View from the Infield

IHSA 3A Sectional Meet, 5.11.2017

posted May 12, 2017, 6:52 PM by Matthew Thomas   [ updated May 12, 2017, 7:06 PM ]

About 5 years ago, the IHSA scheduled last night’s Sectional meet.  At that date — and only on that date — far in the distance, athletes would have the opportunity to compete and qualify for the 2017 state track and field finals.  Knowing that you have to perform your best on a certain date heightens the intensity of the meet.  It increases the pressure.  It makes every heat and every flight that much more special.  

When this season started, we had that date on the schedule.  The date would not change for any of our athletes because they were ill or injured.  No matter what, that was the day they would need to step up and perform.  No previous performances mattered.  Thursday, May 11, 2017 at Ottawa Township High School starting at 3 p.m., the IHSA 3A Sectional meet was the time — and the only time — to do it.

And they did.

Minooka finished third in a tough 14-team Sectional.  The night ended in dramatic fashion with 7 entries headed to the state meet in 5 different events:

  • Emily Shelton, 3200-meter run, 1st place

  • Ashley Tutt, 3200-meter run, qualifying time

  • Sydney Andreano, discus, 2nd place

  • Brooklyn Bachmann, pole vault, 2nd-place

  • Mackenzie Callahan, 1600-meter run, 2nd place

  • Emily Shelton, 1600-meter run, qualifying time

  • Cierra Bachmann, Emily Johnson, Eryn Renison, Mackenzie Callahan, 4x400-meter relay, qualifying time

While those state-qualifiers certainly earned it, they weren’t the only ones who performed when they needed to.

Starting in the high jump, Desiree March set a personal record with a jump of 4-feet, 11 inches.

In the pole vault, Brooklyn Bachmann tied her season’s best in finishing 2nd at 10-feet and qualifying for state.  Katelyn Gall tied her personal best and finished 4th.  Both were extremely close to clearing their next heights.

Due to heavy rains of late, the long jump area was a wet mess.  This deterred neither Cierra Bachmann, whose second landing embraced the wet sand like no other’s, or Aaliyah Young, whose legs looked like they’d been covered in oatmeal when it was all finished.  Many of the jumpers at the sectional came nowhere near performing at their best.  These two did, with Young even making the sectional finals with a personal record of 15-feet, 4 inches.  

The triple jump had a similar experience with a similar approach by both Young and Emma Wiegmann, who tied her personal record.

On her second throw of the night In discus, Sydney Andreano launched a personal record of 121 feet, 1 inch.  It was good enough to finish second and qualify her for state for the first time.  Her mark is 6th all-time for Minooka.  

The 4x800-meter relay, the first event on the track, stepped up as well.  Battling throughout, the team of Ali Mondrella, Julia Dames, Gwen Barnes, and Vivian Van Eck ran a season’s best by 11 seconds.

The 4x100-meter relay team of Makaya Roberts, Sophie Darden, Lauren Larsen, and Maryam Williams have been running together during much of the season.  Their handoffs have continued to improve, and it’s fun to see the team chemistry created.  What was even more fun was they ran a season’s best time by nearly a second at Sectionals.

The 3200-meter run had a loaded field, and it did not disappoint.  Emily Shelton set a personal record, broke a school record, and ran an amazing final 200 meters to finish in 10:33.81.  If you haven’t seen the final 200 meters of the race, you can view it here.  Ashley Tutt followed a couple tough Naperville North girls, finished fourth, and met the qualifying time to advance to state.

Two underclassmen who have battled injuries finished their last 100-meter dashes in style.  Sydney Forrest and Lauren Lauren not only both ran personal bests, but they ended up as the 9th and 10th best all-time at Minooka, respectively, as well.

The 4x200-meter relay of Madison Thompson, Eryn Renison, Cierra Bachmann, and Brooklyn Bachmann, put forth a very good effort.  They had great handoffs, and executed what they were supposed to.  They, too, ran their best time of the year.

In the 400-meter dash, a lot of grueling workouts paid off for both Lindsay Freese and Lauren Widlowski.  Both girls showed great improvement this year, and their personal records in the 400 on Thursday were examples of this.

Kylie Wissel and Jenna Roberts competed in the 300-meter hurdles, and their stories are perfect examples of how sectionals heightens everything.  Roberts has looked smoother and faster every meet in both the 100-meter hurdles and the 300s.  In the 100s on this night, Roberts was interfered with near the end of the race, and she fell hard.  It was a misfortune amplified by the fact it was her last opportunity in the event this season. The only redemption she had available was later in the 300s, and while she didn’t run a season’s best there, she did run strong where others would have wilted.  

Wissel’s adversity has occurred throughout the season as she has dealt with a variety of soreness.  To her credit, she has rehabbed like a champ and put herself in position to compete for a chance at the state finals.  In the 300-meter hurdles, she ran her best race, the best time of her life, and the second-best time in the history of MCHS.  She finished third, just 0.13 seconds shy of the state-qualifying mark.  Coming that close stirs all sorts of emotions.  We were only getting started with those.

The 1600-meter run was another field loaded with the state’s best.  Callahan and Shelton battled with the top runners throughout the race, and both would end up earning a chance to run again next week.  Callahan finished 2nd with the second-best time in her life.  Shelton — completing the dirty double after the 3200 — ran a state-qualifying season’s best and finished 4th after her 12th lap around the track that night.  

In the 200-meter dash, Madison Thompson ran her final 200-meter dash of the season.  It would be tough to find a sprinter who has put in more work than she has.  It paid off well for her, as she ran the fastest time of her life, and one that puts her 8th on the MInooka all-time list.  In that same race, Sydney Forrest chalked her second person record of the night.

Watching a relay try and qualify for state is nerve-wracking.  You are counting on not one, but four individuals to perform at their best on that one special day that was picked so long ago.  The 4x400 was our best chance to qualify a relay.  The four runners — Cierra Bachmann, Emily Johnson, Eryn Renison, and Mackenzie Callahan — had all run the relay many times before, but only once had they run all together, and that was indoors.   Minooka had not run a state-qualifying time during the year, and had only won one race all year.  

Bachmann led off looking the best she had looked in a 400 in memory.  Johnson, a freshman running in her first race at the end of a long night, followed with another strong leg.  Renison then came out charging and finished charging.  Yet even with those three good legs, when Callahan got the baton it was clear finishing in the top 2 would be darn tough.  Callahan ran well, but Minooka finished 5th.  Coach Gummerson and I looked at our watches, and from our angle, we had run a season’s best time, but likely had just missed the state-qualifying standard.  We were disappointed for the girls. They were disappointed in their finish. We congratulated them on their time, thanked them for their efforts, and prepared to move on.

And then the official results came.  We saw the time on paper mere seconds before they announced it over the P.A. system.  The 4x400-meter relay had qualified by 0.08 seconds.  Sad tears turned into happy tears, and low-hanging heads turned into high-fives.  

Like so many other athletes earlier in the night, the 4x400-meter relay had performed at their best when they had, too.  That’s all you can ask for on a day of Sectionals.

Go Minooka!

— Coach Thomas

SPC Championship, 5.3.2017

posted May 4, 2017, 7:07 PM by Matthew Thomas   [ updated May 4, 2017, 7:10 PM ]

The Minooka girls track and field team was only in its sixth season in 1979 when it won its first conference team championship.

Women’s athletics in high schools were in their early stages.  In 1972, President Nixon signed into law educational legislation known famously today as Title IX.  It states:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

This opened the door for women’s athletics, which had largely been regulated to intramural sports within high schools.  After Title IX, Minooka had its first women’s team in the fall of 1973 when volleyball players stepped onto the court.  The spring of 1974 saw the first girls soccer team and the first girls track and field team.

In 1979, the Minooka girls track and field team won its first conference championship.  

When Minooka girls track won its first championship at a conference meet — the Northeast Conference meet — in 1979, they were coached by Lyn Andracke, a woman largely responsible for bring women’s athletics to Minooka.  Coach Gummerson and I taught with her in the social studies department during our first years here.  She would tell us about Becky Schaller, Minooka’s star long jumper in 1979, who today is the 4th best long jumper in MCHS history.  Schaller jumped 17 feet, 8.5 inches that year, and finished 13th in Class A at the IHSA State Finals.  Jan Wacaster of Edinburg, a small town southeast of Springfield, won Class A that year with a jump of 18-feet, 6 inches.  The Class AA winner jumped 20-feet, 7.5 inches.  That was Jackie Joyner of East St. Louis, who went on to win 6 Olympic medals.  

In 1979, Minooka ran on a cinder track. They would still be running on that track 12 years later when they won their second conference championship in 1991 — this time at the Little 7 Conference meet — when a freshman distance runner named Tammy Schmidt, who would later become the head girls track coach at Plainfield North, was on the team.

Girls practice starts on the cinder track at MCHS in 1979.

It would be another 20 years before Minooka won its third conference championship when it captured the SPC title at Oswego East in 2011.  Minooka won the next three years, as well.  

A conference championship is not easy to win, as evidenced by only 6 victories in 43 years.  The last couple years Minooka has been beaten by better teams.  Last night, in our 44th year, we won our 7th.  

There was a feeling of satisfaction knowing that so many athletes on the team had contributed not only to a varsity win, but also a JV win.  It was the first time 10 teams competed for a conference title, and the first time it was held at Memorial Stadium with Joliet Central as the host.

The varsity scored 121 points, with Plainfield South following in second with 73.  The JV tallied 133.5, and Oswego East was next with 94.

JV runners won 6 events in taking home the title.  The list includes

  • Lauren Larsen, 100m Dash

  • Julia Dames, 1600m Run

  • Amanda Wilson, 3200m Run

  • Meghan Marchio, Pole Vault

  • Karlee Cox, Discus

  • Julia Dames, Olivia Kics, Angelica Leal, and Nina Shanahan, 4x800m Relay

The top five varsity individuals in each event would earn All-Conference honors.  Thirteen times this happened for Minooka.  The impressive list:

SPC Champion

Sydney Andreano, Discus

Brooklyn Bachmann, Pole Vault

Emily Shelton, 3200m Run

Mackenzie Callahan, 800m Run

Kylie Wissel, 300m Hurdles

Mackenzie Callahan, 1600m Run

2nd Place

Harley Graham, Discus

Ashley Tutt, 800m Run

Emily Shelton, 1600m Run

3rd Place

Vivian Van Eck, 3200m Run

Katelyn Gall, Pole Vault

4th Place

Jenna Roberts, 100m Hurdles

5th Place

Sydney Andreano, Shot Put

In addition, the top 3 varsity relay teams also earned All-Conference honors. The first varsity relay on the track — the 4x800m of Ali Mondrella, Gwen Barnes, Emily Ellis, and Ashley Tutt — pulled this off with a 3rd-place finish.  So did the last varsity relay on the track, but the finish was different.  

If you look back at the SPC Championships Minooka won in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, they all had one thing in common — Minooka won the last race on the track.

There’s something about crossing the finish line in first place in the 4x400-meter relay that punctuates a team victory.  You win the last race, you win the meet.  Something just seems right about that.  Back in 1979, there was a string across the finish line for an athlete to lean into.  In 2017, you run into open air.  

A runner from Minooka breaks the string at the finish
of a relay in 1979.

Going into the SPC championship, Minooka had not won a 4x400-meter relay in a big meet all year. Wednesday night, things looked to change. All four runners ran great.  Cierra Bachmann ran a strong leadoff, followed by great second leg by Emily Johnson.  Minooka continued to move up in the race when Ashley Tutt got the baton, and Mackenzie Callahan finished the job by passing runners in the final 200 meters.  There was no string to break, but lots of smiles broke out.   

It was a subtle nod to the 4x400 teams of the past, and a perfect way to connect to the history of Minooka girls track and field program.  

Go Minooka!

— Coach Thomas

Cougar Twilight Invitational, 4.28.2017

posted Apr 30, 2017, 4:51 PM by Matthew Thomas

What can Minooka girls track & field do in less than 5 minutes?

The 28th Annual Cougar Twilight Invitational hosted by Conant High School on Friday gave us this answer. This A-B-C-style meet, where athletes compete in divisions with others of similar ability, gave Minooka the opportunity to put together some performances that were great, and others that were even historic.  And if you only had 5 minutes to watch, there’s plenty you could have seen.  

Here are the Top 5 things Minooka girls track did in less than 5 minutes.

5. Fast times in the 100

From the first heat with a Minooka runner in the 100-meter dash to the last, positive things happened on this chilly night.  All three girls hit season-best marks, and two of them were personal bests. All three were moved up in their respective divisions at the last minute, and they all delivered. Sophie Darden and Lauren Larsen hit personal bests, finishing 3rd in Division C and 5th in Division B, respectively.  Aaliyah Young just missed her personal best in Division A, but still ran a season’s best.

4. Reach 9 feet and higher

Technically these didn’t all occur within 5 minutes, but had this been a dual meet where all pole vaulters were raising the bar together, they would have.  Three girls from Minooka cleared 9 feet in the pole vault — the first time this has happened in school history.  Meghan Marchio won Division C with 9-0, Katelyn Gall won Division B with 9-6, and Brooklyn Bachmann finished 4th in Division A with 10-0.  Marchio’s and Gall’s marks were both personal bests.

3. Compete in 3 events simultaneously

Sydney Andreano is not your typical track and field athlete.  She juggles time between discus, shot put, and triple jump. You’ll often find her slightly out of breath because she just ran from one event to another.  When she arrives, she’s not rattled; she’s focused. And she’s had success.  Friday night she traveled amongst those three events and ended up winning Division B  triple jump, and placing 2nd in both Division B shot put and Division A discus.  That’s 22 varsity points in about 5 minutes.

2. Score 5 points in the 4x400-meter relay

If you look at the results sheet, this doesn’t appear too remarkable.  We finished 5th in the 4x400 and didn’t run a season’s best time, but the upperclassman leadership on this was telling.  We had sketched out a rough plan for the relay ahead of time, with more than four runners in mind for the race.  We told them all to be ready, and we would let them know during the meet.  Circumstances led to us having fewer available than we thought.  We even told one person she wasn’t running, only later to tell her she was.  All who carried the baton were excited and willing to help the team.  Lindsay Freese, Ali Mondrella, Mackenzie Callahan, and Eryn Renison ran a race that made us proud.  

1. Run 1600 meters

This one was truly historic.  It was four years in the making.  And it is a great way to begin the last month of the season.  Mackenzie Callahan won the Division A 1600-meter run in 4:59.76.  This was a personal best, a meet record, and a school record.  From the moment the gun went off, you could seen the determined look in her eyes.  She was all by herself most of the race, and the final stretch was against only the clock.  She beat it.

There were lots of other good things that happened outside a 5-minute timetable on the way to Minooka winning their 5th straight invitational, going back to the indoor season.  Some more highlights:

  • Ashley Tutt: 3200-meter run Division A champ;

  • Vivian Van Eck: 3200-meter run Division B champ, personal record, and 5th-best all-time;

  • Julia Dames: 3200-meter run Division C champ, personal record, and 7th-best all-time;

  • Abby Rivara: 100-meter hurdles personal record;

  • Emily Ellis: 800-meter run personal record;

  • Emily Johnson: 400-meter dash personal record;

  • Amanda Wilson: 1600-meter run personal record;

  • Olivia Kics: 1600-meter run personal record;

  • Madison Thompson: 200-meter dash personal record;

  • Desiree March: High jump Division B champ and personal record;

  • Abigail Boland: Shot put personal record;

  • Karlee Cox: Shot put Division C champ;

  • Harley Graham: Discus personal record, and 9th-best all-time.

Go Minooka!

— Coach Thomas

Neuqua Valley Invitational, 4.21.2017

posted Apr 22, 2017, 11:54 AM by Matthew Thomas   [ updated Apr 22, 2017, 12:00 PM ]

Friday night was the perfect night to focus on nothing else but competing.  The cool, breezy conditions did not lend themselves to setting personal records, although Minooka set plenty against a tough field at the 8-team invitational.

 The big story was the varsity win.  It took efforts in every area to pull off a victory for the girls, taking first over the host school 115 to 95.5. 

Varsity event winners included Sydney Andreano in discus, Brooklyn Bachmann in pole vault, Mackenzie Callahan in the 800-meter run, and Emily Shelton in both the 3200-meter run and the 1600-meter run.

Callahan broke her own meet record in the 800, and Bachmann tied her own school record in the pole vault.

Setting personal records for the varsity were Sydney Forrest in the long jump and Lauren Widlowski in the 400-meter dash.

The JV girls finished a strong second to Wheaton Warrenville South, 146 to 106.5.

JV event winners included Karlee Cox in discus and Jenna Roberts in the 300-meter hurdles. 

Personal records were tallied by Maddie Olenick in the 3200-meter run, Amanda Wilson in the 3200-meter run, Abby Rivara in the 100-meter hurdles, Thresa Korczak in the 800-meter run, and Maryam Williams in the 200-meter dash.

Good teams show they can compete in any conditions.  Friday night was a good test for Minooka.


Go Minooka!

— Coach Thomas

Minooka Invitational, 4.13.2017

posted Apr 14, 2017, 2:50 PM by Matthew Thomas   [ updated Apr 14, 2017, 3:00 PM ]

On Wednesday the seniors gathered for a picture before a practice. They frowned. They folded their arms. The final product showed a scowling group of ruffians.  People you wouldn’t want to mess with.

You couldn’t have taken that picture Thursday night after the Minooka Invitational, which doubled as Senior Night.  The seniors had indeed showed you didn’t want to mess with them, but by that point, they were all smiles.

And they should have been. There was plenty to smile about both for the seniors and the rest of the team.  Minooka won both the varsity and JV levels of the 8-team meet, held in favorable, sunny conditions.

There were a heckuva lot of first places won and meet records broken.  Not to mention personal records established.

One of the favorite parts of my job is telling athletes they just set a new personal record.  The conversation goes something like this:

Coach: “What is your PR in that?”

Athlete: “Sixty-four flat.”

Coach: “No, it’s not.”

Athlete gives perplexed look.

Coach: “You just ran 63.3.”

Athlete jumps/screams/high-fives.

I had a version of that conversation many times Thursday night.  

Sometimes I was on the other end of that conversation.  Sydney Andreano bounded over to tell me she threw a PR in the discus, a state-qualifying distance that put her in second for the night and 6th all-time for Minooka.  About 20 minutes later, she finished fourth in the triple jump with another new PR that put her 5th all-time at MCHS.  And a little after that, she earned fifth in the shot put with her third PR of the night.

Emma Wiegmann got me twice.  First her big smile revealed she joined the 30-foot club and set a new PR in the triple jump on her second jump.  Later, she got me again when she told me jumped even further in another attempt.  She won the event and set a JV meet record.  I got her back later when I told her split in the JV 4x400 was a PR.  

Jenelle Burke smiles all the time anyway, but it was bigger when she told me she hit a PR to win the JV level of high jump.  It also tied a meet record.

We’re just getting started with stuff to smile about.

Harley Graham won the JV discus and set a meet record.

Erin Matthias PR’d in the 100-meter hurdles, and had an outdoor best in the triple jump.

Abby Rivara finished 2nd in the both JV 100-meter hurdles and the 300-meter version. She PR’d in both.

Katelyn Gall finished 2nd the varsity pole vault and PR’d.  Meghan Marchio won the JV pole vault.

Brooke McNally finished 3rd with an outdoor best in the long jump.

The JV 4x800-meter relay of Olivia Kics, Angelica Leal, Maddie Olenick and Sarah Weed won and set a new JV meet record.

The JV 4x100-meter relay of Makayla Roberts, Sophie Darden, Lauren Larsen, and Maryam Williams brought home a victory.  The varsity team of Madison Thompson, Cierra Bachmann, Eryn Renison, and Sydney Forrest finished third, but with much-improved handoffs, ran a season-best time.

Julia Dames won the JV 3200-meter run and set a meet record.  

Kaylee Ratcliff set a PR in the JV 800-meter run where she finished 4th in the event won by Kics.  

The varsity 4x200-meter relay of Thompson, Forrest, Cierra Bachmann, and Aaliyah Young capitalized on more good handoffs in finishing 3rd in another season-best time.

In the 1600-meter run, Amanda Wilson set a PR on the JV level, finishing 2nd.  Right behind her with another PR was Gall.  Emily Shelton won the varsity level.

Lots of PR splits happened in the 4x400-meter relays.  The varsity of Kylie Wissel, Mackenzie Callahan, Lindsay Freese, and Cierra Bachmann, finished 3rd with a season-best time.

And now to the seniors. There were plenty of teeth being shown by and because of them Thursday night.

Abigail Boland won the JV shot put with a PR.

Danielle Stubner finished 4th in the varsity shot put with a PR that placed her 9th all-time.

Desiree March set a PR in the high jump.  Her partner in crime, Riley Seput, finished 5th on the varsity level, and also set a PR.

Brooklyn Bachmann won the varsity pole vault.

The varsity 4x800-meter relay,of Shelton, Vivian Van Eck, senior Gwen Barnes, and senior Ashley Tutt, not only won, but also set a meet record.

Allison Lyman ran a season-best in the 3200-meter run.

Mackenzie Callahan won the varsity 3200-meter run.

Ashley Tutt won the 800-meter run with a PR.

And finally, Lindsay Freese hit the trifecta in the JV 300-meter hurdles.  She won it, established a new PR, and set a meet record.  

Coaches have mixed emotions on Senior Night — sad that the athletes are almost finished with their high school careers, proud of what they’ve done over four years.  Thursday, we were all smiles, too.

Go Minooka!

— Coach Thomas


Prospect Relays, 4.7.2017

posted Apr 8, 2017, 7:45 AM by Matthew Thomas   [ updated Apr 8, 2017, 7:48 AM ]

“That was a good exchange to end on.”

So said Coach Gummerson after a hard-charging Ali Mondrella passed the baton to an explosive Cierra Bachmann for the final leg of the 4x400-meter relay at Prospect High School on Friday night.

The exchange helped Minooka pick up 3 meters on the next team, who came to the zone at the same time but whose pass was not as perfect. The moment underscored the impact of passing the baton quickly and showed the importance of practicing that skill.

The time for the 4x400-meter relay of Ashley Tutt, Kylie Wissel, Mondrella, and Bachmann was Minooka’s fastest of the year by 6 seconds.  Running fast netted success in many ways Friday night.  

In taking home the overall championship in the 9-team meet, Minooka broke 5 meet relay records.

The first to fall was the 4000-meter distance medley of Tutt (1200), Eryn Renison (400), Mondrella (800), and Emily Shelton (1600).  Their win was also the first one on the track for Minooka.

The next meet record broken was the JV 2000-meter sprint medley of Peyton McLees (200), Amanda Wilson (600), Lauren Widlowski (400), and Olivia Kics (800).

The JV continued dominance with another win and meet record in the 4x200-meter relay of Sophie Darden, Sydney Forrest, Emily Johnson, and Maryam Williams.

Then came the toughest record Minooka broke — the 6400-meter team race.  Mackenzie Callahan, Tutt, Shelton, and Vivian Van Eck combined to break a five-year-old mark.  Tutt also broke the individual 1600-meter run meet record in that race.

The final meet record was the JV 4x400-meter relay.  Prior to the race, Johnson, Lilly Bowman, Kyla Stang, and Emma Wiegmann discussed that if they ran their bests, they could break the old mark of 4:39.97.  Then they went out and did it, breaking it by 13 seconds.

In addition to those five races, Minooka also won five other events out of the 18 possible.

Gwen Barnes, Emily Ellis, Julia Dames, and Mondrella ran great splits in winning the 4x800-meter relay, narrowly missing running sub-10 minutes as a team.

In the 4x200-meter relay, Madison Thompson, Cierra Bachmann, Renison, and Brooklyn Bachmann ran the fastest time of the year and the first under 1:50, the first step toward a bigger goal.  An effective lean at the finish edged out Wheaton Warrenville South.

The excitement that Harley Graham, Daniele Stubner, Karlee Cox, and Sydney Andreano generated before they ran the 4x100-meter throwers’ relays was awesome, and only matched by what they did during the actual race.  With solid handoffs and tenacity, the girls took home the title and ran the best time for Minooka ever at that meet.

The throwers also had a good day in the field.  Cox, Graham, Andreano, and Sara Torres made up the team that won the combined discus competition.

The other field event Minooka won was the pole vault with the help of Brooklyn Bachmann, Kate Gall, Bella Dailey, and Meghan Marchio.

While speed got us far Friday, it alone won’t get us to our goals.  Botched handoffs early in the meet cost us points.  Others that night were not nearly as perfect as the one in the 4x400.  However, at this point in the season, exchanges are one of the easiest things to fix.  And we will.  The greater team goals demand it.

We have also asked some athletes to step out of their comfort zones this coming week and try some new events in order to try and help the team.  Their attitude toward these endeavors is appreciated and will go far not only in scoring team points, but also in maintaining a team-first approach to track and field.

In this post, I’ve mentioned the names of 32 athletes who had success at Prospect Relays, a meet that is totally team-focused.  However, every one of the 46 who competed contributed because they scored points in one way or another.  All added up to the team championship.  

Go Minooka!

— Coach Thomas

SPC Indoor Championship, 3.18.2017

posted Mar 18, 2017, 7:57 PM by Matthew Thomas   [ updated Mar 19, 2017, 7:27 PM ]

Meet Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenberger.  She goes by “Dottie,” and she is one of many who have contributed to something bigger than herself.

Dottie went to Fort Collins High School in Colorado. She studied geology in college, graduated with honors, and then began teaching high school science.

Her next stop was outer space.

In 2004, NASA selected Dottie as a mission specialist.  She served for NASA in many capacities, but one of the highlights was in 2010 when she boarded the Space Shuttle Discovery with a destination of the International Space Station.

The International Space Station was put into orbit in 1998.  Parts of it have been built and added over the years, and now it is roughly the length and width of an outdoor track. It can be seen by the naked eye at night. Its purpose is pure science, and it is used as an observatory, a lab, and an educational facility, among other things.

During the past year, experiments aboard the space station included growing flowering plant crops (with hopes of eventually getting to tomatoes), investigating heart cells, improving weather forecasting, testing cotton fabrics to resist fire, and many other things that are quite frankly beyond my scientific understanding.

While the United States and Russia get the most press for their contributions to the space station, Canada, Japan, and 11 members of the European Space Agency all work together on this.  There also are numerous mission control centers scattered across the globe that act as crucial components to the space station’s success. Locations can be found in the United States, Canada, France, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy, The Netherlands, French Guiana, and Kazakhstan.  

Those aboard the space station studied in various places, trained in others, and eventually met up 150 miles above the Earth.

In many ways those a part of the International Space Station remind me of a track and field team.  Track and field teams are often broken up into many separate groups with a similar objective.  The sport lends itself to being compartmentalized (name another sport that has the word “and” as part of its name).  

At Minooka we have training groups for distance, sprinters, and throwers.  Those groups are further broken down into middle distance, hurdlers, quarter-milers, pole vaulters, horizontal jumpers, and high jumpers.  But all are working toward a common goal.  

At practice sometimes we don’t see each other much.  Throwers might be in the weight room while sprinters are on the track and distance runners are 2 miles away on a road.  But when we work, we trust that those unseen teammates practicing somewhere else are working just as hard as we are.  Eventually we all meet up at a track meet.

On Saturday we all met up at Plainfield North for the SPC Indoor Championship.  For most, it marked the end of the indoor season.  Our goal was not as lofty as putting a space station in orbit, but it was an opportunity to put all the pieces together for a chance at success.

It worked.  For only the third time in 11 years, Minooka won the now 10-team meet. All our different training groups contributed, and it was great to see the team all together.

The 4x800-meter relay team of Ashley Tutt, Olivia Kics, Gwen Barnes, and Ali Mondrella led off with a win.  

Minooka continued with three more wins in individual events: Emily Shelton (3200-meter run), Brooklyn Bachmann (pole vault), and Tutt (1600-meter run).  Shelton and Tutt each set meet records.

The 4x200-meter (Madison Thompson, Cierra Bachmann, Eryn Renison, and Danyelle Myers) and 4x400-meter (CBachmann, Emily Johnson, Rension, and Mackenzie Callan) relays both ran season bests, and individuals from all the training groups had bests, as well.

Thompson and Aaliyah Young had lifetime bests in the 55-meter dash.

Jenna Roberts, Abby Rivara, and Jaritzza Zuno had season bests in the 55-meter hurdles.

Sydney Forrest had a season best in the 200-meter dash, and she set the Minooka freshman indoor record in the event.

Callahan and Emily Ellis had season bests in the 800-meter run.

Tutt and Julia Dames had season bests in the 1600-meter run.

Vivian Van Eck had a season best in the 3200-meter run.

Forrest and Cierra Bachmann had season bests in the long jump.

Danielle Stubner and Sydney Andreano had season bests in the shot put.  

Others not mentioned here also contributed and will continue to.  Our long-term goals are bigger than this meet, and bigger than any one contribution listed here.

When Dottie boarded the Space Shuttle Discovery, it was loaded with supplies and equipment for the space station.  The 15-day mission for the crew aboard Discovery would involve first dropping off the supplies and then replacing ammonia tanks, a task that required three spacewalks.  It was one mission in a series of missions over two decades that got the space station to where it is now.

Dottie’s contribution to the International Space Station was just one of many.  But she was used to that feeling.  She was used to being a part of a team where people worked separately toward a common goal.

At Fort Collins High School, Dottie ran on the varsity track and field team.  Even qualified for state in the 2-mile.

Go Minooka!

— Coach Thomas

Plainfield South Invite, Batavia Distance Madness 3.10.2017

posted Mar 12, 2017, 2:11 PM by Matthew Thomas

Most of our freshmen weren’t born yet when Plainfield South’s field house opened in the 2001-2002 school year.

Minooka has been competing there in an indoor invitational for a long time.  In fact, we have run in that indoor meet more than any other in our school’s history.

That long history is something to be acknowledged when you look at one feat that went largely unnoticed during our 7th-place varsity team finish there on Friday.

Our varsity 4x200-meter relay of Aaliyah Young, Cierra Bachmann, Maryam Williams, and Danyelle Myers ran faster than any other Minooka team has in that field house.  It was more than a second faster than the previous mark, and it was also our fasted (converted) time of the year.  

Young had a good night at the triple jump as well, leading the team with an indoor best.  Sydney Andreano and Erin Matthias both had lifetime bests in the sand, too.

Myers ran a lifetime best in the 55-meter dash, as did Kylie Wissel in the 400-meter dash and the 55-meter hurdles.  Williams also ran her best indoor 200-meter dash time as a Minooka athlete.

In the distance races, Megan Stevenson posted her best indoor time ever in the 1600-meter run.

Overall, however, the varsity was upstaged by the JV who won the 9-team meet.  

Individual JV winners from Minooka were Jenelle Burke in the high jump, Megan Marchio in pole vault, Olenick in the 3200-meter run, Kaylee Ratcliff with a season best in the 800-meter run, and Andreano in the triple jump.

Sydney Forest and Marley Nicoletti posted season bests in the long jump and 400-meter dash, respectively.

About 40 minutes north of Plainfield South, many of our distance runners competed in the Batavia Distance Madness meet.

Emily Shelton was the top finisher for Minooka with 2nd place in the 1600-meter run and a season best time. Mackenzie Callahan, Amanda Wilson, Nina Shanahan, and Angelica Leal all posted season bests, as well, in that event.   

Other highlights included Ashley Tutt’s 4th-place finish in the 3200-meter run and Ali Mondrella’s season best in the 800-meter run.  

A lot further away out on the East Coast, Madison Thompson competed in the Hershey Youth National Championship where she ran a lifetime best in the 200-meter dash.  

Back to that 4x200-meter relay — one of the reasons the accomplishment went unnoticed is because the relay finished 2nd to Plainfield South.  Next week we will see South again, along with the rest of the conference teams at the SPC Indoor Championship.  We will have all our athletes back under one roof, and I’m excited to see what we can accomplish as a team.

Go Minooka!

— Coach Thomas

Cardinal Classic 2.28.17

posted Mar 1, 2017, 8:17 AM by Matthew Thomas   [ updated Mar 1, 2017, 8:18 AM ]

Progress is not always linear.

As we improve, it rarely occurs in a straight line.  It zigs. It zags.  Sometimes it goes backward before it continues forward.

We might be fixing our approach in high jump, breaking in a new pole to help us vault, or training through a race. These things take time.  

We have had three meets in the last seven days, and progress has been evident, although not linear.

Last night at the Cardinal Classic on North Central College’s Al B. Carius track, the Minooka girls zigged and zagged and progressed.

Early in the meet, Emily Shelton went largely unchallenged in winning the 3200-meter run.  This came one night after she, Ashley Tutt, Ali Mondrella, and Mackenzie Callahan won the 4x800-meter relay at Mustang Relays.

Brooklyn Bachmann, fresh off of basketball season, broke her own indoor school record in the pole vault with a jump of 9’6”.  She finished second.

Alli Papesh set an indoor personal record in the high jump by jumping 5’2” and finishing fifth.

Emma Wiegmann set an overall personal record in the triple jump.

Madison Thompson set personal records in the indoor 55-meter and 200-meter dashes. Danyelle Myers ran an indoor best in the 200-meter dash, as well.

In shot put, Sydney Andreano, Harley Graham, and Sara Torres all set indoor personal records.

Gwen Barnes and Katelyn Gall set indoor bests in the 800-meter run and pole vault, respectively.

And then there were the freshmen, who were bright spots last week and continued to shine last night.  Samantha Zurawski and Sydney Forrest are now on the leaderboard for some of the best freshmen to ever run the 55-meter dash for Minooka. They had positive impacts on relays, as well.

Nearly every other freshmen showed improvement from our first meet at Romeoville to last night.

My favorite races to watch were the 400s, both the open and in the relays.  Minooka runners attacked their races with gusto, and the results were season’s bests across the board.   

Not everything was a direct improvement.  We were not at the top of our game in a few events. Handoffs in relays ranged from average to ugly.  Inexperience showed itself many times throughout the night.  

But many things have impressive me during the last week of meets, and not just our marks. Preparation for events has been tremendous.  Fulfilling commitment to the team by putting forth great efforts in every event you’re entered — that has been awesome.  And the enthusiasm and encouragement you’ve brought to each meet are noticeable. That will keep us progressing throughout the season.  

Go Indians!

– Coach Thomas

IHSA 3A Sectional Meet, 5.12.16

posted May 14, 2016, 6:57 PM by Matthew Thomas   [ updated May 14, 2016, 6:59 PM ]

Good things happen in threes.

In a short period of time — 4 minutes and 39 seconds to be exact — Minooka had three athletes qualify for state at the IHSA 3A Sectional Track and Field Meet at Ottawa.  

My head was on a swivel during that time.  I was perched along the fence outside the track at the 200-meter mark.  On the track was the 3200-meter run.  Just southeast of the track was the pole vault.  My oversized neck got a workout as I watched our two distance runners battle against the state’s best while our pole vaulter continued to climb.

For the record, Brooklyn Bachmann was the first Minooka athlete to qualify for state.  She cleared the qualifying height in pole vault — 10-feet, 3-inches — for the first time ever.  She would later clear 10-6, breaking her own school record.  She is the first Minooka girl to qualify for state in pole vault since 2002.

Four minutes and 30 seconds after Brooklyn cleared 10-3, Emily Shelton crossed the finish line in first place in the 3200-meter run.  Her state qualifying run was also a school record.  Nine seconds after that, Ashley Tutt crossed the line in second place, also qualifying.

As great as those three performances were, Minooka wasn’t done yet.  Mackenzie Callahan would qualify on time in the 800-meter run.  Shelton would return to win the 1600-meter run and qualify, again in a school-record time.

One other performance of note: Kylie Wissel ran the second-fastest time in school history in the 300-meter hurdles. This is her first year running the event.

Certainly there were athletes disappointed they didn’t qualify for state or hit their best marks.  I am ok with their disappointment.  It means they cared. It means they will have more motivation to train hard next year.  Everyone at the meet put forth their best efforts, and for that they can be proud.  

We have five entries at the IHSA State Finals at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.  It will be an exciting weekend.

Go Indians.

— Coach Thomas

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