triple (49’0″). In the past two years West Aurora has scored and incredible 53 points in the jumps.
Winning the 4×1 is unlike winning any other event. The 4×4 might be the most emotional and exciting race in track and field but the 4×1 in the most glamorous. I can’t imagine how fast these four guys will run next year. Congrats H-F.
Injured in state prelims.
- 100 – 10.51
- 200 – 21.37
- 4×1 – 41.59
- 4×2 – 1:26.30
Cary Lockhart burst onto the scene as a freshman. Running in the 2014 Sectional, Lockhart squared off against state sprint king, Cole Henderson of Pekin. Henderson had won both the 100 and 200 at the 2013 state meet. The freshman upset the king in the 200, running 21.56. The next week Henderson repeated as state champ in the 100 (10.53). In the 200, Kahmari Montgomery (Jr) ran 21.25 for the gold, Henderson 21.35 for silver, and the freshman phenom, Cary Lockhart took bronze running 21.54.
I’ve watched these two guys compete for four years. #SPC
Colin Marchio, Minooka, four-year progression:
- Fr – 11.49
- S0 – 11.34
- Jr – 11.11
- Sr – 10.73 (9th in state)
Robert Ogbuli, Plainfield East, four-year progression:
- Fr – 12.09
- So – 11.30
- Jr – 10.85
- Sr – 10.57
Carroll, IN – Feeding the Cats
I wanted to update you on how “Feed the Cats” has been working at Carroll. Today was our indoor state meet, and behind our sprinters (32 of our 48 points), we finished 2nd overall, our team’s best ever finish at the meet. Our two 60m guys finished first (6.86) and third (6.92) overall. Justin actually went 6.83 in the prelims, setting a new meet record. The 4×200 finished 2nd overall in 1:30.02.
It’s not called Activation anymore. Instead of going to Douglas Heel, the go-to guy is Chris Korfist.
I tweeted after the state met that I had “reset” seven athletes who scored 60 points at the state meet. Those seven kids would have been state champs if they had competed as a team.
Quickly, Chris Mosley of Shelbyville replied that he had reset more kids than he could count but one thing was for sure, those kids had won 28 state medals.
Nate Beebe of Homewood-Flossmoor chimed-in saying that they had 11 all-staters on their table and their team of 80+ had only three soft-tissue injuries all season. Rob Assise of Homewood-Flossmoor said “I worked my fingers numb this weekend doing RPR. Huge part of our program. Nothing has shifted my perspective on performance more than RPR.”
Christine Kump, assistance coach at Minooka, reset Soren Knudsen, winner of both the 1600 and 3200. Christine was quick to add that she was not taking the credit for Soren’s victories, but yes, she “reset” him at the state meet.
In the Field of Opportunity it’s Plowing Time Again
The above is a from a Neil Young song. The coolest people in the world are Neil Young fans.
I repeat the following every chance I get. Coaches are gardeners. We do our best. We provide good soil for growth, we seek the best seeds, we water the plants, pray for good weather, and fertilize with lots of bullsh*t. When the season is over, everything dies. We plow the garden and look forward to the next season. Nothing is promised, but it never gets old.
My wife is retired after 35 years of teaching 2nd grade. At 36 years and over two years of accumulated sick leave, I’m three years past retirement. I am now teaching for health insurance and about $2.52 an hour ( I did the math). Not a day went by this year when I didn’t think about retirement. Seeing my wife living every day like it was Saturday was a constant reminder.
I asked my principal if I could remain as head track coach if I retired as a chemistry teacher. My principal told me that I could continue as head track coach as long as no one else wanted the job. Ouch.
As the year came to a close, I asked myself daily, “What if this was the last year?”. How would it feel throwing away 36 years of notes, worksheets, and tests?
I thought about giving my E=mc^2 lecture for the final time. What if I never got to explain how the periodic table is living proof that God was a chemist? I thought about turning in my keys. I thought about never again filling out a meet lineup and ordering track t-shirts. What would it be like to never again have that feeling on the day of Sectional?
“Should I stay or should I go?” – The Clash
“Well, a question ain’t really a question, if you know the answer too.” – John Prine
Yes, in the field of opportunity it’s plowing time again.
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