Athletes to watch: Grant Nykaza, Jr., distance, relays; Aaron Borgman, Sr., distance, relays.
Outlook: Nykaza and Borgman formed one half of the Bobcats' 3,200-meter relay unit that successfully defended the Class 1A state title it first captured in 2010. Nykaza, the second-place finisher at last fall's Class 1A cross country meet, was also runner-up in the mile at Charleston in 2011. He'll take aim at gold this year, and if coach Henry Nykaza can adequately fill the two openings in Beecher's favorite relay event, the Bobcats may score additional downstate points.
Athletes to watch: Kaleb Williams, Sr., sprints, relays; James Harriel, So., sprints, relays; Jacob Hernandez, Sr., middle distance, distance, relays; Rexford Wiafe, Sr., middle distance, relays; Calvin Cross, Sr., jumps; Jonathan Shepherd, Sr., PV.
Outlook: Four returning state qualifiers lead the Blazing Trojans into the 2012 outdoor season, and coach Andrew Schmitt is understandably optimistic about what lies ahead. Bloom athletes performed well indoors — Williams ran a 49-second 400 dash, Hernandez was under 2 minutes in the 800 and below 4 ½ minutes in the mile, and Cross went 22 feet, 1 ¼ inches and 43-8, respectively, in the long and triple jumps. One of Schmitt's goals is to have Bloom score in every event at sectionals.
Quote: "We always think of ourselves as a top school in the state, and we really need to prove that this year. We have the deepest team in the past decade and need to be leaders, make good choices and live up to expectations." — Schmitt.
Athletes to watch: Rashad Hulbert, St., hurdles, sprints; Brandon Sykes, Sr., hurdles, sprints; D'Waun Story, Sr., sprints; Quenton Hardaway, Jr., sprints; Marcus Terrell, Jr., sprints; Tyler Whittler, Jr., sprints; Rasheed Flowers, Jr., sprints; Taris Simmons, So., sprints.
Outlook: The return of defending Class 3A 300 intermediate hurdles champion Hulbert automatically makes the Warriors a team worth recognizing, but Crete-Monee's talent extends well beyond the senior, who also has been a two-time state qualifier in the 110 highs. Sykes was another hurdles qualifier last spring and the roster is teeming with quality sprinters. The Warriors are seeking to post their third consecutive top-10 finish downstate after placing seventh a year ago in Class 3A.
Quote: "We are hoping to take the next step and compete for a (top-three team) trophy in Charleston." — coach Brian O'Donnell.
Athletes to watch: Josh Nance, Sr., sprints, relays; Jordan Culpepper, So., sprints, relays, jumps; Prestunn Bolton, Jr., sprints, relays; Matt Anyiwo, So., sprints, middle distance, relays; Matt Dieudonne, Sr., sprints, relays; Charles Morrow, Sr., sprints, relays; Gerry Butler, HJ, relays.
Outlook: A conference crown and five state qualifiers meant 2011 was pretty good to the Vikings. H-F took some graduation-induced hits since then, but Nance (400) and Culpepper (800 relay) have already sampled state-level competition and are anxious for more. Coach Nate Beebe said Anyiwo is further along in the 800 than former state qualifier Ephraim Dorsey was at this same juncture, and Dieudonne should be a factor in a couple of relays. Talented newcomer Bolton is also worth watching.
Quote: "We do have some quality athletes in most events. We expect, as with every year, to make a push at the conference title, as well as qualify several events to the state meet." — Beebe.
Athletes to watch: Joel Ooms, Sr., hurdles; Matt Hall, Sr., distance; Tony Wondaal, So., distance; Kevin Vroegh, So., middle distance; Ernest Gardner, Sr., jumps; Xavior Scott-Reed, Sr., throws.
Outlook: Eight athletes who competed at state last spring return, meaning the Vikings once again have high expectations. Illiana will be tough in the longer running events, thanks to Hall, Wondaal and Vroegh, all of whom were key members of the Vikings' state-placing cross country squad. Ooms should be a hurdles standout. Illiana, which has been represented at the state track meet every year since 1984, won two invitationals in 2011 and was runner-up in two others.
Quote: "From last year's team, four of the top five scorers are back, (so) I am really excited for this season." — coach Jeff White.
Athletes to watch: Jeruel Taylor, Sr., sprints; Matt Simmons, Sr., jumps; David Horton, Sr., throws; Dominic Pascale, Sr., sprints, LJ; Brandon Woods, Sr., hurdles; Camren Howard, So., middle distance, distance; John Oliver, So., sprints.
Outlook: Simmons went 44 feet, 7 inches in the triple jump during the indoor season, something Spartans coach LaVon Burks hopes serves as a springboard for outdoor meets. He has also made steady improvement in the long jump. Pascale and Woods are coming off injuries, but they will be key figures if healthy. Burks lists sprinter Randall Wells, freshman jumper Matthew Martinson and freshman sprinter Alejandro Rodriguez as newcomers to watch.
Quote: "We have a need for speed." — Burks.
Athletes to watch: Kerry Dean, Sr., sprints, relays, jumps; Matt Trainor, Sr., sprints, relays; Evan Acklin, Sr., sprints, relays, jumps; Steve Richardson, So., throws; Lamar Colon, So., jumps, sprints, relays; Luke Grabowski, Fr., HJ.
Outlook: Former Caravan track and football standout Kareem Timbers, who takes over the top job from Marty Quinn, must do without 2011 Catholic League MVP Josh Wilson, Jim Easterhouse and Tom Benson this spring. There are bright spots, however, beginning with the trio of Dean, Trainor and Acklin, all of whom have already competed at a state meet. The lineup will also include members of Mount Carmel's frosh-soph team that won an indoor conference title by a 38-point margin.
Quote: "There is no price bigger than the price of regret. Leave everything you have out on the track." — Timbers.
Athletes to watch: Reggie Confer, Sr., sprints, relays; Shaquille Jones, Jr., sprints, relays; Shaquile Lawrence, Sr., sprints, relays; Darius Caffey, Jr., middle distance; Stanley Iherijika, Sr., throws.
Outlook: Seton's top runner from 2011, Brian Barney, is now at Cincinnati, but the other three members of the Sting's state-qualifying 1,600 relay quartet return to take another crack at a medal. Seton should also be strong in the 400 relay, and Caffey and Iherijika give their team an opportunity to pick up points beyond relays and sprints. Confer reach the Prep Top Times meet in the 200 after running a personal-best 23.72 during the indoor season.
Quote: "Our boys have been working very hard this year and look forward to going back down to Charleston in search of medals. — coach Idris Shakoor.
Athletes to watch: Kienta Gieger, middle distance; Chadd Hupp, middle distance; Terrell DeLoach, sprints; Jalaan Pulley, hurdles, sprints; Yemi Ogunbarmeru, hurdles, sprints.
Outlook: Graduation hit the Falcons hard, so they'll have to rely on several underclassmen to contribute. However, longtime coach T.J. Shirley has a knack for piecing together a highly competitive team each season, and there's no reason he won't do the same this year. As usual, Thornridge should have the shorter races well covered, but Gieger and Hupp should also give the Falcons some teeth at middle distances.
Quote: "We are a blue-collar team. (We tell kids to) come to practice every day, work your butt off, believe in yourself and your teammates, and good things will happen." — Shirley.
Athletes to watch: Jonathan Anderson, hurdles; Thomas Taylor, jumps; Demitri Smith, sprints, relays; Jalen Banks, sprints, relays; Jeff Myles, throws; Robert Warnsley, distance; Quintin Bonner, distance.
Outlook: Even though state-champion sprinter Timothy Faust is no longer around, don't pity the Wildcats, who wound up third as a team at last year's Class 3A state meet. Both Smith and Banks were members of Thornton's 800 relay quartet that brought home gold from Charleston, while Anderson took seventh in the 110 high hurdles. Along with those pieces, the 'Cats have a capable thrower in Myles and could do some damage in distance events with Warnsley and Bonner.
Quote: "This year's team is hungry to make their own mark and top last year's results. We got a great group of young men who understand (about) hard work. This year's team is as talented as last year, but is lacking a little in depth." — coach Vince McAuliffe.
Athletes to watch: Devonte Stevenson, Sr., sprints; Deon Beecham, Sr., sprints; Claude Garrett, Sr., LJ, relays; Jalen Alston, Sr., HJ; Antoine Lane, Jr., jumps; Delon Perry, Sr., throws; Adonis Barnes, So., hurdles; Chris Szabalewski, Jr., distance; Joel Flores, Sr., middle distance.
Outlook: The Meteors, who've developed into one of the south suburbs' most solid track programs, will be strengthened this year by an infusion of football players, plus several promising sophomores. Stevenson and Beecham will be the top two sprinters, while Garrett went 22-2 in his first indoor long jump competition. Coach Moses Hulbert favorably compares the latter to former T.F. North three-sport standout Landon Cox. Hulbert also has high hopes for Barnes.
Quote: "Freshmen and sophomores are the bulk of my team, but I'm not afraid to say that. That's a good sign. I think the underclassmen will really come through and we'll qualify our share for the state meet." — Hulbert.
Athletes to watch: Jalen Woods, Sr., jumps; Dylan Angell, Sr., middle distance, distance, relays; Cameron Brown, Sr., throws; Joe Richmond, Sr., hurdles; John Leopardo, Sr., distance, relays; Alex Dolinar, Sr., distance; Ronald Williams, Sr., middle distance, relays; Brandon Ostrowski, Sr., middle distance, relays; Jeremy Marshall, Jr., sprints, relays.
Outlook: South Suburban Blue triple jump champion Woods and Angell, a state qualifier in cross country, are the Rebels' ringleaders in 2012. Angell was second at conference and fourth at sectional in the mile last spring, and T.F. South coach George Carter says the Rebels "are expecting great things" from both athletes. Leopardo and Dolinar are experienced distance guys, Richmond has good potential in the hurdles and Brown should score points for South in the throws.
Quote: "Our expectations are high for this track season. Together everyone achieves more, and we expect to compete for a conference championship as a team." — Carter.
Athletes to watch: Kenneth Allen, Jr., sprints; Reggie Brown, Jr., distance; Wole Daramola, Jr., distance; Eric Maymon, So, PV; Johnnell Seanior, Sr., distance; Tyshon Waller, Sr., throws; Femi Osisanya, Sr., jumps.
Outlook: State champion London Hawk is gone, but his absence hasn't slowed the Thunderbirds, whose relay teams were on a tear indoors. The 800, 1,600 and 3,200 units all posted times among Illinois' top 10 this season, and the 3,200 foursome broke a 32-year-old school record. Allen was part of a 1,600 team that placed second nationally last summer and will obviously be a major factor, but Thornwood has quality people in several spots.
Quote: "With so many great teams in the state, we know we have a lot of work to do, but this could be one of the most complete and competitive teams we have had in a while. The team is dedicated to work harder than ever to achieve its goals." — coach Brian Evans.
NOTE: Washington did not provide information for preview.
— Compiled by Ken Karrson