Every year, during the dead period, I do a lot of thinking and wondering as to what is to come. I cannot possibly know the future, but it's fun to think about upcoming workouts, trips to various invitationals, and traditions we have had for years. The traditions are 19 years in the making with us entering our 20th year as a program. Some have evolved in the last couple years, while others have been with us since our beginning.
It all started when Neuqua Valley opened in the fall of 1997 on the Southside of Naperville with freshmen and sophomores. After being named head coach in April of that year, I was excited to get a summer program up and 'running'. Despite all my efforts, we had 9 guys in our summer program. For some reason, I never felt defeated despite having only one guy attend a summer session in mid July. We now have well over 400 young men and women in our summer programs of track & field and xc.
That fall, I managed to recruit 14 more guys, and Jim Dickerson, a former runner I partially coached at Peoria Notre Dame, joined us as a volunteer assistant. Simply put, we got smoked that first year. Despite me visiting Mr. Newton at York and copying his workouts, organizing parents, writing a pre-season booklet, etc., we got our butts handed to us - at the frosh/soph level!
The next year, it got worse, for we now competed at the varsity level. However, we started a tradition of a summer overnight camp, increased our numbers, and our guys worked harder than the summer before. At the end of that season, I wrote them a letter. I Tweeted this out a little while ago - https://twitter.com/PVsteen/status/758020536937185280
In that letter, I asked them about how good they were going to be. After that season, I believed that we would eventually be good, but I quickly realized that my definition of 'being good' was more about embracing the process and focusing on having fun. It took until 2007, but I began to realize that me wedging a mini bus into the underground garage at the Pere Marquette hotel, playing the Wink game at our Oregon camp, watching our 78th man win the handicapped race, and jumping into the lake at the Culver Invitational, was far more important than any place or time. When I see Chris Derrick, we don't talk about running. We instead talk a little politics, discuss how good the NY Jets will be, and cite Mike Ruff quotes. Yes, we may talk about how he told Kevin Grady that he was his f*(&^ hero after the State meet in 2007, but we rarely talk about times or places.
Luckily, I have record of those memories thanks to an idea I stole from Mr. Newton. In our post season booklet, I post the Memorable Moments of that season. It is at the beginning of every booklet. When I pick up one of those booklets, that's where I go first and spend the majority of my time. I read those memories and laugh. I cherish those experiences and I know the guys do too.
This past summer, was no different in creating memories. We had another good summer of training that involved our traditional prediction race, the 5k under the lights, and our Oregon team camp. In fact, we had a record number of 67 guys attend our Oregon camp despite having a relatively small senior class. We may have had the best overall Led Zeppelin Hill Workout in our history. If we can match the energy of that workout, in developing a strong team bond, this season will be full of memories that last a lifetime. After all, it was September of 2007 when we were ranked #1 in the State. After I wrecked the mini bus and took out the water supply at the hotel, Mike Ruff said, "Coach, I don't care if we win the State meet this year, I will remember this over that". When I see the 2007 team, guess what they talk about? Mike Ruff was exactly right.
The IHSA State Track and Field Meet is an event where you can rarely predict what is going to happen. The weather can be rainy, sunny, windy or all of the above. The time schedule can be shifted more than once. Basically, you always need to be ready to compete. That is where Neuqua Valley Track and Field shines. We may not always come out on top, but we prize our competitiveness above all else when get to a meet. This past weekend, our team tied for 8th Place and scored ahead of some great teams in what was an intense team race.
Day 1 – State Preliminaries
With storms pushing the field events inside and the meet to a running schedule, Neuqua Valley stepped onto the track for our first event of the preliminaries, the 4 x 800 m relay. The team of Josh Mollway (Jr.), Connor Horn (Sr.), Matt Milostan (Jr.) and Danny Winek (So.) ran strong for a total time of 7:54.42, a mark which was only .3 seconds and one place away from making it to the State Finals. We return three of these athletes next year and they are already hungry to compete again. After having Horn run the 4 x 800 m, we made the decision to scratch him from the 1600 m so that he would be more fresh for the 3200 m on Day 2.
In the 800 m, Isaiah Robinson (Jr.) would take 4th Place in his heat with a time of 1:54.42 to advance to the State Final as Tyler Hughes (Sr.) was warming up in the High Jump. Hughes would attempt to clear 6’ 4” as his opening height to recreate the magic of the Sectional Meet, but came up short. In the Discus, Tom Cwiok (Sr.) easily qualified for the State Final with a throw of 170’ 8”.
Our sprint relays showed some flash on Day 1 with the 4 x 200 m relay team of Dan Gaynes (Sr.), JaQuere Williams (Jr.), Kevin Sager (Sr.) and Ryan Lukas (Sr.) running 1:27.37. The team won their heat by over a second and were headed to the State Finals automatically. The 4 x 400 m relay team of Isaiah Robinson (Jr.), Dan Gaynes (Sr.), Kevin Sager (Sr.) and JaQuere Williams (Jr.) would run away with their heat, winning by nearly 5 seconds and qualify for the State Finals.
The Triple Jump took quite a bit of time with only one indoor runway, but McKenzie Mitchell (So.) kept his cool and jumped 43’ 4.25”. While it was not enough to make Day 2, Mitchell would have broken the indoor record in the Frosh-Soph Triple Jump if this were not considered an outdoor meet. With State Meet experience under his belt, Mitchell is another athlete that is ready to return.
After the first day of competition, we had 5 events competing in the State Final and in one event, the 3200 m, we had 2 athletes competing. We were off to a great start!
Day 2 - State Finals
The State Final saw strong winds and another chance of thunderstorms that caused meet officials to put the meet on a rolling schedule right from the start. Scott Anderson (Jr.) would start us off in Heat 1 of the 3200 m. The pace was unexpectedly slow and Anderson took 3rd in his heat with a time of 9:36.01 to finish 15th. In Heat 2 of the 3200 m, Connor Horn (Sr.) would run smart in a tactical race by making a move with just over 800 m to go and kicking hard in the last lap. Horn would finish 5th with a time of 9:15.51, earning All-State Honors. Horn put in such an effort that he spent some time after the race recovering with some ice bags packed around him.
The field in the 800 m was one of the toughest of all of the events and Isaiah Robinson (Jr.) got out strong from the gun to get right to the front of the pack. The race shifted back and forth and Robinson put up a good fight and with a strong move in the last 150 m to take 9th and a place on the All-State podium.
In the Discus, Tom Cwiok (Sr.) continued his streak of strong throws with a mark of 170’ 9”. This was enough for 8th Place and All-State Honors. Cwiok became only the third Neuqua Valley athlete to be named All-State in the Discus.
The 4 x 200 m relay of Dan Gaynes (Sr.), JaQuere Williams (Jr.), Kevin Sager (Sr.) and Ryan Lukas (Sr.) would amaze everyone with their fast splits and near perfect exchanges. As the baton came into Lukas’ hand, he charged hard to keep our lead over Minooka and to catch and pass East Saint Louis Sr., capturing the State Title with a school record time of 1:26.72! This mark is just outside the top 20 times ever run in this event.
Returning most of the 4 x 200 m relay team for the 4 x 400 m relay, the team of Isaiah Robinson (Jr.), Dan Gaynes (Sr.), Kevin Sager (Sr.) and JaQuere Williams (Jr.) were ready for the final running event of the day. Robinson led off with a strong leg and charged hard until the baton was in Gaynes’ hand. Gaynes would take over and run a 48.3 split to pull us into a slight lead. Sager would continue the pattern with a sub-49 second leg and a strong move in the last 150 m to keep us close to East Saint Louis Sr., who had run 3:15.97 earlier this season. Williams would take the baton as East Saint Louis Sr. took over the lead. However, on the backstretch, Williams responded and brought us back into first, fighting hard until the last stretch when East Saint Louis Sr. took the win. Williams ran a courageous sub-49 split as he fought to keep our lead. In the end, we would take 2nd, be named All-State and destroy our school record by nearly a second with time of 3:16.00. This time is ranked 13th in State Meet history!
The 4 x 200 m and 4 x 400 m relays are a great testament to our strength as a team and our competitiveness. No one thought we could keep up with the likes of East Saint Louis Sr. and Minooka, but we did.
Thank you to all of the fans that came out to support us! As we look toward next year, the road to the State Meet begins again tomorrow!
With the nearly full moon overlooking last Thursday night, the Neuqua Valley Sectional Meet began our final push toward the State Championship. As the only place where athletes can qualify for the State Meet, everyone knew that they needed to bring their best efforts. Neuqua Valley showed that we could compete with the best teams in the State with a 2nd place finish to a strong Minooka team by only 8 points.
The field events were underway early and with the best flight of the High Jump going first, the bar was quickly at the 6’ 3” qualifying height. To the amazement of many, Tyler Hughes (Sr.) would begin at this height even though his outdoor season best was only 5’ 11”. Hughes’ first attempt showed great promise and was well over the bar but knocked it off with his legs. The second attempt was not very strong but after working up the crowd, Hughes cleared 6’ 3” on his third attempt, leaving a steady, but wobbling bar behind him, taking 2nd place and becoming our first State Qualifier of the night.
In the Long Jump, Ife Oketona (So.) and Chris Muoghalu (Sr.) would both post up personal best marks and came within inches of qualifying. Oketona would finish 3rd with a jump of 21’ 6.5” and Muoghalu would finish 4th with a jump of 21’ 5”. This was the first time that Muoghalu had competed in the Long Jump this season! Look for big marks to come from Oketona in the upcoming years.
Later in the night, Neuqua Valley would continue to score big in the Triple Jump. McKenzie Mitchell (So.) and Fikayo Akinbo (Jr.) would place 2nd and 3rd respectively to put 14 points on the board. In the finals, Mitchell would break his own Frosh-Soph school record to jump 44’ 2” and qualify for the State Meet both on place and mark. Akinbo was only 6 inches from qualifying as well.
In the throws, Tom Cwiok (Sr.) threw 173’ 10” in the Discus to become Sectional Champion, qualify for the State Meet and break one of our oldest school records. The previous record was set in 2001 by Babatunde “OJ” Oshinowo, an athlete that would go on to play Football at Stanford and in the NFL. In the Shot Put, Tom Cwiok and AJ Cwiok (Jr.) double scored by placing 3rd and 6th with marks of 52’ 6” and 48’ 11”. Unfortunately, Tom’s mark of 52’ 6” was 2 inches shy of the State Qualifying Mark.
The running events began with the 4 x 800 m relay. Representing Neuqua Valley was the team of Caleb Ferguson (Sr.), Matt Milostan (Jr.), Danny Winek (So.) and Josh Mollway (Jr.). After three strong legs, including sub 2:00 performances for Milostan and Winek, we were in the lead. Soren Knudsen from Minooka would eventually catch us on the last leg despite a 1:58 split from Mollway. Regardless, the team would finish 2nd with a time of 7:54.81 and qualify for the State Meet with a season best time.
Connor Horn (Sr.) and Scott Anderson (Jr.) would be the next to qualify for the State Meet with strong runs in the 3200 m. After a rather controlled first mile, Horn pulled away from the pack and Anderson followed suit. The pair would see Horn as Sectional Champion in a time of 9:18.91 and Anderson as Sectional Runner-Up in a time of 9:22.77. This pair of distance runners is poised to perform well next week. Later in the evening, Horn would also qualify for the State Meet in the 1600 m by taking 4th with a time of 4:21.33.
While not State Qualifiers or Sectional Medalists, Ryan Dierking (Sr.) and Donovan Turner (Fr.) posted incredible personal bests in the 110 m High Hurdles with marks of 16.40 and 16.20. These marks are nearly one second faster than their previous bests and with Turner being a Freshman, we know that we have a bright future in this event. In the 300 m Intermediate Hurdles, Dierking ran an outstanding race and became a Sectional Medalist by taking 6th place in a time of 41.20.
In the 800 m, Isaiah Robinson (Jr.) took the pace out quick and was challenged in the second lap by Ottowa’s Seamus McGettigan and Plainfield South’s All-State 800 m runner John Partee. Robinson would charge hard to the finish to regain 2nd place with a mark of 1:54.92, which is a personal best. Patrick Wolak (Sr.) would also have a personal best with a time of 2:01.07.
In the spirit of redemption, our 4 x 200 m relay team of Dan Gaynes (Sr.), JaQuere Williams (Jr.), Kevin Sager (Sr.) and Ryan Lukas (Sr.) set out to erase the memory of an unfortunate dropped baton in the 4 x 100 m relay with incredible effort in the 4 x 200 m relay. The quartet had smooth exchanges and fast splits which totaled to 1:27.16 taking 2nd place. This time was .01 seconds away from our school record, was the fastest non-State Meet performance in team history and was easily under the State Qualifying Mark of 1:29.34.
Our 400 m runners had an outstanding night. In the open 400 m, Tanner Karbonik (Sr.) ran 51.52 and Josh Krajacic (So.) ran 52.49. While these marks are not fast enough to qualify for the State Meet, they represent large improvements on personal bests for both athletes. Given that Karbonik broke his leg earlier in the season and Krajacic was out for part of the season doing therapy on his hamstring, these are impressive accomplishments. In the last race of the evening, the 4 x 400 m relay team of Isaiah Robinson (Jr.), Kevin Sager (Sr.), Dan Gaynes (Sr.) and JaQuere Williams (Jr.) would battle with Minooka. Both teams would qualify in the end with amazing marks. Neuqua Valley would take 2nd with a time of 3:18.35, which is one of the fastest non-State Meet performances in team history.
Based on the initial seeds, Minooka should have run away with the team competition. However, for most of the meet, we were actually leading and the final score showed how strong of a team that we have. Congratulations to Minooka for taking the Sectional Title and now we move on to the State Championship where we have qualified 10 entries in 9 events.
Thank you to all of the parents and athletes that helped to make this meet a success by volunteering their time. Thank you to our Athletic Director, Barb Barrows, the Athletic Department and our Grounds Crew for the work that they put in behind the scenes to provide an environment where the athletes from all of the schools could be given the best chance possible to qualify for the State Meet.
At the DuPage Valley Outdoor Conference Championships on Friday, it seemed like the deck was stacked against us. In the previous 25 years, only Wheaton North and Wheaton Warrenville South had been team Conference Champions and it looked like it was going to stay that way for this year. With our Prom on the same night, our lineup was missing Seniors in key events and it looked like we were not going to have enough points to pull off a championship. Throw in the forecast of rain and you have a perfect storm. However, one challenge that the coaches made to our team was to simply compete. If we competed to the best of our ability, we could look ourselves in the mirror and know that we had done our best. We did just that. When the final scores were tallied, a weakened Neuqua Valley Varsity team stole the conference title through great efforts and a “never say quit” attitude. The Varsity squad scored 116 points to beat second place Wheaton North by 18. The Frosh-Soph team came in a close 3rd, with Wheaton Warrenville South scoring 109, Wheaton North scoring 105 and Neuqua Valley scoring 102.
Points started to roll in early with the 4 x 800 m relays. Alex Johnson (So.), Dakota Getty (So.), Michael Madiol (Fr.) and Tyler Bombacino (So.) pulled away from the Frosh-Soph competition after two legs and crossed the line in a time of 8:31.32, putting 10 points on the board. The Varsity squad of Aidan Livingston (Sr.), Matt Milostan (Jr.), Josh Mollway (Jr.) and Caleb “Josh” Ferguson (Sr.) put together nearly identical splits to finish first with a time of 8:02.25, which is the fastest time of the season for this event.
The relay success continued with the Varsity 4 x 100 m relay of Myles Gascon (So.), JaQuere Williams (Jr.), Kevin Sager (Sr.) and Ryan Lukas (Sr.). This team put together solid exchanges and a strong finish from Lukas to finish 2nd with a time of 42.58, which is better than the State Qualifying Mark.
The 3200 m would prove our distance depth and post 18 points on the board at both levels. In the Frosh-Soph race, Ryan Kennedy (So.) and Zach Kinne (Fr.) took out the race fast and came through the first mile in 4:44. During the second mile, Kennedy pulled away in the last lap for the win and broke the Frosh-Soph DVC record by nearly 8 seconds with a time of 9:32.94. Kinne would finish second with a time of 9:45.77. Both of these marks are some of the fastest in team history for a Freshman and Sophomore and Kinne was only 5 seconds away from the breaking the conference record himself. At the Varsity level, Patrick Wolak (Sr.) took the lead early in the race and powered through the laps to a Conference Championship with a personal best time of 9:37.85. Dominic Dina (Sr.) held strong in 2nd place until the last lap when two runners passed him. Always being someone to pull through for the team, Dina surged during the last 200 m to recapture 2nd place and the sweep of the 3200 m.
The short sprints would come next with with the 110 m High Hurdles. Donovan Turner (Fr.) took 5th place in his first Frosh-Soph conference meet with a time of 17.60. Look for Donovan to make great progress in this event in the future. With his foot bothering him after the 4 x 100 m, Myles Gascon (So.) pulled through in the Varsity 100 m for 6th place in a time of 11.39 and a point on the board. The sprinters would continue to score points in the Frosh-Soph 4 x 200 m with the team of Kaden Smith (Fr.), Jordan Matthews (Fr.), Jake Priser (Fr.) and Alex Xiong (So.) taking 4th with a season best mark of 1:37.96. Our Varsity 4 x 200 m team was not able to race because we were missing so many athletes from Prom.
The Frosh-Soph 800 m saw the emergence of Danny Winek (So.) as an strong 800 m runner. Breaking the 2:00 barrier with a time of 1:59.71, Danny would easily capture the Conference Championship and be one of our overall fastest 800 m runners in the meet. Dakota Getty (So.) placed 6th with a time of 2:10.20 only a short time after running the 4 x 800 m. Without a seed mark in the Varsity 800 m, Connor Horn (Sr.) would need to push himself in the slow heat and so he did. Horn ran 1:58.47 which was good enough for 2nd place. In the fast heat, Isaiah Robinson (Jr.) ran a very smart first lap to gap the field only to continue to pull away on the second lap for the win in a time of 1:55.07. After the race, Robinson said “I don’t even feel tired.”
The long sprints began with the Frosh-Soph 400 m dash, where Joe Hanneman (So.) took 5th in a personal best time of 53.97. The Varsity level 400 m showed a fast back half race from JaQuere Williams (Jr.) to take 3rd against a strong field in a time of 49.72. Kevin Sager (Sr.) took 6th with a mark of 50.78. In the Frosh-Soph 300 m Intermediate Hurdles, the duo of Michael Dy (So.) and Will Allen (So.) would take 4th place and 5th place respectively with marks of 44.14 and 44.28.
Returning to the distance events with the Frosh-Soph 1600 m, Tyler Bombacino (So.) and Alex Johnson (So.) would return after racing in the 4 x 800 m to double score. Bombacino easily won the race by nearly 9 seconds in 4:35.05 and Johnson would show that he has developed a kick as he battled a group of other runners to take 5th in 4:45.95. Both of these times are personal bests. In the Varsity 1600 m, Connor Horn (Sr.) and Scott Anderson (Jr.) would be challenged by Riley Miller from Waubonsie Valley. Despite a pain in his abdomen and having run the 800 m, Horn would kick in the last 100 m to become Conference Champion in a time of 4:21.81. Anderson would hold a strong 3rd place with a time of 4:22.88. With Horn and Anderson putting 16 more points on the Varsity side, it was becoming obvious that we could win this meet.
The Varsity 200 m dash saw JaQuere Williams completing part 3 of the 4 part “JaQuere Special” where he would run the 4 x 100 m, the 400 m, the 200 m and the 4 x 400 m. JaQuere took 3rd in the 200 m with a time of 22.78. JaQuere’s ability and willingness to run four events for his team in the Conference Meet reminds us of Prince Riley, the only other Neuqua Valley athlete to pull off such a feat.
The running events ended with the 4 x 400 m and with a lack of athletes, we knew that anyone could be put into this relay. At the Frosh-Soph level, we combined sprinters and distance runners to put together the team of Josh Krajcic (So.), Ryan Kennedy (So.), Kaden Smith (Fr.) and Danny Winek (So.). Even after a tough day of competing in the rain, the team took 4th with a season best time of 3:42.42. The Varsity level had a number of athletes getting ready for the race before we finally decided on Isaiah Robison (Jr.), Josh Mollway (Jr.), Kevin Sager (Sr.) and JaQuere Williams (Jr.). Sager was not originally in the lineup but insisted on a chance at redemption after the 200 m. The team ran 3:27.80 for 2nd place and another 8 points.
We had some younger athletes put up some solid marks in the horizontal jumps despite the rain. Ife Oketona (So.) and McKenzie Mitchell (So.) placed 2nd and 3rd in the Frosh-Soph Long Jump with marks of 20’ 9” and 20’ 7.5” respectively. Mitchell would also win the Frosh-Soph Triple Jump with a mark of 43’ 2”. This mark would be the best Neuqua Valley Triple Jump mark of the day and a personal best for Mitchell. Darren Huang (So.) would take 4th in the Frosh-Soph Triple Jump with a personal best mark of 41’ 1.75”. The Varsity Triple Jump would see Fikayo Akinbo (Jr.) and Nicholas Beatty (Jr.) take 2nd and 4th places with marks of 42’ 6.25” and 40’ 9.5” for 12 more Varsity points. Our future in the horizontal jumps is very promising.
The vertical jumps were moved indoors due to the rain and despite some difficulties in the High Jump with running over two different surfaces, our young high jumpers did very well. Ife Oketona (So.) and Sam Rogers (So.) both jumped 5’ 5” in the Frosh-Soph High Jump to take 4th and 6th place respectively. Jared Malcolm (Fr.) was jumping at the Varsity level and while he did not place in a scoring position, he also jumped 5’ 5”, which was a personal best. In the Pole Vault, Ryan Demas (Jr.) jumped 12’ 1”, which was good enough to score in 5th place.
Our throwing twins Tom Cwiok (Sr.) and AJ Cwiok (Sr.) were able to get in their throws between Prom pictures and getting to the dance. Tom took 3rd place in the discus with a throw of 168’ 8” and 5th place in the Shot Put with a throw of 49’ 2.5”. AJ threw 154’ 9” in the discus for 5th place. Together, the Cwiok twins scored as much as a winning an event.
This meet showed that if we are focused, trust the training and just compete, good things can happen. Our team has faced adversities all season and has still come out on top. The same can happen this week at the IHSA Sectional Meet as our athletes try to qualify for the State Meet.
The weather has rarely been on our side this season and this was certainly evident at the Red Ribbon Classic at Waubonsie Valley this past Saturday. The cold, rain and the wind combined to produce a situation which was not conducive to putting up great marks. However, the coaches know that this type of weather could be present at the Conference, Sectional or State Meets, so we prepared our athletes to compete in the weather. We told them to dress for the worst, not worry about marks, and just compete. The result was a Neuqua Valley team that was cold and wet, but still competed to the best of our ability. While other teams were leaving during the meet, we showed our mental toughness and captured the Red Ribbon title on both levels. The Frosh-Soph team won the meet by 31 points and the Varsity team won by an incredible 61.5 points!
Field events suffer the most in the rain with slippery surfaces that hamper technique. However, our athletes persevered. Mckenzie Mitchell (So.) cleaned up in the horizontal jumps by taking 1st place in both the Frosh-Soph Long Jump and Triple Jump with marks of 18’ 4” and 38’ 11.25” respectively. Darren Huang (So.) took 2nd place in the Frosh-Soph Triple Jump, helping us to score 18 points in that event. Despite having some issues with his knee, Ife Oketona (So.) was able to take 4th place in the High Jump with a mark of 5’ 4”.
The Cwiok twins continued their success in the throws by double scoring in both the Shot Put and the Discus. Tom Cwiok (Sr.) put up throws of 48’ 8” in the Shot Put and 154’ 0” in the Discus for two 3rd places. AJ Cwiok (Sr.) took 4th in the Shot Put and 5th in the Discus with marks of 46’ 9” and 135’ 6”.
As the running events began, the rain and wind started to pick up. The Frosh-Soph 4 x 800 m relay team of Chris Keeley (Fr.), DJ Sauer (So.), Dakota Getty (So.) and Matt Jett (Fr.) pushed hard through the rain for a time of 9:03.13 and 3rd place. Aidan Livingston (Sr.) gave us a strong start in the Varsity 4 x 800 m relay with a 2:01 split. Austin Kinne (Sr.), Dominic Dina (Sr.), and Patrick Wolak (Sr.) finished up the race with 4th place against some strong teams in a time of 8:20.18.
We saw Homewood-Flossmoor earlier this season and knew that they would have some top relays. To see our 4 x 100 m relay team of Myles Gascon (So.), Kevin Sager (Sr.), Dan Gaynes (Sr.) and Ryan Lukas (Sr.) come within .08 seconds of a team that is ranked Top 10 in the State was an impressive sight. In the anchor position, Lukas showed his ability to chase and to run full speed for a long time as he nearly caught Homewood-Flossmoor’s anchor. Lukas would do the same thing later in the meet in the 4 x 200 m relay of Myles Gascon (So.), Michael Duy (Sr.), Josh Covarrubias (Jr.) and Ryan Lukas (Sr.) to come from behind and win the relay in a time of 1:34.49. It seems that Ryan Lukas has “figured it out”! The Frosh-Soph 4 x 200 m would also have an impressive finish as they won the meet from slow heat in a time of 1:40.99. Kaden Smith (Fr.), Jordan Matthews (Fr.), Jake Priser (Fr.) and Alex Xiong (So.) raced against the clock and themselves to capture the win.
Lake Central’s coaching staff revealed to us that they travelled to this meet from Indiana because they wanted to compete against our distance squad. Our distance squad made the trip worth it with some great races between our two teams. In the 3200 m, Tyler Bombacino (So.) and Alex Johnson (So) would secure personal bests and a 2-5 finish with marks of 9:55.77 and 10:09.63. On the Varsity side, Josh Mollway (Jr.) would take over the race with less than two laps to go for the win in a time of 9:42.07. Caleb Ferugson (Sr.) was nipped at the line and took 3rd with a personal best of 9:43.48. This distance domination would continue with the Frosh-Soph 800 m where Danny Winek (So.) would take the lead from the gun and never relinquish it, crossing the line in 2:03.07. Ryan Kennedy (So.) would charge in the last 200 m to take second in a time of 2:05.65 and secure another 18 points. In the Varsity 800 m, Matt Milostan (Jr.) ran a strong race to run 2:03.52 for 3rd place. Milostan is returning to form with some solid races lately. The distance events would conclude the the 1600 m where Zach Kinne (Fr.) would jump to the lead immediately and would easily win with a mark of 4:43.01. Connor Horn (Sr.) would do the same in the Varsity 1600 m and would run 4:24.75. Both Kinne and Horn’s marks are far more impressive than they sound considering the conditions and the fact that they ran by themselves.
Back on the sprinting side of the meet, we showed some great progress. David Alvarado (Fr.) and Dan Gaynes (Sr.) would win the Frosh-Soph and Varsity 100 m dash races with times of 12.07 and 11.47 respectively. This is a rare event for any team. In the 400 m dash, Joe Hanneman (So.) would take 2nd by .01 seconds with a mark of 56.00 even though he was not feeling well after coming back from an illness. Isaiah Robinson (Jr.) and JaQuere Williams (Jr.) would score another event sweep in the Varsity 400 m dash with a 1-2 finish and marks of 50.64 and 51.74. My guess is that our 400 m times could have been 1.5 seconds faster on a nice day. In the 300 m Intermediate Hurdles, Will Allen (So.) would take 4th at the Frosh-Soph level with a time of 46.73, as the puddles grew larger on the track. Ryan Dierking (Sr.) would take 3rd at the Varsity level with a time of 44.05. After their 100 m and 400 m successes, Alvarado and Hanneman would go 1-2 in the 200 m dash near the end of the meet with marks of 25.20 and 25.89. By the time that the 200 m began, we were one of the last teams that was still competing!
As the final event stepped onto the track, everyone was cold, wet and fairly miserable, but Neuqua Valley was still competing well. So many teams had left by this time that the 4 x 400 m relay would be reduced to one heat with the Frosh-Soph and Varsity combined. Our Varsity team of JaQuere Williams (Jr.), Ryan Lukas (Sr.), Tanner Karbonik (Sr.) and Isaiah Robinson (Jr.) would easily win with a time of 3:39.91. Our Frosh-Soph team of Kaden Smith (Fr.), Ryan Kennedy (So.), Will Allen (So.) and Danny Winek (So.) would take 1st place at the Frosh-Soph level, but ended up beating some Varsity teams.
This meet showed that we are capable of doing something special if we put our mind to it. We saw a rough day through to the end and this experience will serve us well as we move to our next big meet, the DVC Conference Championship.
In Track and Field, sometimes history repeats itself. For some reason, the night of the Bob Cohoon Invitational at Downers Grove South is cold. We warned our athletes that it would start out seeming like a nice night, but by the end of the night, they would need to be prepared for the arctic. This past Friday night was no different. History also repeated itself in our team place. Both this year and last year we took 3rd out of a field of 16 tough teams. When you consider that we took 2nd in the State last year, this puts the challenge of this meet into perspective.
The finals began with the 4 x 800 m relay team of Josh Mollway (Jr.), Caleb Ferguson (Sr.), Dominic Dina (Sr.) and Matt Milostan (Jr.) stepping up alongside a strong field. Josh Mollway led off with a first time sub 2:00 leg, which was followed by Caleb Ferguson’s leg bringing us into the lead. Dominic Dina ran a personal best leg to keep us in the race and Matt Milostan gave a large effort to secure 4th place in a time of 8:07.99 against some quick anchors.
Myles Gascon (So.), Kevin Sager (Sr.), Dan Gaynes (Sr.) and Chris Muoghalu (Sr.) charged ahead to a 4th place finish in the 4 x 100 m relay with a mark of 43.72 despite some awkward exchanges. Our short sprinters continue to improve with Chris Muoghalu taking 6th place in the 100 m dash later in the meet with a mark of 11.23. Myles Gascon would run 11.25 in the prelims, showing how close this race would be. Congratulations to Josh Eiker (Sr.) from Galesburg for his meet records in both the 100 m and 200 m with marks of 10.48 and an amazing 20.83 respectively.
The 3200 m at the Bob Cohoon Invitational is always an event that draws some of the top distance runners in the State. Nostalgia set in as the meet record was announced to be held by Neuqua Valley alumnus Chris Derrick in a time of 8:48.9. Connor Horn (Sr.) and Scott Anderson (Jr.) would represent Neuqua Valley. The race went out for the first mile at a tactical pace given the wind and cold, but quickly ramped up in the second mile where Connor Horn took over the lead and Scott Anderson continued to move up in place. The race would come down to kick between Horn and Oak Park-River Forest’s Junior Irwin Loud. Loud would take the race with Horn taking 2nd in a time of 9:15.56. Scott Anderson would take 5th in a time of 9:21.28.
The 800 m would also feature a tactical race given the conditions and Isaiah Robinson (Jr.) positioned himself perfectly from the gun and through the first lap. Robinson ran a strong second lap to take second in a season best open time of 1:57.03. Our long sprinters also continued to score points in the 400 m with JaQuere Williams (Sr.) taking 4th in the 400 m dash with a time of 50.66.
Aidan Livingston (Sr.) and Patrick Wolak (Sr.) would take up the 1600 m race against many of the same distance runners from the 3200 m. After three strong laps, Livingston made a strong move with Wolak following behind. Both runners would secure personal bests with Livingston taking 5th with a mark of 4:26.66 and Wolak taking 7th with a mark of 4:28.17.
Our throwing continues to be a source of success with Tom Cwiok (Sr.) and AJ Cwiok (Sr.) scoring 18 points between them in the Shot Put and Discus. The duo took 2nd and 3rd in the Discus with Tom putting up a mark of 167’ 6” and AJ throwing 155’ 6”. Tom also placed 4th in the Shot Put with a throw of 52’ 3.25”. We rounded out our field event points with Nick Beatty (Jr.) taking 3rd place in the Triple Jump with a jump of 41’ 9.5”. Beatty’s solid performance came on the heels of his surprise participation in the 4 x 200 m relay.
Our final event of the night was one we hoped would punctuate the meet in just the right way and our 4 x 400 m team of Isaiah Robinson (Jr.), Dan Gaynes (Sr.), Kevin Sager (Sr.) and JaQuere Williams (Jr.) did not disappoint. Robinson started us out strong pulling us within striking distance of the lead only to have Gaynes take over the top spot in his first Invitational 400 m. Sager and Williams ran strong to further extend our lead and capture the win in a time of 3:22.64.
Thanks to all of the athletes, parents and fans that came out to support the Varsity squad at this meet with our annual “tailgate”! Also, thank you to the anonymous parents for providing food for the entire team!
Next week we have our last invitational meet at Waubonsie Valley with their Red Ribbon Invitational.
A week ago, our meet in Illinois was cancelled due to cold weather. Only one week later at the Metea Valley Invitational, the weather was warm with little wind and our team was ready for the outdoor season. The team scores showed as much with our Varsity team winning the meet with 140 points, nearly doubling Plainfield North’s 2nd place score of 73. The young but determined Frosh-Soph squad took 3rd in a relatively close battle with Wheaton-Warrenville South and Plainfield North who took 1st and 2nd respectively.
With the field events in full swing and the preliminary sprint events finishing, we began the meet finals with the Frosh-Soph 3200 m. Coach Vandersteen would call this event “The best Frosh-Soph 3200 m in school history” as Danny Winek (So.), Ryan Kennedy (So.) and Zach Kinne (Fr.) all were entered with marks under 10:00. Winek and Kennedy were together at the front for the entire race and finished with a 64 second last 400 m with Winek grabbing the top spot at the line with marks of 9:44.06 and 9:44.22 for the pair. Kinne took 4th with a time of 10:03.38.
Moving into the 4 x 800 m, our Varsity team of Connor Horn (Sr.), Scott Anderson (Jr.), Josh Mollway (Jr.) and Isaiah Robinson (Jr.) put some of our best 3200 m runners with our 800 m runners for a group that ran away from the field early with Horn’s 1:58.4 first leg, leaving the team well out in front for the rest of the race. As Robinson took the baton, the race was really a solo time trial and Robinson pulled in for the win with a 1:57.8 anchor leg.
Our sprint crew would now take over for the 4 x 100 m relay. The team of David Alvarado (Fr.), Joe Hanneman (So.), Jordan Matthews (Fr.) and Alex Xiong (So.) took 3rd with a mark of 46.60. Alvarado’s strong opening leg was a sign of things to come, as later in the meet he would win the Frosh-Soph 100 m with a mark of 11.95. Our Varsity team of Myles Gascon (So.), Jacob Sampson (Sr.), Kevin Sager (Sr.) and Chris Muoghalu (Sr.) ran 43.34 for 4th, but was able to better our time from the Arcadia meet.
It was back to the distance events for the Varsity 3200 m. Jack Sebok from Plainfield North came in with the best seed time by a large margin but the trio of Patrick Wolak (Sr.), Jackson Jett (Jr.) and Dominic Dina (Sr.) went out with him for the first few laps. As the race progressed, Sebok pulled away from our team until Wolak surged to the front of the chase pack and began to close the gap between himself and Sebok. Wolak’s efforts were enough for a 2nd place finish and a 7 second personal best with a mark of 9:43.02. Jett took 4th with a personal best time of 9:49.93.
The 800 m featured a strong field from Neuqua Valley and in the Frosh-Soph race, Tyler Bombacino (So.) took the lead from the gun and never looked back, taking the win in a time of 2:04.38. Alex Johnson (So.) would add to the point total with a personal best time of 2:09.21. The Varsity race featured a group of athletes from all schools that finished in a bunched up pack as they came down the final stretch, but it was a set of strong kicks from Alan Poe (Jr.) and Caleb Ferguson (Sr.) to secure 2nd and 3rd places respectively with marks of 2:02.37 and 2:02.50.
The incredibly strong field of the 4 x 200 m featured Plainfield North and Plainfield East, both of which tied for 3rd place at the State Meet last year. After we shuffled the relay around due to some athletes cramping up in the warmer weather, we landed on the lineup from Arcadia and bettered our time by nearly a second. The team of Myles Gascon (So.), Dan Gaynes (Sr.), Ryan Lukas (Sr.) and Chris Muoghalu (Sr.) ran 1:29.50, just .16 seconds from the State Qualifying Mark. This team is presently ranked 8th in 3A. Watching Dan Gaynes run in this race, it was no surprise that he would run 22.60 in the open 200 m to take 4th place out of the slower heat later that day.
Neuqua Valley has always had a strong tradition of 400 m runners and this meet showed out depth. With three of our athletes in the Varsity fast heat, our strength in this event was apparent. However, it was the emerging Joe Hanneman (So.) that started us out with a 54.51 time for 4th place in the in Frosh-Soph race. In the Varsity race, Isaiah Robinson (Jr.) and Kevin Sager (Sr.) went 2-3 with personal best open 400 m marks of 49.50 and 49.57 respectively. This means that we now have three athletes that have run under 50 seconds in the 400 m.
Earlier in the meet, Ryan Dierking secured a personal best in the 110 m High Hurdles but really made his mark in the 300 m Intermediate Hurdles at this meet. Running nearly a second faster than his personal best which was only set last Tuesday, Dierking took 3rd with a strong but smooth race and a mark of 41.44.
For our last distance event of the day, Matt Milostan (Jr.) took 3rd place with a 4:32.24 time in the 1600 m. This mark was a personal best for Milostan.
Throughout the meet, the field events were racking up point for our team. In the throws, we had a team first with the twins Tom Cwiok and AJ Cwiok taking 1st and 2nd place in both the Shot Put and the Discus. In our team history, this has never happened at an invitational meet. In both events, Tom took 1st but AJ was close behind. In the Shot Put, Tom threw 48’ 8.5” and AJ threw 48’ 2.5”. However, in the Discus, Tom threw 159’ 6”, which is past the State Qualifying Mark for the second meet in a row. AJ continues to throw near the mark as well with a throw of 147’ 3”. In the Frosh-Soph throws, Mark Thigpen (So.) took 4th place in the Discus with a throw of 113’ 9”. In the Pole Vault, Ryan Demas (Jr.) took 4th at the Varsity level with a mark of 10’ 7”.
Allowing us to enter three athletes per event at this meet proved to be a huge advantage for us in the Triple Jump where we scored three athletes at the Varsity level. Fikayo Akinbo (Jr.), Nicholas Beatty (Jr.) and Dan Gaynes (Sr.) took 2nd, 4th and 5th respectively with jumps of 42’ 8”, 42’ 4” and 42’ 3”. At the Frosh-Soph level, Mckenzie Mitchell (So.) took the win with a jump of 41’ 10” and Darren Huang (So.) took 3rd with a jump of 40’ 1”. In this meet alone, we had 5 athletes in the triple jump with a mark over 40 feet. In the next weeks to come, these athletes could surpass the State Qualifying Mark.
Rounding out the field events, Ife Oketona (So.) won the Frosh-Soph Long Jump with a mark of 20’ 1.5” while Dan Gaynes (Sr.) took 3rd at the Varsity level with mark of 21’ 5.5”. Throughout the day, Gaynes scored in two field events and two relays!
Complete meet results can be found at the website below.
Our next meet is a special one, the Bob Cahoon Invitational at Downers Grove South. This meet will be a Varsity only meet, but we have a tradition of tailgating at this meet. We are hoping to see our entire team at this meet to support the Varsity squad. A parent donation has made it possible for us to provide food and drinks for those that attend. In the past, we have had parents, athletes and alumni come out to support the team. One year, our fans lined up one entire curve of the track! We hope to see you there!
(Note: All references to State 3A Marks are from Dyestat Illinois and Athletic.net as of the publishing of this post.)
The 49th Annual Arcadia Invitational was one to remember. National records fell as usual, but two things were different. It rained on and off for three straight days in Arcadia, California, a town that normally receives next to no rain during this time of year, and Neuqua Valley sent the largest group ever from Illinois to the prestigious two-day meet.
The meet began with the Friday Night Relays, where they run some events that are not normally contested in high school meets as a fun way to kick off the event. Our 4 x 200 m relay team of Myles Gascon (So.), Dan Gaynes (Sr.), Ryan Lukas (Sr.) and Chris Muoghalu (Sr.) finished 3rd in the rated heat and are currently ranked 4th in 3A with a time of 1:30.42.
One of the ways to show the strength of a team is to compete in a medley relay where athletes run different distances. This certainly was the case in the 1600 m Sprint Medley (200 m-200 m-400 m-800m) relay of Kevin Sager (Sr.), Dan Gaynes (Sr.), JaQuere Williams (Jr.) and Isaiah Robinson (Jr.) who now have the leading time in 3A by almost 6 seconds with their 3rd place in the seeded heat and time of 3:29.64. Isaiah Robinson ran the anchor 800 m leg in a personal best 1:54.8, making him the 3rd fastest 800 m runner in school history and if compared to the open 3A lists, he would be ranked first in the State!
Our final event of Friday night was the 4 x 1600 m relay, an event to test the depth of the distance crew. Aidan Livingston (Sr.), Scott Anderson (Jr.), Patrick Wolak (Sr.) and Connor Horn (Sr.) turned in a near-record setting performance with a 9th place finish in the invitational heat and a mark of 17:37.54. The school record in this event is held by four of the members of the 2007 National Champion Cross Country Team including now professional athlete Chris Derrick. Connor Horn’s anchor leg was his best effort over 1600 m with a split of 4:14.992. This mark is less than one second off of Chris Derrick's school record of 4:14.36. Comparing this to both the open marks in the 1600 m and Mile, this mark would be ranked 2nd in 3A! Also, congratulations to Great Oaks High School’s relay which broke the national record in this event with an incredible time of 16:55.85, which is an average of 4:14 per leg!
Saturday morning saw the beginning of the more traditional meet and Neuqua’s sprinters were there for the 4 x 100 m relay. Coming in with a time of 43.41, Myles Gason (So.), Kevin Sager (Sr.), Dan Gaynes (Sr.) and Chris Muoghalu (Sr.) posted up the current 8th best time in 3A despite some handoff challenges. Shortly after the 4 x 100 m, Dan Gaynes headed over to the long jump to become our first ever field event athlete to compete at Arcadia.
As we moved into the afternoon, JaQuere Williams (Jr.) experimented with some new racing strategies in the 400 m dash, running 50.27 which is the presently the 4th best mark in 3A. Shortly after, Isaiah Robinson (Jr.) returned for his second 800 m of the meet and ran 1:58.50 in a tactical race. This effort from Robinson is ranked 3rd in 3A, which means that he ran two of the fastest marks for an Illinois athlete in two consecutive days.
The team of Patrick Wolak (Sr.), Ryan Lukas (Sr.), Aidan Livingston (Sr.) and Ryan Kennedy (So.) which have been dubbed by Milesplit Illinois as the “Young Guns”, took on the challenge of the Distance Medley relay (1200 m-400 m-800 m-1600 m). While not a well contested event in Illinois, these athletes now hold the top spot in the State in this event by almost 9 seconds!
One of the premier events in the Arcadia Invitational is the 3200 m. Athletes from around the country come to run fast times under the lights in the normally perfect weather. Despite some puddles on the track, the Neuqua Valley crew of Connor Horn (Sr.), Scott Anderson (Jr.) and Jake McEneaney (Jr.) stepped onto the track to post some great times. In Jake McEneaney’s first race back after injury, Jake toughed out a 9:37.34. Scott Anderson took over the lead of the rated heat and pushed the pace for a few laps before turning in a personal best of 9:15.24 which is good for the 4th best time in 3A. Connor Horn ran very tough in another tactical race in the seeded heat to run 9:09.72 which is a personal best and is the second fastest time presently in 3A. The announcer during this race correctly mentioned that this race was faster than most state finals.
The final race of the night was the invitational 4 x 400 m relay and the team of JaQuere Williams (Sr.), Isaiah Robinson (Jr.), Ryan Lukas (Sr.) and Kevin Sager (Sr.) finished up two days of competition for Neuqua Valley with a time of 3:23.39, good enough for 3rd in 3A.
This meet showed us that we could compete with some of the best teams in the country, but it also showed us that have quite a bit of work to do to get ready for the end of our season. It will be great to see the entire team back together again at the Metea Valley Invitational this weekend.
These workouts are for those athletes that will be out of town over spring break. Athletes that are in town may have different variations of these workouts. It is imperative that athletes continue to work out or they will peak shortly after the break and stop improving. If it is not possible to do these workouts exactly, try your best to get in something similar each day. For example, you may only be able to use a treadmill while you are away, so try your best to simulate this workout on the treadmill. Doing anything is better than taking the day off!
The NV Coaches can not express more the importance of doing some type of running workout over the break. Don't take the next 10 days off!