PALOS HEIGHTS | For a track team that doesn’t have a track to practice on, any win could be considered big, but to go into a 10-team invitational at your arch-rival's home track and win is special.
That’s exactly what the Illiana Christian boys’ team did Friday night, not only winning, but racking up 143 points and outdistancing nearest competitor Leo by 56 in the process.
“It’s nice to get our second big invitational win in the last two weeks,” Vikings coach Jeff White said. “We’ve been stressing balance and I think we had that tonight. We got contributions from our young sprinters and the distance guys and everyone was supporting each other.”
Leading the way on the track for the Vikings was Kevin Vroegh who set a meet record in the 800 meter and put an exclamation point on the team victory in the anchor leg of the 1600 meter relay.
With his team trailing by a slim margin heading into the final leg, a bad hand off cost the Vikings even more time. That’s when Vroegh took over, running down leaders Leo and stretching the lead to a two second victory to end the meet.
Moments after finishing the come from behind victory in the 1600 meter relay, Vroegh was named the meet's most outstanding male athlete.
“The exchange wasn’t what I was looking for, but I knew if I could catch up to him we could win,” Vroegh said. “Being an 800 runner I knew I could go all out and keep that kick for the entire 400.”
The night was also good for Sprinter Alvy Butler Jr., who won the 100 meter and finished second in the 200 by less than .4 seconds.
“I felt good tonight, my hamstring had been bothering earlier in the week but everything felt good,” Butler said. “Coach said not to push it in the prelims and just make sure I advanced so I had a lot left for the final. It feels good to get the win but my goal is to get that time consistently below 11 seconds.”
On the girls side of the meet, Illiana was locked in a dogfight all night with Chicago University High as the two exchanged leads throughout the meet. But the Maroons picked up big points in the 400 meter and the 1600 meter relay to edge the Vikings 89 to 80 in the team standings.
The Vikings fared well in the distance and field events led by Alexa Beezhold, who won the 800 meters and was on the winning 3200 meter relay team, and Gabby Kreykes, who finished second in the discus and third in the shot put. But they couldn’t match the Maroons in the sprints, coming up just short in the meets final two events.
“We have a young team and I’m proud with how they’re progressing,” Illiana Christian girls coach Deb Top said. “We start late not having a field house or track but the times keep coming down and I’m really proud of them.”
Although both teams were happy with the finish for Beezhold it was about a lot more than just winning a meet.
“I’m trying to use these last few meets as practice to get ready for the sectional,” Beezhold said. “I just want to focus on keep cutting time and making it to state at this point in the season, I’m proud of the 800’s that I ran but I need to be consistently in the low 2:20’s to get to state.”