Boys Track: Minooka set to go distanceMinooka's Dan Popek (left) takes the hand-off from Joey Santillo during the 3,200-meter relay at the Plainfield North Boys Track and Field Sectional. | Ray Luna ~ For Sun-Times Media
When it comes to big meets, the 3,200-meter relay team from Minooka is up to the challenge.
The foursome of Danny Bahret, Joey Santillo, Dan Popek and Joe McAsey won the Class 3A state title last year with a strong kick from McAsey to edge Barrington at the finish.
Although McAsey and Bahret graduated, the Indians showed they’re still among the elite as Alex Pierce and Elliot Johnson joined Santillo and Popek to win the Class 3A 3,200 relay Saturday at the Illinois Prep Top Times Classic.
“We have a lot of depth in the running events and return a lot of experienced runners,” coach Joe Urbelis said. “Our strong cross country team provides us with a lot of good distance runners who can run in several different events.”
As the track season moves outdoors, Minooka and all teams will look for their times to gradually improve. The Indians won the 3,200 relay state title last year in 7 minutes, 43.42 seconds, compared with 8:00.27 on Saturday.
Plainfield North’s Jaclyn Aremka proved she’s ready for another strong outdoor season by clearing 5 feet, 6 inches in the high jump to win the 3A title at the Top Times meet.
Teammate Cessily Jones improved to a runner-up finish in the 55 meters (6.95) after taking fifth last year (7.08). Jones also took second in the 200 (24.40).
Plainfield South’s Mitch Wolff (55 hurdles) and Minooka’s Tevin Hopkins (400 meters) also finished second.
Kim Sedlock, the new girls coach at Seneca after four years as an assistant, turned to senior Alyssa Applebee for some input on new uniforms and warm-ups.
“I can go to Alyssa for anything — ‘Look at this, read this, let’s order stuff,’ ” Sedlock said of her only senior. “I’ve gone to her for a lot. She picked out our new uniforms.”
Applebee claims the new uniforms are “way better” because “they’re not yellow.”
“They’re green and they say ‘Seneca Track & Field,’ and ‘Irish’ on the back,” she said.
“We’re not going to be bananas,” Sedlock said, referring to the team’s old uniforms.
Old uniform or new, Applebee will be busy again this season. She was the Class 1A state pole vault champion last year and took fifth in the 100-meter hurdles and eighth in the triple jump.
“That makes a huge impression on our track program,” Sedlock said. “We have kids now who never ran. They’re like ‘Wow, we could start off small and build on that.’ It makes people believers in the track program.”
Applebee will attend the University of Missouri on a full track scholarship.
“She’s been a leader for everybody,” Sedlock said. “She’s the role model for all of the track team. We have a young track team. It’s really impressive as to what they’re going to see in her.”
The BFS (Bigger-Faster-Stronger) program in the physical education classes is part of the reason for Sedlock’s optimism.
“It’s basically weightlifting every other day and training in the offseason, staying active physically,” Sedlock said of the program. “I have high hopes. I really see us doing far beyond what we did last year at state.”
The girls meet Tuesday at Joliet Central will feature speed and endurance as top sprinters Kim Azie and Kym Taylor, of Bolingbrook, join distance running standouts Megan O’Brien and Stefanie Sanders, of Lockport, in SouthWest Suburban Blue competition.
Circle the dates
The recent warm weather may have some athletes and coaches thinking about a trip to Charleston for the state meet at Eastern Illinois University. The girls state finals are May 17 to 19 and the boys state meet is May 24 to 26.