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Boys track and field preview: Gordon headlines strong Wheaton North squad

Wheaton North

Coach: Don Helberg

Top returners:

Zach Gordon, sr. (jumps, sprints)

Marcus Charles, sr. (sprints)

Patrick Sharp, sr. (sprints, relays)

Dale Hollinger, sr. (pole vault)

Alex Ryan, sr. (mid. distance)

Paul Steeno, sr. (distance)

Jon Chapman, sr. (throws)

Micaiah Steele, sr. (mid. distance)

Matt Biegalski, jr. (hurdles, sprints)

Nehemiah Heckler, sr. (relays)

What to watch: The Falcons showcased their depth across all of the events with a dominant performance at the DuPage Valley Conference indoor meet. But Wheaton North is especially powerful in the sprints and relays.

“Sprints and relays are our biggest strong point because we have so much depth,” said coach Don Hellberg. “In the distance and field events, we will do fine but we are not as loaded as we are in the sprints and relays.”

Leading a veteran core is senior Zach Gordon, who is the defending Class 3A champion in the long jump.

Along with Gordon’s titles in the long jump and 55-meter dash at the DuPage Valley Conference indoor event, Wheaton North also swept all three relays. Additional first-place finishes were recorded by Jon Champan (shot put) and Dale Hollinger (pole vault).

“If we can stay healthy,” Hellberg said, “and keep plugging along, I think we will have a really good outdoor season. These guys want to come home with more than just state medals. ... Maybe we can come home with a trophy.”

Warrenville South

Coach: Ken Helberg

Top returners:

Nolan McKenna, jr. (distance)

Luke Schroer, jr. (distance)

Don Tomes, sr. (hurdles, sprints)

Kyle Joyce, sr. (throws)

Cain Bialas, jr. (throws)

Matt Brocious, jr. (sprints)

Carson Discher, jr. (sprints)

Jon Callaway, jr. (throws)

What to watch: With a young roster, Wheaton Warrenville South will no doubt grow as a team throughout the spring.

The Tigers do return a pair of standout distance runners in Nolan McKenna, who won the 3,200-meter race at the DuPage Valley Conference indoor meet, and Luke Schroer, who was second in the 1,600.

McKenna was one of four individual state qualifiers for the squad in 2012 with the other three athletes having graduated. Wheaton Warrenville South also advanced two relays to state including the sectional-champion 4 x 800 grouping.

“We are learning how to compete at a high level,” said coach Ken Helberg. “The invitationals that we compete in should help us to learn to compete. Our focus right now is to compete to the best of each individual’s ability and we believe the team will take care of itself.”

West Chicago

Coach: Paul McLeland

Top returners:

Tim Linhardt, sr. (mid. distance)

Sean Young, jr. (sprints)

Akshay Patel, sr. (hurdles)

Alex Celmer, jr. (throws)

Eddy Rubio, sr. (jumps)

Hunter Cerny, sr. (relays)

Chance Coats, sr. (relays)

What to watch: With lower numbers than the rest of the DuPage Valley Conference field, West Chicago’s biggest goal is improvement throughout the spring.

And if the indoor season is any indication, the Wildcats are on the right track.

“We finished the indoor season on a good note as far as personal bests,” said West Chicago coach Paul McLeland, “And the dedication is high for the guys who are on the team. The goal is to improve at each meet and do better at those meets than we did last year.”

At the DVC indoor meet, Eddy Rubio led the Wildcats with a fifth-place finish in the high jump while Tim Linhardt was seventh in the 800-meter run.

West Chicago also expects to receive contributions from a pair of sophomores in James Kubik and John Kulikowski.

“We didn’t qualify anybody for state last year,” the coach said. “At the least, we’d like to qualify somebody. Tim in the 800 is one of our best shots for it.”

Wheaton Academy

Coach: Bill Bickhart

Top returners:

Noah Van Dyke, so. (distance)

David Leffler, jr. (sprints)

Matt Ruff, jr. (sprints, mid. distance)

Nathan Lopez, sr. (throws)

What to watch: Matt Ruff was a state qualifier a year ago in Class 2A after winning a sectional title in the 400-meter dash with a time of 51.27.

Also returning as a state qualifier is Noah Van Dyke, who qualified as a freshman in the 800.

St. Francis

Coach: Scott Nelson

Top returners:

Andrew Hallet, jr. (mid. distance)

Matt Lorish, jr. (mid. distance)

What to watch: The Spartans, who were scheduled to kick off their season on Tuesday with a dual meet against Plano, will head to their first invite of the spring Saturday at Aurora Central Catholic. Other events include the Lisle Mega Meet on April 6, the Matt Wulf Invitational at Yorkville on April 12 and the Walther Lutheran Invite on April 20. St. Francis did not qualify anybody for the Class 2A state meet last year.

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