Sandburg, like every boys’ track program in the state, was pumped and primed to move from the indoor season to the outdoor one. And the Eagles made their first outside appearance at the Hillcrest Hawk Invitational a memorable one.
Last year’s SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue champion finished first in a 14-school field that included fellow 2013 league kingpins Bloom Township (Southland Athletic Conference) and Shepard (South Suburban Conference Red). Sandburg racked up 129 points to finish 30 ahead of runner-up Crete Monee.
Brother Rice (95), Bloom (87) and Shepard (63½) rounded out the top five.
“We were pretty tired of those indoor meets,” Eagles coach Joe Nemeth said. “It was a really nice night for our first meet. This was the best weather we’ve had at Hillcrest in the decade we’ve competed at that invite.
“In the first week, we just kind of see how things go, and I thought we did pretty well. I think we’re fine as a team.
“It was a pretty tough winter for everybody, [but] all of our guys persevered through some of those cold months. We started practices in January, [so] we were more than ready to get outdoors.”
The 3,200-meter relay quartet of Max Lehnhardt, Denis O’Callaghan, Mike Brower and Tom Brennan logged a time of 8 minutes, 18.61 seconds to give Sandburg a win in that event. While not an elite clocking, Nemeth said he was pleased just the same, especially with two individual efforts in the relay.
“We’re not looking for the times right now, but two of the runners ran two minutes flat, which was really important and a boost for them as the outdoor season starts,” Nemeth said. “It’s a nice thing to have happen.”
Individually, senior Justin Adams shone in the 3,200-run, where he gained his first victory since being forced to the sidelines by a hip flexor last season.
“Justin has worked very hard,” Nemeth said. “He ran 14 seconds faster than he ever ran. It was a close race and he had to battle through that last lap, so it was nice to see him win. He’s a quiet leader on the team for four years who has worked hard to earn that varsity spot.
“It was a great race for him. For him to excel and win a race of that magnitude, it was great as a coach to see.”
Nemeth said that Adams’ teammate, Will Becker, has been a big help to Adams. Becker, who has also come back from a previous physical setback, contrasts Adams perfectly from a leadership standpoint.
“Will is more of a vocal leader,” Nemeth said. “He finished third at sectionals last year, just a few seconds shy from going to state in the two mile as a junior.
“They push each other, and you can see it paying off right now. They’re great for this team. Both are getting there as they push toward conference and sectionals.”
As Sandburg moves further into the outdoor season, the team will likely benefit from a roster that is deep and talented, even among the underclassmen.
“Depth is a big thing, but we have to stay healthy,” Nemeth said. “We have to be careful in April and the early parts of May. We have very good freshmen and sophomore athletes — I think we brought seven of them to Hillcrest. We have a lot of depth in positions.
“We feel some of our young guys are capable of stepping up if needed, especially in relays. As we go forward, we’re going to play around with some relays. We’re curious to see what they really have.”
As for the Hillcrest meet, the sixth-year head coach was especially happy for his seniors.
“Anytime you can win a meet, especially for the seniors who have been there for four year and busted their butts, it’s great for them to hold that plaque and get the medals,” Nemeth said. “It’s just another confidence builder as we go forward. Sometimes you need those little mini-steps.”
Shepard produced a 1-2 finish in the 1,600-run at the Hillcrest Invitational as Southern Illinois University recruit Josh Maier and Mike Evancich registered respective times of 4:28.79 and 4:31.81. They outran two Sandburg athletes over the final two laps to secure their top spots
Stagg started last week with a 25-11, 25-11 win over Shepard on Tuesday.
Trevor Crain put down six kills, Sean Runyon had nine digs and Nick Stanek dished out 20 assists for the Chargers (8-5). Also contributing were Christian Mireles (five blocks) and Tom Matonis (four).
Huessein Al-Rashdan had eight assists for the Astros (2-10) in the 25-12 loss. Steve Szajek contributed three blocks and Ivan Magana had two kills for Shepard, which struggled with Stagg’s height at the net.
The Chargers added a 24-26, 25-19, 25-14 victory over Hinsdale South on Thursday. Stanek distributed 30 assists to lift visiting Stagg (8-5), which was also helped by Runyon (16 digs), Trevon Velasco (13 kills) and Matonis (six kills, six blocks).
Shepard bounced back from its loss against Stagg to defeat St. Laurence 21-25, 25-21, 25-18 on Thursday.
Al-Rashdan produced 14 assists, two kills and two blocks for the Astros (5-10), while Magana drilled six kills to go along with two services aces and a block.
Sandburg dropped a hard-fought 25-16, 23-25, 25-23 match to Downers Grove South last Wednesday. Paul Chmura had 12 kills and 12 digs to pace the Eagles (8-4), while Ian Zalewski doled out 27 assists.
Over the weekend, Sandburg finished third in the 24-team Buckeye Classic in Columbus, Ohio.
Shepard captured a 7-0 SSC Red win over Richards last Tuesday, but got shut out 4-0 by Lemont in a conference crossover match on Thursday.
Kelly Evancich totaled three goals and two assists for the host Lady Astros (4-3-1, 2-1) versus the Lady Bulldogs. Other Shepard tallies were delivered by Tiffani Kotas, Christina Kotas, Tala Tadros and Adie Pastrana.
Netminder Heather Banis was credited with the whitewash.
Emily Osoba set up Sarah DeWolf for the goal that propelled visiting Sandburg (4-2-1) to a 2-1 SWSC crossover victory over Andrew last Thursday.
Lincoln-Way Central slipped past Stagg 1-0 in an SWSC crossover match last Thursday.
BOYS’ WATER POLO
An 18-8 romp past Lincoln-Way East was the only bright spot in Stagg’s week. The Chargers came up short in two other SWSC Blue matches as Homewood-Flossmoor (9-5) and Lockport (8-4) prevailed on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.
In the rout of the Griffins last Thursday, Zack Amendola netted five goals and Connor Kaufmann added three to spark visiting Stagg. Lane Holin made 14 saves for the Chargers.
Sandburg rode big offensive showings from Zach Roper to SWSC Blue triumphs over Lincoln-Way East (12-6) and Homewood-Flossmoor (12-8) last week.
Roper accounted for nearly two-thirds of the Eagles’ goals as he tallied eight times versus the Griffins and seven times against the Vikings.
Shepard split a pair of matches last week as it defeated Argo 13-4 on Tuesday and lost to St. Charles East 9-7 on Wednesday.
Jerry Zachary and Patrick Muhne scored four goals apiece to pace the Astros in their SSC Red victory. Lucas Souza pitched in with three goals, while Christian Reyes and Sanders Yu each registered one.
Reyes provided four goals opposite St. Charles East. Notching one goal apiece for Shepard were Zachary, Souza and Yu.
GIRLS’ WATER POLO
Danielle Lencioni and Sarah Dolitsky each scored four times to spark visiting Sandburg in a 14-10 SWSC Blue victory over Lincoln-Way East last Monday.
Stagg wound up on the business end of a 17-3 beat-down administered by Homewood-Flossmoor last Monday. The Lady Chargers then suffered another lopsided SWSC Blue setback on Friday as Lincoln-Way East ruled by a 21-4 score.
Jonluke Passett posted a win at No. 1 singles for visiting Sandburg in the Lady Eagles’ 5-2 team triumph over Bradley-Bourbonnais in an SWSC crossover meeting last Thursday.
Lemont blanked Chicago Christian 5-0 last Monday. Also coming up empty was Shepard, which fell to a 4-1 defeat against Tinley Park in an SSC crossover match last Thursday.
Chicago Christian scored 34 points at last Tuesday’s Larry Roland Invitational.
Stagg shut out Shepard 15-0 in a match last Tuesday.