Minooka wins its first boys sectional title at Naperville North

Naperville, Ill --- Kyle Schafer (Waubonsie Valley, Aurora, Ill) just sat on the bench by the check in area at the conclusion of the 4 x 400 meter relay at the Naperville North Sectional. There was no expression on his face. Everything that he had, every emotion that was inside of him was left on the track. Schafer had just brought his team back from second to win the event with the fastest time (so far) in the state this year (3:19.07) running an incredible 47.2 anchor. About an hour earlier, he dominated the 300 Intermediate hurdles with a new personal best (38.20).

You could see as he sat there he was hoping the bench would move closer to the bus so that he would not get up. That wasn’t happening.

“I just pushed everything that I had in the hurdles,” said Schafer. “It was a PR by a half a second. It was certainly a great night. In the relay, I knew I was going to catch him. I moved up on him fast and caught him by the 200 mark. I just waited until I got around the curve when I could pass him. I just threw everything that I had in the tank. I guess I had a little more than he did tonight.”

Minooka took home the it’s first boys sectional school title and did it with 2 track wins led by Dan Popek. The senior took the baton on the final leg of the 4 x 800 Meter Relay and brought his team back from third to capture the race in a season best of 7:50.75 over Neuqua Valley and West Aurora. Popek came back on the track 70 minutes later and off of a slow tactical pace, took the lead with 150 meters to go to win the 800 Meter Run in 1:57.82. He ran on the third leg of the 4 x 4 which placed second behind Waubonsie Valley.

“My idea was to slowly pick up on them and I was able to catch them with 400 meters to go. They kept holding me back and would not let me past. I finally got them with 150 meters left to go. I did it for the team,” said Popek. “In the 800, my coach (Nick Lundeen) wanted me to save myself for the mile relay. And I did. I just waited and kicked at the end.

Minooka qualified 5 individuals and 3 relays to the state meet next week in Charleston. Their two other wins came in field events. Kurtis Zumbalen won the High Jump (6-3) and Ethan Cane won the Long Jump (22-7.5).

Neuqua Valley placed second only two points behind the Indians, but had a rollercoaster night doing it.

Two weeks ago, Xander Jacobson was not even a thought in the planning of the 4 x 8 relay for Neuqua distance coach Jamie Janota. “We gave him the opportunity last week at conference to run the relay and he responded by running 1:59,” said Janota. “His PR before that was 2:12.” The door was open for Jacobson and took advantage of it Thursday night running a 1:56 split to keep the Wildcats in contention in the relay. Neuqua ended up finishing second in the race.

Mark Derrick carried the distance torch for the Neuqua in the 3200 & 1600 Meter Runs. In the 3200 Meter Run, Derrick and teammate Taylor Soltys moved away from the Oswego duo of Zach Kingsbury and Caleb Beck just after the 2000 meter mark and finished 1-2. For Derrick, it was his fastest time so far this season in the race. For Soltys, it was redemption after he missed most of last track season with an injury.

“Last year at this time, I had just come off of an all-state season in cross country and I could not even qualify for state. I had to watch Mark go it alone at state. It was harder than I thought it would be to see him out there and thinking that I should be with him,” said Soltys. “This year, it’s like a redemption for me. I could not let go of him today. I want to be up there with the top guys. Lucky for me, I got a guy (Derrick) with me every step of the way.”

“I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Derrick said. “The whole last season going through the injury was so hard for him. So I am proud that he is going to be running along side of me in the 3200 at the state meet."

Derrick came back and controlled the pace through the first half of the 1600. With about 450 meters to go, Chris Kellogg (Yorkville, Ill) shot by Derrick. “I was thinking oh man, I don’t know if I am going to be able to get this guy. I knew what I could do in the 3200. The 1600 was going to be the tough race. He (Kellogg) didn’t really pick it up with 200 meters to go so I thought I had the extra gear to get by him.”

Where there were the highs by Neuqua Valley athletes early in the meet, the momentum seemed to come to a crashing halt during the 400 Meter Dash. Pre race favorite Jacob Bender seemed to slow up the last 100 meters allowing Stephan Thelemaque (East HS, Plainfield Ill) to catch him and defeat Bender by four hundredths of a second (48.90 – 48.94). After the race, he clutched his left hamstring as he left the track. He was held out of the mile relay as a precautionary move making sure the star quarter miler was ready for next week. Without Bender in the line-up, the Wildcats finished seventh in the relay and not qualifying for Charleston. Still, they did qualify 5 individuals and 3 relays next week to the state meet.

Where there was an injury for Bender, it also hit Plainfield South’s star hurdler Mitchell Wolff. The senior easily qualified for the finals of the 110 Meter High Hurdles with the fastest preliminary time (14.44). In the finals, a hamstring injury that has been bothering him for some of the season reared its ugly head around the fifth hurdle and caused Wolff to slow down and finish fourth behind race winner Jalil Manson (East HS, Plainfield Ill). The injury forced Wolff out of the rest of the meet.

There were two other double winners in this sectional besides Derrick. Weightman Riley Kittridge (Waubonsie Valley, Aurora Ill) won both the Shot Put (56-6) and the Discus (164-5). Kittridge was one of the reasons besides Shaffer and the 4 x 4 relay that Waubonsie Valley placed third. The Warriors also received a win from James Travis in the Triple Jump (44-1).

The other double winner was Calvin Edwards (West HS, Joliet Ill). He looked like he was out of his element as he got out of the blocks slow in the 100 Meter finals. Around 50 meters, he found a faster gear and zoomed to victory in the dash (10.91) just barely over James Kerns (North HS, Naperville Ill).

“It takes Calvin a little time to get going,” said his coach Jason Aubrey. “But once he gets going, he is hard to stop.”

That statement was proven true in the 200, which Aubrey thinks is his best race. He ran 21.80 in the prelims. In the finals, he was by himself at 150 meters as he won in 21.69 over Dantrell Wright (South HS, Plainfield Ill).