BLOOMINGTON | Illiana Christian’s boys cross country team finished sixth in last fall’s Class 2A championship.
The Vikings’ best finish at Detweiller Park has been a springboard to more success so far this spring. In Saturday’s Illinois Top Times meet, the Vikings’ 3,200-meter relay team took second, at 8 minutes, 15.70 seconds, behind only Cahokia, in part because of strategy.
Given that the Top Times carnival is acknowledged as the indoor state track championship bodes will for what could happen at Charleston in May, when the IHSA’s outdoor championship is on center stage.
The strategy crafted by Vikings coach Jeff White for the race in Illinois Wesleyan’s Shirk Center was both simple and effective: do not tarry.
“Because it’s on a short (200-meter) track, I went out fast and took the lead right away,” said junior Kevin Vroegh, Illiana’s leadoff man. “It’s harder to pass people on this indoor track. The fast start really helped us. I knew coming in I was gonna take off.”
Vroegh held the lead, and while the baton was passed to senior Jordan Dekker, junior Austin Gibson, and finally to anchorman Nick Wondaal, a freshman, the Vikings never dropped below second.
Illiana’s Nick Fiene finished sixth in the 3,200, shrugging off a lingering lower back injury to move up from 10th place after the first mile.
“If I was hurt or not hurt, I was still going to run this race,” Fiene said. “It’s indoor state. I ran a good split for my first mile, and just carried on. This is good for us to get a good indoor competition in. Meets back home, they don’t have the good distance competition this one has.”
Tony Wondaal, the final Illiana runner, took eighth in the 1,600-meter relay after leading for the better part of the first two laps.
His time of 4:34.34 trailed bewhiskered winner Riley McInerney of Charleston by about 16 seconds.
The depth of Homewood-Flossmoor’s girls team was on display in the Class 3A competition, with Shayna Nwokenkwo and Jayla Stewart taking second in the 60-yard dash and the 60-yard hurdles, respectively.
Nwokenkwo’s runner-up time of 7.72 seconds was two hundredths of Warren’s Brittny Ellis, while Stewart’s 9.00 was a tenth of a second back of Aurora West’s Emma Spagnola in the hurdles. Marian Catholic’s Imani Haynes was third, a hundredth behind Stewart at 9.01.
H-F senior Chardae Greenlee took second in the triple jump, her last jump of 39 feet even her best, but 11 inches behind DeKalb’s Jasmine Brown.
Greenlee also showed her speed in her leg of the 1,600-meter relay, taking the baton with H-F fourth and handed it off with the Vikings in second. They eventually placed fifth in the heat and 10th overall, nearly 11 seconds behind St. Charles East.
The Vikings took fourth in the 800-meter relay, clocked in 1:47.05, and T.F. North finished 10th in the same race, one of three relays won by Minooka.
Crete-Monee’s Elijah Douglas and Chris Gossett each finished 12th in their event, Douglas running the 60-meter hurdles in 8.79 seconds, while Gossett had a best leap of 41-2.25 in the triple jump. The Warriors combined to place sixth in the 800-meter relay with a time of 1:33.34, just over two seconds behind Minooka.