High-SchoolTrack-and-XC: balmes

This week in Illinois boys track & field

March, 14, 2012
With this weekend coming up with a bevy full of big invitationals and conference meets, the week prior is not a time for big news. Last Friday when I was looking over the schedule of events, I was wondering what I was going to write about this week. Well, things happen and performances pop up that you did not expect. Let’s look at those that caught our eye from the past week.

~~ Freeman keeps going farther ~~

It caught everyone’s eye when Josh Freeman of Cary-Grove threw 60’ ” in the Shot Put at the Joe Scarpino Invitational on March 3. He did go over 57’ at a post season meet last July. So the skeptic in some thought that his performance at Buffalo Grove was a onetime shot.

Not so fast.

Freeman improved on his PR last Saturday putting the Shot 62’ 5” at a quad meet in Crystal Lake. Freeman now has a performance that is nearly 8 feet ahead of his closest competition, Perez Ford of Romeoville and Mark Balmes of Hersey. Right now, he is in a league of his own in this event. The question will be if there is anyone that will come close to him. He will compete at the IPTT Classic according to his coach Layne Holter.

Speaking of Ford, this is one versatile athlete. Last year in the outdoor season, Ford qualified for the state meet in both the 100 & 200 Meter Dash. He did have a 53’ performance in the Shot, but the consistency was not there with him finishing the season placing 6th at the Plainfield North Sectional.

Ford has upped his game this year and will be a threat in three events outdoors. Currently, he is tied for #2 in the state in the Shot Put and #3 in the 55 Meter Dash. He ran 6.49 last Sunday at the USATF Youth Championships in Bloomington.

Ford has signed with Northern Illinois University. Keep an eye on this athlete at the IPTT Classic and especially during the outdoor season.

~~ Gordon keeps going higher ~~

I was going to write about Eric Gordon of Normal Community West this week one way or the other. The idea of the little piece was detailing his progression of heights during this indoor season.

That changed after last night. Gordon won the Big 12 Indoor Conference Meet with a personal best clearance of 16’ 1”. The mark puts him currently #7 in the United States. It looked like he was motivated from the previous night’s performance of Brittany Hull of Normal Community. Hull achieved an Illinois Indoor all-time best of 13’ 0 ” in the Girls version of the meet. He could have also been motivated by the fact that at this meet last year, he did not win. In fact, he no heighted.

He keeps improving every week and is improving in stages if that makes any sense. His confidence is growing at the same time. He made 3 attempts at 16’ 5” last night. His first two were so-so. The last attempt was very good.

Normal West is scheduled to compete this weekend at the Charleston Invitational on the campus of Eastern Illinois University on Saturday. It is not known at this point if Gordon will compete there. We will see him in his own pit at the IPTT Classic on the 24th.

~~ This weekend ~~

This is the big weekend in Illinois track for meets under the roof. It is a shame we cannot move them outdoors with all the beautiful weather we have been getting.

We should great performances this weekend at the Gene Armer Invitational on the campus of the University of Illinois and the above mentioned Charleston Invitational. The Charleston meet is split to two classes, so we should see some great times on that 200 Meter oval. There will also be good meets this weekend at Sterling, Byron, and Galesburg.

The main concentration will be on the Chicago area and the conference meets that will be taking place there.

The West Suburban Silver Meet in Elmhurst should bring out some great times in the distances. Malachy Schrobilgen of Oak Park-River Forest has not run on a 200 meter oval this winter. Friday’s meet should be his first opportunity. He ran 4:22 for the 1600 on his home track, a 160 Meter track, and did it by himself. He should have some company with Mike Lederhouse of Glenbard West, Billy Clink and Nathan Mroz of York, and Kevin Proffitt of Downers Grove North pushing him in either the 1600 or the 3200. The field events should be hot as well. The #1 High Jumper in the state, Carl Heinz of Oak Park-River Forest, headlines the field in that event. Heinz should also compete in the Triple Jump and the Long Jump. The #1 Long Jumper in the state, Matt Harris of Lyons Township could go over 24’ on this fast York runway.

The Al B. Carius Track complex on the campus of North Central College should be busy this weekend. On Thursday, the Girls DuPage Valley Conference Meet will be held there. On Friday, the boy’s edition of the meet will take place. On Saturday, the Mid Suburban League Invitational will take center stage with both the boys and the girls competing at the same time. We could see some good performances in the distance events, especially the 4 x 800 Meter Relay.

~~ And finally… ~~

The one thing that I go through at this time of each year as the IPTT Classic comes upon us is coaching integrity in regards to turning in correct performances. I know it has been brought up to me by some of my coaching friends and I thought I would explore it today.

Having been involved in track for over 35 years now (gasp), I have gotten used to looking at a meet program and questioning some of the seed times. Back in the days when I was running, there were not the resources that we have now a days. So you would think, “When did he run that?” It has always been an “accepted” tradition by some of the coaches to “fudge” a time so their athlete can get in a faster heat. I can understand why that it is done, but morally it is not right. You get those races where the athlete is in over his head and does not perform as well. There are some cases where the athlete has not had the opportunity to compete in that event and the coach gives an estimation of the ability of the athlete. It is when we over estimate when we have the possibility of hurting the athlete.

I have been involved with keeping the leaderboards close to 6 years now in Illinois. My main goal is to get the performances on that board and make sure they are correct.

In the 2nd year I was involved in this, a coach from a school that I will not mention e-mailed me performances of some of his athletes and asked if they can be put on the board. I looked at it and questioned some of the names since I had not heard of some of the athletes. Fortunately for me (unfortunately for that coach), my dad was starting that meet that day and I had a friend who was coaching who had a team at that meet. I knew the track that they were on was 135 yards. So how can you have a 4x200 like this coach had turned in? I know that they ran a 4 x 1 lap relay. When I saw the actual results, I was shocked that the performances that were turned in were not even close to the actual. I let that coach know that.

I get those e-mails from parents asking if we can add their child, but I always like to see a link to the results before I add them. No link or no results and I really won't consider the request.

I did get an e-mail this morning from a coach who was questioning if his athlete should be that high on the board. He told me that there was a timing malfunction at that meet. He had timed his athlete and did not think that he was that fast. He did not think it was right that his athlete should get the recognition that others rightly deserved.

This coach gets it.

Then, I look at the entry sheet for the meet that we are hosting (the IPTT classic) and see that a coach had turned in some bogus times for his athletes hoping to get them into the meet. It is easy to check. Go to the TFX boards and compare the athletes to their actual performances and the turned in ones. Our accuracy rate is close to 95% on there. Yes, I do miss some meets, but there is always a coach that brings that to my attention.

What kind of message is this coach sending out?

I had an athlete earlier this year e-mail me the day after the meet saying that his time was not correct and that his performance should be included on that board. When I first looked at the e-mail I did question it. The athlete did send a video of his race. I was at that meet but I did not get a time on the athlete. I got my stopwatch out and timed the video. Ah, the joys of technology.

The athlete was correct. His time should have been what he said. I contacted the timing company. They looked over it and made the right correction.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that maybe some coaches that are out there turning in bogus performances take a look at this example made by this young man. He thought it was wrong that he was not on there and made a stand. It showed maturity in the athlete and the integrity that has been installed by his parents.

Is it right that a performance turned in that is wrong and an athlete undeserving of competing in an event gets to? What about the other athletes that are close…should they get that chance? That is why there are standards to get into the IPTT Classic and more importantly, the state meet.

It’s time to change Illinois coaches. Take the example that I showed above from this athlete. Do the right thing.

Note: The above thoughts are mine and not that of ESPNHS / Dyestat Illinois. Any questions or comments can be directed to me at newman.dyestatIL@gmail.com.

This week in Illinois boys track & field

March, 8, 2012
Most of the main action on the boy’s side of track in the state of Illinois headed to the college tracks last weekend. Some great meets were held in Carbondale, Jacksonville, Normal, Champaign, Romeoville, and Naperville that filled up the performance boards. So many stories to tell from these meets, but these are some of the things that caught my eye.

~~ News from the field ~~
  • I thought that perhaps the best story of the weekend out of all the field events might have started on that Friday night at the York Invitational with a great showdown between two of the state best Shot Putters Paul Golen of York and Mark Balmes of Hersey. Balmes came back to win 30 seconds after Golen took the lead. His throw at that point was tied for the state lead in the event. Less than 24 hours later, Josh Freeman of Cary-Grove cranked a put of 60’ 0.5” (US #9) at the Joe Scarpino Invitational in Buffalo Grove. What was thought to be a lackluster event after basically the top weightmen graduated has turned into a spirited affair. It will be fun to see the distances climb as the season progresses. But kudos to Balmes. Last fall, it was thought that Balmes would not compete in track following a knee injury during the football season. That perseverance that he had coming back from the injury will serve him well in the upcoming competitions of the season. It showed at York on Friday.
  • The Pole Vault was thought to be an event that might not be that great this year. Wrong. Eric Gordon of Normal Community West cleared a US#25 height of 15’ 6” in winning the Windy City Pole Vault Summit. Maybe the story of the season in this event is the emergence of Providence Junior Chad Weaver, who improved an incredible 15” in the matter of 48 hours in this event. It will be interesting to see these two go at it at the end of the month at the IPTT Classic in Bloomington.
  • In the past week, 2 top field eventers from the West Suburban Silver Conference climbed to #1 in their respective events. Last Friday, Carl Heinz of Oak Park-River Forest cleared a US #3 height of 6’ 11”. Matt Harris of Lyons Township last Tuesday jumped 23’ 8 ” (US #9) in a triangular in his home pit. Both will be challenged by a pair of Lake Park jumpers, Kevin Spejcher in the High Jump and Scott Filip in the Long Jump.
~~ Milers gone wild ~~

The last weekend popped out some great performances in the 1600. As of this publishing, there are 9 Illinois runners that are ranked in the top 100 in the United States in this event led by Jack Keelan of St. Ignatius who is ranked #17.
  • Keelan ran a smart an aggressive race last Sunday at the ICOPS Invitational in Romeoville. After cruising through the 800 in 2:11. He finished in 63/63 basically not kicking it in. It showed he had plenty left in his tank. Also watch for Nolan Dickson of Marmion who finished 2nd in the race running 4:22, which is a PR for this senior.
  • While most of the attention in central Illinois was at Champaign and the great race in the 1600 that Garrett Sweatt of Edwardsville and Michael Clevenger of Decatur MacArthur had, there was a great mile that happened at the ISU Invitational at Normal. Grayslake Central’s Will Brewster and Luke Zygmunt went 1-2 in the 1600 with Brewster running 4:20.94 and Zygmunt within a half second of his teammate. This was a significant race for Zygmunt who missed the state cross country meet last fall due to a leg injury that ended his season. He finished 2nd last spring in this event at state. He appears to be, along with Brewster, as two runners that could challenge Clevenger in May.
~~ This weekend ~~

Not the same amount of big meets that we saw last week as schools gear up for conference meet action next week. However, there are a few meets to take note of if you are out and about on Friday and Saturday.
  • If you are in Plainfield this weekend, you will have a choice of some good invitationals. Plainfield North will be holding an invitational while on the south side of town, Plainfield South will be holding their second invitational of the season.
  • Near St. Louis on the campus of Principia College, Edwardsville will be holding their second annual indoor invitational. There should be some great sprint competition with Edwardsville, Cahokia, and Belleville West going at it.
  • The SWSC will be holding their conference meets this weekend. The Blue Division will hold their meet at Bolingbrook and the Red Division will be at New Lenox. There will also be meets in western Illinois this weekend at Sterling and Byron.
~~ And finally ~~

Will this unseasonably warm weather give us faster time in the distances when we head outdoors?

When Garrett Sweatt ran that 9:07 at the end of February, a coach came up to me and asked if he would be able to keep that up until May? Should we ask the same question about Futsum Zeinesalassie after he ran 9:00 at the same time? Sure, Futsum’s resume backs up that performance, but we should not doubt what Sweatt is capable of this season.

I think we will see some faster times this year in the distances not only because of the weather, but through some wiser decisions made by both coaches and athletes.

Some coaches are not letting the weather effect the way they are coaching. Stick to the plan and reap the benefits when it comes to May. I know of one coach that has some good runners that will only run on a 200 meter track 3 times this indoor season. He is going to let them each of them run 1 800, 1 1600, and a 3200. It will give them some idea of what to look for outdoors. At the same time, limit the wear and tear of racing under the roof.

I look back at my past experience in track and can give you a good example. My junior year, I was excited to be racing indoors and my PR dropped. At the same time, I was resting before the big meets and not putting in a great base. When I got to outdoors, I paid the price and fizzled in May. I learned from that. MY indoor season my senior year was a matter of training through meets. I basically ran the same times that I did indoors my junior year, but when I got outdoors, my times dropped and I was more consistent.

I think Sweatt has learned as well. I do not know what he did last year, but he has taken advantage of the weather and is putting in more mileage which will lead to strength when he gets to the big meets of May. Last year, he did not have that strength at the state meet. Time will tell if this will pay off, but I think he is going in the right direction.

So take heart distance runners of Illinois. I hope you have taken advantage of this Illinois winter and pounded in the miles. You will benefit from it in May.

Friday’s York Boys Invitational in Elmhurst is known for the performances in the distance events.

The spotlight on the 2012 edition of this meet, however, belonged on the Shot Put circle. As the start of the running finals began on the track, a 3 man battle was developing between Nick Boesso of Glenbard South, Mark Balmes of Hersey, and Paul Golen of York. In the first 3 preliminary throws. Balmes cranked out a put of 53’ 5 ” on his 2nd effort. Meanwhile Golen and Boesso were battling for the second spot with Golen’s 51’ 5” put just 4 inches ahead of Boesso.

The finals started and that is when it got interesting. Boesso did not improve on his final three throws. Balmes and Golen had different plans.

Golen on his 4th round put improved to 52’ 11 1/2 “ to get within 6 inches of Balmes. Golen was improving each round while Balmes was looking to get the right put. The momentum appeared to be swinging to Golen’s favor.

Golen yelled out as he released his shot to the lead with a put of 53’ 6 ”. Within 30 seconds, Balmes entered the back of the ring and using his spin technique, heaved his shot 54’ 8 ”. Neither athlete improved in the final round. The Hersey senior left the competition area with the win and a state tying effort (with Perez Ford of Romeoville).

What was he thinking right after Golen took the lead? “I gotta throw a big throw right now,” he said reflecting on his effort. “I only had two more shots. There would be less pressure to get it that time than it would the last.”

Watch the full interview with Mark Balmes here.

Perhaps the most exciting distance race of the night was the 800 Meter Run. Dan Popek of Minooka, after leading for the first 400 and letting it slip away, rebounded in the last 50 meters to win by 9 one hundredths of a second over Josh Campos of Prospect. Andrew Clingermann of Palatine and York freshman Matt Plowman were close behind for 3rd and 4th.

“He told me after the race that he was a little guilty of looking at the heat sheets and seeing some of the seed times,” Minooka Coach Nick Lundin said afterwards. “He took the race too hard thinking that he would have it.”

It was impressive effort for the Minooka senior. 45 minutes earlier, he led off the 4x8 for Minooka with a 1:58.9 split to give them a one second lead over James Weaver and a talented Conant squad. On the second leg, Conant’s Jack Hutchison grabbed the lead on the last 200 meters of his leg, a lead that Conant would not surrender. Joe Sulentic and Tyler Schneider increased the lead for the Cougars as they won with a time of 8:11.24, a ten second seasonal improvement.

Schneider came back later in the evening in the 1600 Meter Run. He grabbed the lead after the 2nd lap and would not let go of it despite increased surges by York’s Billy Clink. Both runners went through the 1200 in 3:20. Clink tried to make a move on the back stretch, but Schnedier responded pulling away with a 3 second win over Clink.

“I just wanted to go out and take the lead. That’s the best way I race,” Schnedier said afterwards. “With about 3 laps to go, I just decided to go for it and kick it in.”

Watch the full interview with Tyler Schneider here.

Watch the full race here.

Jake Mazanke provided the biggest eye popping performance of the night in the 600 Meter Run. The St. Charles East senior who was a state finalist in the 800 last spring, went by the 400 in 53 seconds and cruised to a winning time of 1:22.38. The is a state best and ranks #25 in the US.

The pace went out slow for the 3200 Meter Run with Joey Santillo of Minooka leading at 4:51 at the half way point. Sophomore Nathan Mroz of York started to push the pace at that point, but could not shake Willowbrook’s Pat Niyork who stayed on Mroz’s shoulder. Niyork took off in the last 300 running the last 400 in 63 seconds to hold off a determined Mroz to win by 2 seconds.

“ The pace was actually pretty good and wejust started taking it out, taking it out,” the Willowbrook runner said afterwards. “No, in my mind I thought I had him (Mroz). So I took the chance and went all out the last lap.”

Watch the full interview with Pat Niyork here.

In the team battle, York came away with its own invitational championship over a talented Minooka squad. York won with only one event win, that from Nick Sgarbossa’s win in the Pole Vault. Minooka had a great meet with individual wins from Luke Stoval in the 200 Meter Dash, Tevin Hopkins in the 400 Meter Dash, Popek in the 800, and two relay wins in the 4 x 2 and the 4x4.

The only double winner of the evening was Conant’s Ben Bowers who won the High Jump (6’ 2”) and came back to win the 55 Meter High Hurdles (7.85).