The Chicago Public League had a great weekend at state… oh boy did they have a great weekend!
Let me first start out by start out by saying that the 2012 was great for the CPS. It was a joy to see so many emerging schools have outstanding squads and actually enjoy the sport. As well, some of the schools of the past (Dunbar) put themselves back on the track radar. It was only fitting that the competitiveness among us extend to the state championship in Charleston.
For so many years, the Public League was considered a doormat. I believe this claim was justified. There was a period in which no city team scored a single point at the state meet. It was just pure apathy.
I think somewhere along the line coaches, athletes, parents, and administration just stopped caring about the sport in Chicago. It didn’t help matters that the CPS automatic qualifier allowed failure to exist. But the moment of truth would soon change.
The IHSA ridded the CPS of their automatic qualifier in 2002. So now all teams are truly on the same playing field in getting to Charleston. Of course, there are pundits out there who grumbled and thought it was unfair because of other factors not related to running, jumping, or throwing.
At the end of the day, it comes down to coaches and athletes. If you have good coaches and athletes, then you can compete with the best no matter the circumstances are.
I am not naïve though. I realize that we have a long way to go to be taken serious as a threat state-wide. I know that we need facilities at more schools; better facilities at existing park districts. We also need better coaches and more training. We need improved communication and resources among coordinators and coaches too. I am aware of this and I am sure the “Chicago United” will continue to be motivated and strive for the sport and athletes.
The ‘New Golden Age’ of CPS is here-
I’m not sure if the CPS will ever get back to the days when they entertained multiple teams in the top 10. I don’t necessarily believe that facility issues are primary reason why either. I think it happens to do more with the era. The dynamics have changed permanently. The suburbs dominate the landscape- that includes resources and most anything else you want to name. Also, look for the charter schools to make more inroads against traditional public schools.
I believe that we will have one or two really good conference type teams sending a fair amount of talent to state with an opportunity to score points and conclude the season on a respectable note. But I also see that one or two teams with supreme talent despite low to average numbers really making noise in Charleston.
In effect, we are now in the age of Chicago United. We as CPS coaches, athletes, parents, and administration must continue to support one another when we get to state. It means a lot when your league is success as a whole. It fosters sportsmanship as well as competitiveness. When athletes see one of their own succeed they will believe they can do it as well. The leagues around the state support each other. The Mid-Suburban League (MSL) actually has an informal meeting of league coaches at the end of a particular season to celebrate their achievements. The powers that be just need to realize at the end of the day, most of the kids are friends off the playing fields anyway.
As for the performances as a whole, it goes without saying that the majority of them were outstanding. I mean the numbers that the league put up can be compared to any era. Let’s take a look at what happened over the two-day state championship series.
Dunbar makes the case as the best ever CPS sprint relay corps-
Coach Glenn Johnson’s Dunbar team put on a clinic in the two relays and 200m led by super sprinter Darvell Harris. The entire state got an opportunity to see the Mightymen go to work as soon as they stepped on the track. The 4x1 and 4x2 relays produced the fastest times in the prelims with 41.77 and 1:26.11 times. It is the fastest time that a Public team has ever run in the events. Harris later used the most of his opportunity to showcase his individual talent in the 200 when he scorched his foes; he equaled his own personal best and established a new state legal best 21.34 (-0.9).
The finals for Dunbar would basically be a repeat of Friday as the Mightymen (ho-hum) decisively won the short relay in unfriendly conditions- 41.92. It wasn’t the 95 F heat that prevented them from clocking much faster times, but more of a strong headwind that negated a possible 41.2-41.3 clocking. The wind could not stop the quartet from achieving another state best and establishing itself as of the best units ever to lace them up in the 4x2. The first three runners set up Harris nicely and allowed him to glide the final turn and slingshot down the homestretch to win in a deftly 1:26.01. The mark established itself as the 12th fastest time in the country. It also moved the four-some to IL#3 all-time and the best ever to come out of the city of Chicago. Harris completed the master plan by crushing the field and the much more heralded Kennedy Mayweather of Collinsville with a convincing 21.44 (-1.7).
Other top performances-
Dakarai Howard (Whitney Young) in the 400m. Howard established himself as the city’s most consistent long sprinter. He got into the final with a perceived school record 49.08. The standout senior followed it up with a 7th place finish 49.38.
Deshuan Jordan (Jr.) North Lawndale got the heartbreak 10th spot in the prelims 49.44. He ran a solid race and should be a factor in this event next season… his teammate Imani Payton (So.) ran a respectable 39.89 in his 300H prelim. Payton should among the state’s best long hurdler in 2013.
Morgan Park’s Stedman Foster (Sr.) just missed breaking the 50-second mark by going 50.03 in his prelim.
The 800 was fruitful in terms of respect. Logan Means (Jr.) of Whitney Young left Charleston with a wealth of confidence when he ran 1:57.33. He did not make the final but he copped the school record. Robert Rose (Sr.) Lincoln Park leaves as the school’s best runner despite a little off his personal best but still solid 2:00.23.
The 4x4 relays did not get the desired results that they wanted but still doesn’t have anything to be ashamed of. Whitney Young (3:22.70), Lane (3:24.31), North Lawndale (3:24.97) clocked numbers below their seasonal bests. However, five years ago, these numbers would have been thought impossible.
Kelvin Park duo shows off big time in Charleston-
The city of Chicago has been terrorized by Jamal McNeeley and Brian Carter over the past several years. Now, it would be time for the state of Illinois to get an improved version of them. The 2012 duo edition would leave the state championship as one of the best duos city or state.
McNeeley took second and Carter third in the 100 with 10.63 and 10.69 times respectively. McNeeley would produce the day’s 5th fastest time but the 3A winning time of 10.53 was severely aided by the wind. Tavaris Binion (Hinsdale South) took full advance of the +3.7 advantage opposed to the barely illegal +2.2 of McNeeley’s heat.
The 200m results would be even better. McNeeley wins in 22.00 (-1.9) and Carter assists in getting the event sweep in second (22.33). The Panthers wound up finishing 6th overall in the team standings scoring 33 points.
Jones covers the distance arena-
Kelvyn Park held the sprints hostage… it would be Jones’ turn to hold up the distance running spectrum. In Friday’s prelim round, the 4x800 relay ran extremely well without two of its guns. Jamison Dale (Jr.) and Timothy Warren (Sr.) did not compete with the 8:10.68 running Eagles. Let’s just say had they been on it, they would have made the final.
Dale would get his first chance to strut his stuff when he set a class meet record 4:15.97. Dale pulled away from Will Brewster of Grayslake on the bell lap in heat #2.
Dale returned Saturday to place third in the 3200 behind the state’s top distance runner Michael Clevenger (Sr., Decatur MacArthur). Dale battled all the way to the end until Clevenger and then Brewster pulled away. Dale’s time was 9:22.29. His teammate Luke O’Connor would put in a surge after 5 ½ laps and win section 1 in 9:33.34. O’Connor’s mark held up and he placed 5th overall.
Dale completed his excellent weekend with a 7th place finish in the 1600 (4:23.45). Once again Dale would push the pace while others lay idly by and allow him to do the dirty work. Dale will have a monster senior season.
Other top performances-
Fenger would strut their stuff like Dunbar in the sprint relays, but on a smaller scale. The Titans placed 4th in the 4x1 (42.79) and 7th in the 4x2 (1:30.01). Speedster Shavell Lucas anchored both relays.
Brooks had a banner day in their first big state championship. Junior Malik Lee placed 9th in the 800 (1:57.83)- just behind Jeffrey Rector (Sr., Roosevelt) in 8th. Lee would later return and assist him mates in placing 5th in the 4x4 (3:23.00).
The Lane Tech 4x800 journey-
The journey of winning the 4x8 has a long list of people who contributed to it. So much credit has to go to former assistant and distance coach Pat Sullivan. He is an alum who developed the middle-distance program in the early 2000s. When he moved on after 2005, I was asked to take his spot. I thank Coach Kris Roof for trusting me and having patience in getting us where we are now.
Believe it or not, we have set some very high goals for our team. Perhaps, some were a little high. I tended to believe early on that we had the makings great units. But this team was going to be special. It was set up but last year’s solid run in which we ran 7:58. We got to state and did not run well without David Timlin. The boys decided to re-dedicate themselves over the summer. They realized they needed to get tougher mentally and stronger physically. The cross country season went well along with a trip to state in November.
The indoor season saw us build up an incredible amount of confidence without our top gun Timlin who was out with a stress fracture. The boys ran 8:07.71 at Downers Grove South Mustang Relays to place 5th. I knew that we would get Timlin back for the Illinois Prep Top Times. It allowed us to run a few reserves in several big meet situations and get them big meet experience.
The IPTT went well as we kindly took third place in 8:00.68. It was Timlin’s first time back since February and he ran a masterful 1:54.6 anchor. The rest of the guys got the job done as well.
This season almost came to a halt at the Prospect Invite. Although we were able to run and finish second to Prospect, it came with a price. Timlin could not walk the next day. He apparently hurt his ankle miss-stepping coming out of a door. It was initially ruled as a stress fracture. The injury was later down-graded to a sprain.
The post-season was set up by a two-week break between city and the sectionals. The weather had a big part in times across the state. However, there were some teams running decent times not nothing eye-popping. As a coaching staff we were a bit concerned that we wouldn’t have an opportunity to get a standout performance before state run.
We decided to hold a 4x8 intra-squad meet on Friday May 11. We lined up most of the distance runners and allowed them to pick their teams. I picked the A varsity and top frosh-soph unit. The A-team would go with Marcelo Burbano, Kevin Perez, Lucas Beltran, and David Timlin. The frosh-soph team and four other units got a 100m lead on the “A.” The future unit of our program ran well and held off the A-team until the third exchange; they would run 8:27 with Jon Vara, David Schmieg, Pavlo Hutsalyuk, and Adalberto Aviles. The varsity four consisting of Burbano, Perez, Beltran, and Timlin ran 7:59.0- 2:02.5., 2:02.5, 1:59.0, 1:55.0. I believe we are ready to compete in the upcoming state series.
The sectionals are always a nervous time because anything can happen. One bad leg could cost the team a trip to state. We had some miscues during this season that I wasn’t proud of. Our transition running has been real bad at times. During the two-week bye period we went back to the basics, working on stick play and transition running. I made the boys do workouts with batons full-time to think relay all the time. Perez even had his own baton!! We got better in practice so let’s see.
Burbano was scheduled to lead off at sectionals. He was eager all week and ready once the day hit Thursday. He of course is not our fastest runner but he is our best starter and battles well. This is essential for a lead-off runner- an absolute must!
Burbano got out fast and surprisingly did not have any resistance after the first 200 of the race. He continued to pull away and come home to Perez in 1:58.3. Perez ran his best relay effort since last year’s sectional going 1:59.5. He brought it home to Beltran who essentially ran a solo effort 1:59.2. Timlin took to his anchor carry striding hard and hit the bell in around 6:50. He would come in 7:50.22. It was a new school record and all-time CPS record- as well as the state’s top time (at that moment). Everyone quickly enjoyed the moment and moved on.
The week of state building was the same as the other weeks. We kept our mid-range run together of 6-7 miles. We didn’t taper all the way down during state xc so there was wasn’t a reason to do so now. Besides, the boys like the runs. In our last workout on Wednesday, everyone looked so slick and sharp in doing the 150m build ups that we shut the workout down a little early.
State prelims were all busy. There was no time to joke around. We needed to make the final to satisfy our season. It is as simple as butter on bread.
Burbano agreed to lead off in the prelims. He wasted little time in settling down after a rough and tumble start. But he miscalculated the closing finish of the lead pack and fell behind. Once again the transition issues popped when Perez took the stick and then ran into a statue runner instead of weaving around. It was his fault. He has to know this. Although he fought well, we were in a big hole. I estimated like 9th or 10th when Timlin got the stick. It was a great call by Coach Roof to suggest that we run Timlin 3rd leg in the prelim because of nerves. He was correct.
Timlin had an important decision to make. Would he go all out to catch up or bid his time and see what kind of runner he is?
Timlin ran one of the most memorable legs in state prelim history. He appeared to play pick off. He caught one runner and then two, three, four. It was just less than 150m left that he completely sold out and caught the lead runner instead of settling for third place. The meet announcer acknowledged the feat and so did the crowd. His split was an amazing 1:51.9.
Beltran took off in full flight mode and held on to run 1:55.5 and get us to Saturday’s final. The finishing time was 7:46.92.
Saturday is the day we all have been waiting for. The entire 5-plus months of training and sacrifice comes down to one race, one moment in time. If we get last it wouldn’t have mattered. Oh ok, it would actually hurt quite a bit. But we established a major goal of making it to the state championship. But we are greedy now. We have to finish this thing out.
Burbano once again was summoned to lead us off. He has become a steady and trusty lead man. The now experienced Burbano got out well again. He stayed on the outside and ran in 9th position but less than a second off of the leaders. He faded near the end of his run but still logged a good 1:58.3.
Perez took flight immediately and free of trouble. He moved up to the lead pack before the first 200. KP stayed there until fading a bit with about 200 to go. Hinsdale Central and Niles North got to the third exchange first and moved hard.
Beltran got the stick and moved on the field. He surveyed the first lap and then bolted on the backstretch into the lead just before the 200 mark. Beltran continued to blaze despite falling off a bit. The most important thing is he will get Timlin the stick in better comforts.
The moment of truth has arrived for Timlin and the team. We have been coming up short all season in the big time meets. Timlin was out kicked by Niles North’s Aron Sebhat at IPTT despite bolting into the lead and gaping field. We lost another close one at Prospect.
Well, Timlin got the stick with probably a one-second deficit and it was off to the races. He decided to go and run his race and not play a tactical one. He moved in front of Sebhat and then Prospect’s anchor as well as Sandburg. He put on a nasty surge and made the field come and get him. He always felt that’s his way to run in a big meet. We have held him back enough he thought! Timlin hit the first 400 in 53.9 along with a 30m lead. On the backstretch it was beginning to get tense as Prospect faded but Sebhat was coming. Timlin was still holding on. It became evident with less than 50m from the finish that the dream of all dreams would be fulfilled. He crossed in first. The time of 7:47.42 was slower than the prelim mark but it did not matter at all. What matter is the four young men who dedicated themselves over the past several years to become quality athletes and to have fun, accomplished a feat once thought impossible for the Public League. They are now state champions of the 4x800 relay.
Tears of joy instantly streamed out as I hugged the North Lawndale coaches. I met the boys down on the infield. But it was their moment and later Coach Roof’s moment. It was and still is so surreal.
I don’t want this moment to go away. In less than a month, it will be time to go after 2013. We will be ready!