JOLIET – The bright sun made everyone feel a little better on Saturday at Joliet Memorial Stadium as Minooka hosted their annual #SmithStrong Boys Track & Field Invitational, it was windy but better than last year when the meet was canceled because of the weather.
The meet is held in honor of former Minooka track and field athlete and coach Mark Smith, who passed away in November 2016 after a courageous battle against cancer.
Since we changed this meet to the current format of a Saturday meet, our vision as a coaching staff was to have one of the best meets in the state and also include the freshman/sophomore levels,” Minooka coach Nick Lundin said. “I believe we have accomplished what we set out to do as the fields are great in all events.
“I’m certain Mark [Smith] is looking down and is very happy where this meet has gone. We thought we would be coaching together forever and he was a big part of this meet. It’s great to keep his memory alive with this meet and it is truly a special day. There are so many people to thank who do so much behind the scenes that many don’t know about. It’s those volunteers who really make this meet work. Hopefully, we will be able to move this meet back home next season with a new facility at our school.”
The 17-team field represented some of the best track and field programs across the state, and when the day concluded Batavia won the varsity title with 93 points. Oak Park-River Forest, Huntley and Kaneland rounded out the top four, with Lockport and Plainfield South tied for sixth, Minooka ninth and Lincoln-Way Central 12th.
Minooka won the freshman/sophomore title, with Lockport grabbing the fourth spot.
The Porters received a win from Michael Walkosz in the 400 meters with a time of 50.68. And the junior also placed third in the 200 (22.99) and was part of the third place 400 relay (43.96).
“I could feel the wind coming around the final curve, but I just had to push through it,” Walkosz said. “I’m happy with where our training is at right now and our goal is to get our 1,600 relay back to state and place higher that last year when we took fourth.”
Lockport also had Kyle Langellier place second in the 100 (11.42), with a third from Ray Holland in the 110 hurdles (15.78); both were part of the 400 relay.
The Cougars lone victory was from Myles Lincoln in the triple jump (45-4), got a second place performance from Niko Schultz in the 400 (51.33) and thirds from Francis Richman in the shot put (50-3), the 4x800 relay (8:13.17) and the 4x400 relay (3:31.40).
“I’m happy with the day and our performance,” South coach Jason Crowe said. “This is one of the best invitationals in the state and we are proud to be a part of this meet. Minooka does a fantastic job of putting this on and a great way to honor Mark Smith.”
The host Indians got their lone title in the long jump as senior DaVonte Welcher leaped 21-8.5. They also received a fourth from Hector Ramos, Jr. in the 800 (2:04.38).
Central’s Jared Kreis continued his outstanding season in winning the 1,600 in 4:22.74. The junior lead from the start and pulled away the last lap for the victory.
“I don’t like to wait for the kick, so I’ll take the lead and go with it,” Kreis said. “These 1,600 races races really help with the speed endurance for the 3,200 meters at the end of the season. Once we get closer to the end of the season, then we will make the decision on which event or events to run at sectionals.”