High-SchoolTrack-and-XC: Michael Clevenger



Charleston, Ill --- Michael Clevenger (MacArthur, Decatur Ill) was a soccer play his freshman year. He decided to go out for track that spring season.

“It’s hard to believe how far I have come in these four years. I had a decent junior high career, but it was never like training. I was just going to meets. I didn’t know what training was,” Clevenger said. “I thought other runners were playing other sports like I was. When I came to the state meet my freshman year, I was blown away how big track & field is in Illinois. I was oblivious to that.”

Clevenger entered the annuals of other Illinois distance greats that won the triple crown (cross country, 3200, 1600) in the same school year by winning both 3200 & 1600 in the 2A Boys state meet.

The extremely hot weather in Charleston may have contributed to Clevenger’s success in both races. The 3200 went out slow with Clevenger in a pack led by Jamison Dale (Jones College Prep), Will Brewster (Central, Grayslake Ill), and Marc Maton (Glenwood, Chatham Ill) through a slow 4:48.8 first 1600.

Michael Kouri (Notre Dame, Peoria Ill) took the lead for the next 400 but the paced slowed down to a 72 second lap. Clevenger and Dale started pushing on lap 7 with Brewster and Maton close in tow breaking away from the other runners. The bell went off and so did Clevenger. Brewster chased after him in the 200 but with no avail. Clevenger’s last 800 was 2:06.1, his last 400 58.9.

“The times were not great. The heat had something to do with that. What was I supposed to do? It was a matter at the end of who could run the fastest last 400,” he said. “When we went through the mile, it felt like tempo running and I was feeling really good. When I crossed the finish line, it was like phew, I got through that one.”

It set him up with not exerting a lot of energy for the 1600 three hours later. But the heat would not matter in this race. The pace was extremely slow with the lead pack of Sam Welbourne (Jerseyville, Jersey Ill), Clevenger, Dale, Brewster, 800 champ Luke Zygmunt (Central, Grayslake Ill), and Maton close by. Once again, the best runner with the closing 400 was going to win. And again, it was Clevenger. The MacArthur senior closed in a 56.4 400 meters with the Grayslake Central pair Brewster and Zygmunt next in line.

“I thought that if the 3200 was tougher, it would have made the 1600 much harder to come back in especially with the heat. The first half was so slow in the 1600. I felt pretty controlled until I started letting it go the last 300,” Clevenger said. “It’s unexplainable how I felt getting the 1600 for the first time. It felt like the first time all over again when I won my first state championship. It felt like it was the best conclusion to my high school career.”

Clevenger can now stand alongside Tom Graves, Donald Sage, Matt Withrow, and Sean McNamara as the only runners in Illinois to complete the triple crown in a single season.


The team completion was a little too close for comfort for Cahokia. The Comanches had clinched the title heading into an event they were heavily favored to win, the 4 x 400 Meter Relay. The lead was only one point over a competitive Glenbard South squad that gave Cahokia everything they had. Cahokia had two winners on this day.

Marlin Brady avenged last week’s sectional loss to Brandon Penrod (Triad, Troy Ill) to win the 400 Meter Dash by eleven hundredths of a second (48.67 – 48.78). Last year, Brady as a freshman finished fourth. “I’ve worked very hard over the last year. I deserve to win this,” the sophomore said. “I just couldn’t let my team down.”

Brady also led off Cahokia’s 4x4 team which held off a tough Burlington Central team to win by a second. Earlier in the meet, Burlington Central pulled off a surprise by winning the 4 x 800 Meter Relay over the favorite Comanches. In that, Central’s Clint Kliem received the baton from Joe Gannon with a two second lead. Kliem held off the charge from Cahokia’s Darren Payton to win by 3 seconds. Kliem’s split was 1:54.7.

“Everyone did their part. It was a nice effort,” Said Kliem. We knew they were going to be tough. Yesterday in the prelims, all of their (Cahokia’s) first quarters were in the 55 / 56 range. I knew I had to get out fast. When I got the baton, I thought don’t screw this up.”

Glenbard South also had two first place finishes. Wesley Sanders passed Cahokia’s Trey Story in the final 30 meters to capture the championship for the Raiders. 30 minutes later, Elven Walker took advantage of the misfortune of William Lindley (Peoria, Ill) to win the 300 Meter Intermediate Hurdles. Lindley had the lead heading over the final hurdle when he clipped it with his trail leg and hit the track. Walker took advantage for the win.

“My coach told me today to stay clean. To try to hit as less hurdles as possible,” Walker said. “When I was going over the ninth hurdle, I told myself to relax. I could see that his stride was starting to break down. A win is a win. I don’t care how I get it.”

The Jacksonville sprint crew may have been one of the surprises in the 2A meet. The sprinters accounted for 39 out of their 44 total points to nip Grayslake Central for the final trophy. The Crimsons started off their day lowering the record they set in the preliminaries running 41.67 for the win, more than a half a second ahead of Bremen.

Reggie Bratton got a great start and nipped Jamal McNeeley and Brian Carter (Kelvyn Park, Chicago Ill) with a 10.63 win. The first three places were only separated by six hundredths of a second. “This win is so good. It is so hard to explain,” Bratton said after his race.

McNeeley and Carter avenged their loss in the 200 Meter Dash running 1-2 with McNeeley’s 22.00 winning by three tenths over Carter and the Jacksonville duo of James Jackson and Nick Schippel.

Other news and notes:
  • When asking the competitors of the 2A Triple Jump if they knew who Devin Valentine (Freeport, Ill), everyone was honest and said, “No”. Valentine was thought to be a fluke even though he had the second longest jump in the event. By the time the event was over, everyone knew who the diminutive sophomore was. Pre meet favorite Chris Moore (Cahokia, Ill) took the lead in the finals with a jump of 47-4. Right after that came Valentine to retake the lead with a winning jump of 48-5.25. “My freshman year, I did not think I was going to be this good,” Valentine said. His best jump last year was only 41-6. “I came out here and it just happened. I really can’t explain it.”
  • The pace was just right for Luke Zygmunt (Central, Grayslake Ill). “I knew going into the 800 that some of the guys already had run the 4x8, so I think I had an advantage,” Zygmunt said. The Grayslake senior hung back and took over in the last 150 meters to hold off Darius Thomas (Macomb, Ill) for a 1:55.24 win. Darren Payton (Cahokia, Ill), who set the 2A record in the prelims, finished fifth. “Doing this is an amazing feeling because I’m the first runner from my school to bring home a state championship and score my team a lot of points.”
  • Spencer Allen (Mt. Vernon, Ill) took the lead over the third hurdle and charged ahead to a big win in the 100 Meter High Hurdles. Allen’s wind-aided time of 13.97 was the fastest final time of all three classes and was almost an amazing 3 quarters of a second ahead of Dion Starnes (Bremen, Midlothian Ill) and Elven Walker (Glenbard South, Glen Ellyn Ill).
  • Jon Walsh (North, Woodstock Ill) ended an improbable season by winning the Pole Vault clearing 15-6 and beating pre-meet favorites Tyler Ginger (Olympia, Stanford Ill) and Chad Weaver (Providence Catholic, New Lenox Ill). Defending champion Branden Carrel (Urbana, Ill) did not place not clearing his opening height of 14-3. A big step up for Walsh, who had a PR of 12-9 at the end of last season. “Today I felt great. Actually I did not and I barely made the finals clearing 14-0,” said Walsh. “I do not have words to explain how I feel right now.”
  • Jacob Kretchmer (Waterloo, Ill) had just cleared 6-8 on his first jump. He waited patiently as the two final athletes tried to clear the same height. After Alex King (Massac County, Metropolis Ill) and Mike Monroe (Providence Catholic, New Lenox Ill) missed on their third attempt, there was a shriek from beyond the fence by the high jump pit by Kretchmer’s mother. It was a scream of joy as her son captured the state title in 2A.
  • In the weight events, preliminary leaders Josh Augusta (Peoria, Ill) and Caleb Fricke (PORTA, Petersburg, Ill) held their leads to win state championships. Augusta, second last year in the Shot Put, won the event with an effort of 61-5 , nearly 5 feet ahead of Tyler Roche (Triad, Troy Ill). Fricke, who was the 1A runner up last year, stepped up a class and won with a throw of 188-2, the longest effort out of all three classes and setting a new 2A record. Jake Armbrust (Metamora, Ill) finished second. Defending champion Brendan Duncan (Waterloo, Ill) finished fourth.
  • Travon Diggins (Galesburg, Ill) held the lead that he had after the prelims to win the Long Jump (22-3) by one inch over Glynn Chatmon (Walther Lutheran, Melrose Park Ill).
Mac Melto of Northside Prep made it look so easy as he navigated the gentle turns of the Shirk Center track. But inside, he was more of a nervous wreck.

“All I want to do right now is fall down,” he said holding his head after the race. “I don’t like to tell people this, but if I were a 100 or 200 runner, my life would be fantastic. The 400 is so stressful, but that is one of the thing that pushes it over the edge. I get that adrenaline. I think about that race and when I hit that breakline, I knew I was not going to let a single person pass me.”

Melto’s race was impressive. He won by over a second and a half over Brendon Penrod of Troy Triad. His 49.25 time is the best 400 time indoors in the state. With that effort, he was named the Class AA Boys Athlete of the Meet during Saturday morning's session of the Illinois Prep Top Times Classic.

“Every expectation I had I broke,” he continued. If I was not sweating so hard, I would cry. But that will come later.”

One of his expectations was running against Cahokia 400 standouts Kenny Ball and Marlin Brady. “I was looking forward to racing against the,m as well as dreading it.” But Ball finished 18th and Brady was disqualified because of a lane violation. These three runners will get a chance to run each other again at the end of May in Charleston.

Highly-anticipated eight-lapper

Probably the most anticipated race on the 2A boys schedule for this meet was the 1600. Will Brewster of Grayslake Central had run 4:14 solo last week and all eyes were on him. Michael Clevenger of Decatur MacArthur has run some fast 1600s in the last two weeks and was looking for one more. Luke Zygmunt of Grayslake Central had finished 2nd to Clevenger outdoors last spring and was looking for a chance to race. Expectations were high. A fast time was on the docket considering the participants involved in this race.

Those expectations hit the floor of the Shirk Center like a thud. Zygmunt took the lead immediately and slowed the pace down. “That was our plan,” Zygmunt said after the race. “We have done that before working together.”

Part of that had to do with the fact that this was Brewster’s third race of the day. He had earlier run the 3200 and the 4 x 800. The pack covered the first 2 laps in 69 seconds.

The pace picked up a little as they passed the 800 in 2:15.

Jamison Dale of Jones College Prep surprised the pack in taking off right after the halfway point. Clevenger, Zygmunt, and Brewster followed suit. The four passed the 1200 in 3:17, a 62 400. Zygmunt tried to pass before the finish line, but Dale refused to give up the lead. Meanwhile, Clevenger was waiting to make his move.

Right before the bell lap, Zygmunt made his move, which Clevenger followed. Down the back stretch, Clevenger tried to pass Zygmunt, but that was not happening. On the curve, Clevenger reached down and found another gear. Clevenger crossed the finish in 4:16.35. Zygmunt was a second back. Clevenger had covered his last 200 in 28.7.

“I think racing against Garrett (Sweat) the last couple of weeks has helped me,” he said. “With that race experience, it has given me the opportunity to adjust to every type of race.”

More Highlights
  • Speaking of Brewster, he had a busy day on the track. He opened up with the 3,200. With 600 to go in the race, Brewster took command, running the final 3 laps in 1:35.3 to win with a PR of 9:19.67. K.J. Matuszak of Carmel finished second in a PR of 9:25.64. Marc Maton of Chatham-Glenwood also ran a PR finishing third in 9:28.94.
  • Joseph Jones of Plano looked like he injured his leg as he finished the prelims of the 55 hurdles. He shook off the pain as he headed to the finals. He took the lead from Spencer Allen of Mt. Vernon on the second hurdle and won in a then-state leading time of 7.42.
  • Jonathan Boey of Decatur MacArthur showed that he would be the man to beat in the short sprints this spring. Saturday, he won the 55 in 6.45, just one hundredth of a second off of his PR and the fastest in all three classes.
  • The closest race of the afternoon was in the 800. Darren Payton of Cahokia ran down Burlington Central’s Mike Gulik in the last 20 meters. It looked like it would be a photo finish as they crossed the finish line. And it was. Both were given the same time of 1:57.40. When they looked at the photo, it was Payton winning by seven-thousandths of a second.
  • It was not all bad for Gulik. Earlier in the afternoon, he was a part of Burlington Central’s winning 4 x 800. His teammate Clint Kleim ran a brilliant 1:56 anchor to give the Rockets a six-second win over Aurora Central Catholic. In the last event in the Class 2A schedule, Gulik anchored Burlington Central to a second place finish in the 4 x 400.
  • Chad Weaver of Providence Catholic was given a strong challenge from Stanford Olympia’s Tyler Ginger in the pole vault. It was Weaver’s 15-0 clearance that was the difference as Ginger cleared 14-6.
  • Derek Bunch of Mahomet-Seymour had not competed so far this season. In his first meet on Saturday, Bunch stamped himself as the favorite outdoors by winning the shot in a PR of 56-5.
  • Cahokia captured the two other relays of the day. They took command early in both the 4 x 2 and 4 x 4 relays and ran away with wins in both. Their 1:32.27 was more than a second ahead of a surprising Princeton quartet. Two 51.5 opening legs in the mile relay broke the Comanches away from the pack early as they won in 3:25.18.

This week in Illinois boys track & field

March, 21, 2012
There are sometimes where you search for things to write about. Last week, things were falling into my lap. Last weekend was the busiest weekend of the indoor season with schools participating in conference meets and some big down state invitationals. Some schools were chasing qualifying marks for this weekend’s IPTT Classic. Others were wrapping up their season and using the weekend’s meets as a building block for outdoors.

It was funny. As I was inputting the results into our database Saturday night, I leave my Facebook messenger on just in case a coach needs to contact me on something. Well, two athletes came on and asked me if I had seen the performance of a certain athlete from last weekend.

Here is the thing. I do appreciate the messages that I do receive. But there are sometimes I cannot write about everything that happened in the last week. For those things, I make a little note for hopes that I will use it in a future recap.

So guys, don’t be discouraged if I do not mention everyone who ran great in the last week. It is however heartwarming to see someone have a great performance and to see the jubilation that they have afterwards

~~ A fast mile north of the border ~~

This is the weekend where milers went wild throughout Illinois.

While I was watching the Mid Suburban League in Naperville, I received a message that Will Brewster of Grayslake Central had run 4:14 in a small invitational at Wisconsin-Parkside. I got home and no results were in my mailbox so it was a matter of contacting anyone I could to get those results up.

It was amazing to see the results and that Brewster had run this 4:14 1600 SOLO. No help with the pace. No one to push him. Second place in that race was his teammate Kevin Boyle, who ran a good 4:41. It will be interesting to see what Brewster will run with someone pushing him.

The story does not end there. As a freshman, Brewster finished 9th in the 2A State Meet in the 3200 Meter Run. The following winter, Brewster shattered his leg playing intramural basketball. His doctor told him he would never run the same way that he did. The doctor basically said that this was it.

Well, this young man from Grayslake is not running the same way that he did before the injury. He is running better. Through a ton of hard work, a stubbornness to not believe what the doctors were telling him, and the strength of his faith, Brewster has rebounded and now is one of the elite distance runners in the state.

It is a testimony of never giving up on your dreams or for the people who were his support group, never giving up on him. A good lesson today that maybe we should focus a little more on when we want to stop when the going gets rough.

~~ Some fast miles south of Chicago ~~

We have talked about the great 1600 that was turned in by Tyler Schneider of Conant at the MSL Invitational (read about it here). There was some great 1600 races at the Charleston in both the small school and large school meet. In both races, it was a matter of friendly rivals throwing down some fast times.

In the small school race, it was the first time that Grant Nykaza of Beecher and Steve Schroeder of Monticello had met since last November when Schroeder ran away with the 1A state title. Last Saturday, Nykaza went under 4:20 for the first time running 4:19.74 for a IL#7 time. Schroeder was close behind in second also running a PR of 4:21.00. It will be great to watch them race against each other when they return to Charleston in May.

This was the third time that Garrett Sweatt of Edwardsville and Michael Clevenger of Decatur MacArthur have raced this winter. Each race has been memorable. The race in the Lantz Fieldhouse was no exception and I guess the third time was the charm for Clevenger. Sweatt set the pace for the majority of the race. Clevenger just waited and waited, probably a little bit more than he has against Sweatt. It made the difference as Clevenger ran 4:16.81 with Sweatt a close 2nd in 4:17.65. Both times were PR’s indoors for Clevenger and Sweatt.

~~ Distance races gone crazy at MSL ~~

I think some fans were shocked by how fast the times were at the MSL Invitational last Saturday. While the meet was going on, former Schaumburg Head Coach and current Harper College Head Coach Jim Macnider summed it up as simply as he could. “Some of the MSL schools are not used to running on a big track. Some of the schools do not even have a track in our conference, “ said the Illinois Hall of Fame Coach. “So when they get to a big track like this, it is like boom…fast times.”

The times were extrodinary. How would you like to be Andrew LeTourneau of Rolling Meadows in the 3200 Meter Run. He ran in the “slow” section of the race and ran 9:38.54 to win his section. In any other year, it would have him placing in the top 3. On this day, it was only good for 8th. All together in that race, 20 runners made the Dyestat TFX Illinois Boards.

A note on the winner of that race Erik Peterson of Barrington. Before the race, his coach Ty Gorman said that he was running with a little chip on his shoulder. That chip came from a performance at last November’s state meet where he placed 8th, a little lower than he wanted.

Peterson has been a changed runner according to his coach. “You have to remember that Erik really did not start running until his sophomore year,” Gorman said. “Now, I see him running with more confidence. He has gained that through races and training.” You could see that in his race on Saturday. It was normal “Peterson fare” to wait until the last moment and kick in for the win. In the MSL 3200, he took control of the race after the 1600 and pushed the pace and refusing to let Anthony Gregorio of Palatine take it away from him. He still kicked, but this was more from strength.

Peterson is also relishing the chance to run the 3200 Meter Run in the state meet this year. Last spring because of the talent that the Broncos had in the 4x8, Peterson made the sacrifice and ran for his teammates instead of the race he loved.

“I kind of gave it up last year and I did not get a fair chance to run it,” Peterson said after his race at MSL. “I really only ran 9:20 and I wasn’t satisfied with that time. Hopefully I can get close to around 9:00.”

Early wish would be at Prospect. There, Peterson may run against Garrett Sweatt of Edwardsville. Last year, Sweatt did run at the Wanner Knights Invitational. It could be a fast race if these two got together before the state series.

~~ News and Notes ~~
  • How about Eric Gordon of Normal Community West! What a week he had. He won the Big 12 Indoor Meet at Bloomington on Tuesday vaulting to a personal best of 16’ 1”. He one upped that PR at Charleston last Saturday winning the Pole Vault in 16’ 2 ”. That vault took him to #6 in the nation indoors. He will have one last chance to better his indoor PR at the IPTT Classic this Saturday.
  • Oak Park-River Forest proved at the West Suburban-Silver Meet in Elmhurst that they should be a school to be watched at the state meet in May. The Huskies can score power points from Malachy Schrobilgen in the distances, Carl Heinz in the Triple and High Jumps. The big surprise for Coach Tim Hasso has been Evan Fisher. Normally a 400 meter runner, Fisher has stepped up to the 800 and now ranks among the state’s best in that event. Along with those three, Harrison Gay could score some points in either of the hurdle races and the Long Jump.
  • The one big surprise in the team chase in 2A could be Providence Catholic. They showed their strength by placing 2nd at the Chicago Catholic League Championships and have some quality individuals that could place high in Charleston in May. Chad Weaver remains one of the favorites in the Pole Vault. They should get great points in the dashes and the Long Jump from Troy Sheppard. The Providence relays should remain strong. They could also get points from Jessie Long in the weight events and Andrew Helmin in the hurdles. Put that all together and you could see the team coming back from Charleston with a trophy in May.
~~ This weekend ~~

It is the windup to a indoor season and with the way the weather has been, I am sure athletes are looking forward to racing on the outdoor ovals. There is some unfinished business in meets under the roof.
  • The big meet of the weekend is the Illinois Prep Top Times Classic at Illinois Wesleyan this Friday and Saturday. We will have previews up on our site late Thursday.
  • Great invitational action at Proviso West High School with the Pirate Indoor Classic on Saturday. Also look for the Bolingbrook Fast Times meet at Lewis University.
  • The outdoor action has already started around the St. Louis area. The Southwestern Illinois Relays will be held on Saturday at Edwardsville. Garrett Sweatt of Edwardsville is scheduled to compete at this meet.
~~ And finally… ~~

Yes, I am a greedy track fan who would like to see all off the top players at the Illinois Prep Top Times Meet. Even though I am a part of the meet, I more than understand some of the thinking of some of the coaches that choose to have their athletes compete at this weekend’s meet.

“It is a matter of philosophy,” said Wheaton-Warrenville South’s Girls Coach Rob Harvey. “We are on spring break this week and then we have a meet outdoors next weekend in Moline.” That is the same reasoning I have heard from other coaches. The main goal for their athletes is to have them ready to go in May for the state meet. This meet just does not fit into our training schedule are some of the reasons I have heard.

Am I bitter that these athletes will not be competing? Not at all.

For Garrett Sweatt, he may get some heat for not running against some of the best runners in the 1600 & the 3200 this weekend at Bloomington. Instead, he chose to start his outdoor season at a home invitational. “Garrett has never competed in this meet (SWIL Relays),” said Edwardsville Coach Chad Lakatos. “He wanted to run in this because it was his senior year and this was his last chance to do so.”

He has his priorities straight.

I do not think that there is a right or wrong philospophy on the approach to this weekend. Some coaches use it for athletes to get exposure in a big meet and to get them ready from that for May. I do think if your priority at the beginning of the year is to get to the IPTT Classic, well then it may be time to reevaluate. Use it as a stepping stone to get from point A to point B. Don’t make it the end all of you did not qualify for it. Think of the big picture and how you will achieve it. Do not get down because you are not on the track at the Shirk Center this weekend.

We should have some great competition there on all 3 levels this weekend. Hope to see some of you there.

~~ One important note ~~

Former Olympian and former Evanston T&F Coach Willie May recently underwent a heart transplant surgery in Minnesota. There have been complications with his recovery. Please keep Coach May and his family in your thoughts and prayers over the next week. I know it would be greatly appreciated.

Comments or questions? Send them to me at newman.dyestatIL@gmail.com.