Boys Track and Field: Bremen looks to end Hillcrest’s reignBremen High School relay runners Dion Starnes (left) and Torian Parks Tuesday, February 29, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 5, 2012 7:12PM
Bremen is coming off its best season in school history, but when competition starts this spring, it will be considered a conference dark horse against district rival Hillcrest in the South Suburban Blue.
“We respect Hillcrest, but we don’t always feel like they respect us,” returning state placer Dion Starnes said. “We feel like the underdog. This is our year to turn some heads and earn that respect.”
Hillcrest should take notice of the surging Braves, but you can’t blame them for not looking back. The Hawks won back-to-back state titles in 2009 and ’10 and have wrecked the conference like Godzilla wrecked Tokyo, capturing 15 of the past 16 league meets, with their lone blemish a 2005 loss to Tinley Park.
But Bremen sees itself a serious threat to the crown. The majority of athletes return for a team that produced a school record number of state qualifiers and finished 14th in Class 2A.
Starnes leads a blistering sprint relay that finished second and fourth at state in the 800- and 400-meter relays, respectively. He also finished fifth in the 110 high hurdles.
“Dion is amazing; a workhorse with tremendous talent. Everything he won he’s earned through hard work,” coach Matt Verble said. “Our sprinters are the strength of our team, but we have some young distance guys who should add to our depth.”
Juniors Torian Parks and Demetrius Shelton return to join Starnes on the sprint teams, and if their relays weren’t scary enough, Oklahoma University football recruit David Smith, arguably Bremen’s best athlete, will anchor the team after missing most of last season with a hamstring injury. He’s the do everything Swiss Army knife the team lacked a year ago.
“It was heartbreaking to sit out last year and watch these guys,” Smith said. “We’re all friends. I’m looking forward to a fun season.”
Verble anticipates using Smith in a variety of ways and points to the senior as a reason for excitement and improved expectations. Smith’s return bolsters the Braves entire lineup, as he can contend in almost any event needed.
“It’s a little bit like a chess match. We’ve got to mix and match and stack our guys in ways that will be successful for us,” Verble said. “Smith is going to be huge for us this year.”
As sophomores last season, Parks and Shelton weren’t exactly sure what to think heading into their first state meet. With the experience now under their belt, both are brimming with confidence and expecting big things.
“This is the year for us,” Parks said. “We want to win conference, sectionals and state.”
Charles Jideonwo, a state qualifier in the 400, is keen on the idea of ending Hillcrest’s conference reign. For Jideonwo, he wouldn’t be as confident if he hadn’t seen the team’s dedication since November.
“We got into the weight room the first Monday after our football season ended,” Jideonwo said. “We know this is going to be a big season for us, and we’re working hard to make it that way.”