With the reclassification that the IHSA made last June, it gave the opportunity for several smaller schools to get more exposure within Class A. The IPTT Classic Friday night may give us an indication of which schools may be in the focus of attention when the state outdoor meet comes around in May.
Here is a look of what to watch for when the Class A boys converge into the Shirk Center on Friday afternoon.
Outlook: Dontae Pryor of Kewanee enters the event with the top seed mark that he achieved last week at the Silver Streak Invitational. A year ago, Pryor finished second at this meet. The one jumper to keep an eye on is Alex Baumgarten of Stewardson-Strasburg. He has only competed in one indoor meet, last Saturday at Charleston where he won. Baumgarten has the big meet experience, finishing second last year in the state meet.
Sophomore Martel Hunter of Monmouth-Roseville had a big meet at Silver Streak last week, finishing second behind Pryor. He could pop a big one and steal this event from those previously mentioned. Other jumpers to watch are Malik Williams of Judah Christian and Devin Johnson of Erie-Prophetstown.
Outlook: A wide open event. Out of the field of 9 assembled, only one athlete (Alex Arteaga of St. Joseph-Ogden) has state meet experience in the triple jump. So expect the unexpected in this event.
Nick Hundley of Momence has the longest jump out of all the competitors in this event by a foot. He jumped 42-6 at a meet last week at Reed Custer. The next closest is Josh Cornett of Pleasant Plains.
Outlook: The question will be whether Kyle Landon of Chester will break the class record in this event. The junior cleared 6-10 at the Southern Illinois Invitational and is the elite jumper in the field. Last year, he won at this meet and placed second outdoors. Consistency will be the key; last week at Charleston, he jumped only 6-4, but still won. If he's on, a record is certainly possible this event.
Three more jumpers to keep an eye on are Matt Mueller of Mt. Olive, George Wayda of Pleasant Plains, and Paul Priester of Williamsville.
Outlook: All three pole vault events contested at the boys meet this weekend will be interesting. The Class A event should come down to two vaulters.
First, we have the defending 1A state champ in this event, Mitch Mammoser of Newton. The senior placed second at this meet last year. He cleared 14-6 at the beginning of the month at Carbondale and came back last weekend for a win at Charleston. The one up and coming athlete in this event is Jack Denby of Carlinville. Last week at Charleston, he finished second behind Mammoser. His PR at the beginning of the year was 13-0. During the indoor season, he has raised that PR to 14-0, which he has cleared twice.
Other athletes to watch in this event include Josh Blome of Casey-Westfield, Brandon Tolliver-Goode of Newton, and Haeden Sweetin of DuQuoin.
Outlook: Out of all the field events, this may be the most outstanding. There are three top-notch weight men in this event that could put up some top marks in this meet.
Adam Weidner of Bureau Valley has the longest put in this event so far this season, going 53-8. He has gone 57 feet outdoors last year. So far this year, he has been consistently around 53 feet. We could see him going past 55 feet in this meet.
Ryan Pearce of Villa Grove has had only one competition indoors this season, a 53- ½ winner last weekend at Charleston. He finished fourth last spring outdoors, one place ahead of Weidner.
The unknown factor in this event is Brandon Williams of DuQuoin. Last year, his best performance was 47-10. At his first indoor meet at Carbondale, he won the invite with a put of 51-4. The question will be whether he will be able to surpass Weidner or Pearce.
SPRINTS / HURDLES
55 METER DASH
Outlook: This could be perhaps the most loaded of all the running events Friday night. The quantity is there also with 24 sprinters entered. The quality is there also and could bring some fast times because of the high numbers in there.
Keith Harris Jr. of Leo Catholic has the fastest seeded time in this event, running 6.49 last weekend at the Chicago Catholic League Meet. He finished fifth at this meet last year. From the western side of Illinois comes Nick Rude of Sterling Newman Catholic and Dontae Pryor of Kewanee. Both have the ability to win this race.
The one other sprinter to keep a close eye on is Jonathan Hutchison of Peoria Christian. The senior is the defending outdoor state champion in the 100. He placed seventh this meet last year. He could surprise.
55 METER HIGH HURDLES
Outlook: Marlon Britton of Leo Catholic ran a great race last week at the Chicago Catholic League meet, running a Class A seasonal best of 7.75. He does not have the big meet experience. He would be the one man to watch in this race, however, because of that race in Chicago.
Another hurdler to watch is Colin Carver of Casey Westfield. He finished fourth last season outdoors at state and fourth as well in this meet last year. He could be the one guy that could challenge Britten.
Other hurdlers to watch include Joe Morrow of Hales Franciscan, George Wayda of Pleasant Plains, Braden Barton of Oregon, and Andrew Vahling of Teutopolis.
400 METER DASH
Outlook: Austin Andrews of Deer Creek Mackinaw enters the event with the fastest time 52.35, which he ran last week at Galesburg. He runs predominately the shorter sprints, and is also entered in the 55 and the 200. It will be interesting to see how he fares Friday night. Alex Hunt of Eureka is in the same boat. The junior ran just behind Andrews last week at Galesburg and does not have the big meet experience. But he could go sub-52 in this race.
Another top contender is Daniel Farmer of Johnston City. He just missed qualifying for the state finals last year. However, he does have a PR of 49.60 from last outdoor season and that big meet experience that could prove the difference.
200 METER DASH
Outlook: Another deep sprint field. The top 7 sprinters are only separated by .27 seconds. So you can say it is anyone’s race in this event.
Martel Hunter of Monmouth-Roseville has the fastest seed time of 23.03. Watch for him to be in the mix for the win along with Daniel Farmer of Johnston City, Brent Albertson of Flanagan-Cornell, Nick Rude of Sterling Newman, and Theodore Hopkins of Leo Catholic.
3200 METER RUN
Outlook: With Grant Nykaza only having run the 800 and 1600 so far this season, the Beecher junior does not have a qualifying time to get into this event. We could have seen the same matchup with Steve Schroeder of Monticello that we did last week at Charleston.
Schroeder,the 1A cross country champ, is the big favorite in this race. Having run 4:21 last week shows that he is in great shape and could seriously lower the Class A meet record. Schroeder could definitely go sub-9:25 in this race.
His chief competition will be Jesse Hahne of Danville Schlarman. He was fifth last fall in cross country and enters this event with a PR of 9:37.94. He could be the one runner to push Schroeder to a fast time.
800 METER RUN
Outlook: This race could possibly be the best event of the night in this meet program. Blake Hale of Robinson has the third fastest time overall in the state and comes into this race as one of the favorites. His PR coming into this season was 2:01.37. Hale had a successful cross country season finishing fourth at state and has gained confidence from that experience. He ran 1:57 last week at Charleston. Bet on him to go faster on Friday.
Grant Nykaza of Beecher will be his chief competition. Even though his time is 2 seconds slower, Nykaza has that competitive grit that could push him past Hale in this race. Two other runners to watch in this are Zeke Elkins of St. Joseph-Ogden and Eric Leonard of Sangamon Valley. Both of these runners will push the pace ensuring a quick time.
With the quality of runners in this race, we could see 4 or maybe 5 runners under 2:00. It is going to take a low 1:56 to win this race. It possibly could go lower and break the record.
1600 METER RUN
Outlook: The Class A meet record would be in doubt if Grant Nykaza of Beecher was running fresh in this race. The junior is scheduled to run the 800 earlier in the evening. If he does double, this is the toughest double perhaps in track. He will be the favorite.
It looks like the majority of runners will be coming off of a double in this race. Blake Hale of Robinson will being doing the same as Nykaza coming back from the 800. Jon Hill of Sparta, Jesse Hahne of Danville Schlarman, and Scott Woodard of Tolono Unity will be some of the runners to watch in this deep field.
4 x 800 METER RELAY
Outlook: Could be a close race with the first five teams within 5 seconds of each other. Monticello has the fastest seed time of 8:23.84. Tolono Unity had battled Monticello during the cross country season. Expect these two schools to go at it again.
St. Joseph-Ogden is always worth watching; their past tradition in this relay makes them a definite top contender. If the race is close and Zeke Elkins anchors, this race will be theirs.
4 x 200 METER RELAY
Outlook: Tuscola has the fastest seed time in this race. Newton, Oregon, Eureka, and St. Joseph-Ogden will also challenge for the championship.
This race is wide open with any of the 12 quartets having the realistic chance of winning.
4 x 400 METER RELAY
Outlook: In the final race of the evening, St. Joseph-Ogden appears to be the favorite in this relay. They will rely on the anchor leg of Zeke Elkins if it gets close.
Watch for second-seeded Deer Creek Mackinaw. Austin Andrews, who has the fastest time in the 400 at this meet, will be part of this quartet and will challenge SJ-O.
Good luck to all athletes this weekend!!!