Boys Track: Niles West’s Neal Omar tracking down state’s best in 8004/20/2012 Niles
Niles West senior Terrence Bramlett competes in the shot put event during the annual Notre Dame Dons Relays at Notre Dame High School on Friday, April 20, 2012. | michael jarecki ~ for Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 24, 2012 7:12PM
Perhaps the most underrated event in track is the 800-meter run, which tests speed, stamina and an uncertain variable of jockeying for position in less than two minutes.
It’s not too short, but definitely long enough to ratchet up the drama.
Equally underrated is Niles West senior Neal Omar, a two-time state qualifier who may not be willing to take a back seat to Maine South rival Michal Filipczak any longer.
Filipczak finished the 800 in 1:56.3 to Omar’s runner-up 1:56.6 at last year’s CSL South meet. The Hawks’ star went on to place second in the 800 and fourth in the 1,600 at the state meet.
Omar, who set a school record of 1:55.17 during the Niles West Sectional in 2011, clocked a personal-best 1:52.2 anchor leg in the 3,200 relay at Homewood-Flossmoor on April 14. He nearly caught Filipczak during a 1,600 relay race in the indoor season.
“I want to make all-state, and maybe even win it,” said Omar, a member of the Wolves’ state-qualifying cross country team. “It’s a friendly rivalry with (Filipczak). We talk a lot at the meets. I have to credit (distance coach Mike Grossman). He’s helped me a lot with my running, and also with life lessons.”
Added Wolves coach Chris Vivone: “I still think Neal doesn’t know how good he can be. He has great potential to make the finals this time, and he can be good in college, too. He’s a really good kid. He just has to run smart races. If you get boxed in, you can’t push it.”
Niles West dominated Notre Dame’s frigid Dons Relays on Friday. Its 185 points were 96 better than runner-up St. Patrick in the nine-team field.
Among the winners was sophomore Matt Henry, in the 110 hurdles. Classmate Nick Johnson was right behind.
In the 400 relay ranks, junior James Williams, who is fighting a back ailment, is an all-conference performer. Three-sport athlete Anthony Underwood, a junior, is another accomplished returnee.
Senior co-captain Terrance Bramlett, who’s recovered from an early-season hip injury, has enormous potential to improve on last year’s third-place conference finish in discus and fourth in shot put. He’s heaving the shot over 50 feet, and the discus at 145, well beyond last year’s marks. Sophomore Dennis Gargovic is a promising, still-learning thrower.
Jordan Nianick switched from baseball to the oval and is off to an exciting start. The senior is already long-jumping in excess of 20 feet, and he’s become the third leg of the 400 relay.
“We’re strong in the middle distances,” Vivone said. “We’re not deep in the sprints, but we have talent there.”