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Wednesday, May 23, 2012
IHSA Boys 1A State Meet Team Preview: Leo Catholic looks to repeat in "new look" 1A

By Mike Newman

At the beginning of the season, Leo Catholic HS in Chicago did not look like they had enough talent back to defend their 1A state championship that they won in 2011. But, as we look at the contending teams for the 1A crown, there are the Lions in good position to take home another trophy.

There are schools that think they have the talent to take the title away from Leo. Monticello, St. Joseph-Ogden, Peoria Christian, and Aurora Christian all have the talent that could walk away from O’Brien Stadium with the championship trophy in hand.

It will be a close team battle.

Here is a look of what to watch for from the individual teams that we think have a shot to challenge for the state championship. They are listed by number of total qualifiers.

Monticello

Qualifiers: 9 Individual, 4 Relays – 13 Total

Outlook: The Sages enter the prelims in good shape to do some damage during the qualifying stages. Steve Schroeder, the 1A cross country champ, will do double duty where he will be the favorite in both the 3200 & 1600. You could also watch for him on Thursday possibly running in their 4 x 8 relay.

Monticello will depend on the distances to score points. Andrew Hanselman in the 3200 and Tim Easton in the 1600 could give much needed support to Schroeder. Also expect points in the 4 x8 and 4 x 4 relays. Watch for Sophomore Daniel Welling in the High Jump. The event is highly competitive. Welling could place in the top 5.

Pleasant Plains

Qualifiers: 9 Individual, 3 Relays – 12 Total

Outlook: It could be hit or miss for the Cardinals. They do have the quantity for the state meet, but a few of their athletes may need to step up to secure this team with a chance for a trophy. Most of the weight of this team will fall on multipurpose athlete George Wayda, who has qualified for 3 individual events. He will be one of the favorites in the 300 Intermediate hurdles and should place high in the High Hurdles.

The Cardinals could also get points in the distance races. Watch for Dan Plunkett in the 3200 and Matt Vermeersch in the 1600 to get some points in those events.

Leo Catholic

Qualifiers: 8 Individual, 3 Relays – 11 Total

Outlook: The Lions once again step up to the state meet as the favorite to defend their title, but will need a few things to happen. Leo will depend on two sprinters that they will have to rely on for points. Both Theodore Hopkins and Keith Harris Jr. are seeded high in both the 100 & 200 Meter Dashes. Both sprinters need to get through to the finals. They will also be a big part of the success in the 4 x 1 and 4 x 2 relays. Leo Catholic will be one of the favorites in both of these races.

The Lions will need to get points outside of these four events if they want to win. Expect a high place from Marlon Britton in the 110 High Hurdles and Hakeem Chatman in the Discus. If these two can place high, Leo could be heading back to Chicago with another state championship.

St. Joseph – Ogden

Qualifiers: 9 Individual, 2 Relays – 11 Total

Outlook: If this team is going to win a trophy at this meet, it will come down to the legs of Zeke Elkins. The senior is rated in the top 5 in the 800 Meter Run. He also will be coming back on short rest in the 400, where he has the fifth fastest sectional time. Weather will be very warm in Charleston this weekend and it will play a huge factor on him.

Elkins should also be a part of the 4 x 8 and 4 x 4 relays. Both will be in contention to win in this meet. Alex Arteaga could also score points in the 300 Intermediate Hurdles and the Pole Vault. The Spartans could also get some points from Dave Knipfer in the 1600.

Aurora Christian

Qualifiers: 8 Individual, 3 Relays – 11 Total

Outlook: The Eagles could sneak in to get a trophy in this new look 1A, but will need a few things go their way.  Billy Howorth will be towards the top in a loaded Pole Vault competition. He will need to get some big points there. Also look for Jonathan Harrell in the 400 Meter Dash. The sophomore is ranked 6th after sectional performances and could grab a top 3 place in this event.

Also watch for Aurora Christian in the 4x1, 4x2, and 4x4 relays, especially the 4x4. The Eagles have the fastest seed time in that race. If it comes down to the final event, this would put Aurora Christian in great shape to catch a trophy.

Winnebago

Qualifiers: 9 Individual, 2 Relays – 11 Total

Outlook: The Indians do not have the fire power that they have had in recent years in the sprints. This school, however, could sneak into the top 3 at this meet. Tay Shanklin has been out for the portion of the year with an injury. He is healthy as evidenced by a 21-10 Long Jump at Sectionals. Winnebago will also be strong in the Pole Vault hoping to get points from either Alex Finley or Max Bradfield.

Michael Jack could also score points in the Discus. The Indians will need to get both of their qualifying relays, the 4 x 1 and 4 x 2, into the Saturday finals.

Oregon

Qualifiers: 6 Individuals, 4 Relays – 10 Total

Outlook: The Hawks could sweep in and land with a top 3 trophy. They will need plenty to happen. Oregon qualified all 4 of their relays to Charleston. All are ranked in the top 10. If they could get all into the finals, it would be a great start.

Tommy McCormick has the fourth fastest time in the 400 and will be a favorite in that event. Senior Nick Jones will be a part of some of those relays. He will also be in the open 800, where he could snare a couple of points. Austin McCourt and Mark Schmidt both qualified in the Pole Vault. Both are in position to score some big points.

Lena-Winslow

Qualifiers: 7 Individuals, 2 Relays – 9 Total

Outlook: Not a lot has been heard from this small school in western Illinois. The Panthers could make some big noise this weekend in Charleston. There big points could come from sprinter Tevin Sellers. The junior came up big last week at the Winnebago Sectional where he won the 100 in 10.97, the third fastest sectional time in 1A. He will also be a part of the second fastest 4 x 1 sectional team that could win as well. Sellers also has the third fastest 400 Meter time. He could challenge for the win in that event.

The Panthers have only 1 field event qualifier. O’Shay Smith has the longest put in the Shot in 1A coming out of sectionals and will be heavily favored there. This team does not have much space for mistakes. If they are all on, they could upend Leo to capture the team title.

Newton

Qualifiers: 6 Individuals, 3 Relays – 9 Total

Outlook: The Eagles are another one of those teams that could make things uncomfortable for Leo Catholic. Newton could score some big points in the Pole Vault. Mitch Mammoser will enter the event as the favorite. Teammate Brandon Toliver-Goode will also be in the mix for a high finish as well.

Newton traditionally places high in the relays that it is entered in. This year will be no exception. The 4 x 2 relay, led by Ridge Finn, has the 2nd fastest time in the sectionals and could win here as well. All 3 relays need to get to the finals for this team to have a shot at a trophy.

Westmont

Qualifiers: 6 Individuals, 1 Relay – 7 Total

Outlook: The Sentinels could sneak into the top 5 in this meet, but will have to be clicking in every event entered. Sophomore Tim Doll has the fastest time in the 400 and will be one of the favorites in that race. Nate Novotna could score points also in the 3200. He has the fifth fastest sectional time.

Manlius Bureau Valley

Qualifiers: 6 Individuals, 1 Relay – 7 Total

Outlook: With the weather supposed to be sizzling this weekend, this squad could suffer. Adam Weidner should place high in both the Shot Put and the Discus. Derrick Johnson is entered in all three distance events, but with the way the weather will be, he will probably be in two. He could score high in either of those.

Peoria Christian

Qualifiers: 4 Individuals, 1 Relay – 5 Total

Outlook: In a meet where a low point total could win, this team could sneak in for a trophy. Success for this team revolves around one individual: Jonathan Hutchison. The senior is the defending champion in the 100 Meter Dash. He will also be in the mix in the 200 Meter Dash and will anchor their 4 x 1 relay, which has the fastest sectional time. They need three wins and they could bring a trophy back to Peoria.