This week in Illinois boys track & field

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’ ½” 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 ¼” 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.