On the final day of the 2021 spring sports season, the Neuqua Valley Wildcats boys track and field team celebrated their second IHSA 3A state title in school history after a top notch performance at Eastern Illinois. Jumping to the 2022 campaign, and another team in the Naperville area is looking to push themselves into state contender status as the indoor track season is underway. This story is presented by Advantage Acura.
“We have some talent across a lot of different events that I think guys are gonna be contributing to a great season.”
We may be only in the indoor portion of the schedule but that won’t stop Naperville North from getting a head start on the outdoor training on a gorgeous winter afternoon that felt like spring. The Huskies may return only three state qualifiers, but fourth year head coach Chris Arthurs likes the competition he sees running around with the team now having five meets under their belt in 2022.
“Guys have a general understanding of it’s a long season track and field and I think that as a experienced athlete you kinda understand how that even flow goes through out partnering up the end of the semester end of the school year I think ties into how students kinda experience the sport.”
One of those key returners is long distance specialist Gabe Ryan who is also a member Naperville North cross-country team. After a top twenty finish at the state meet, the lanky Husky is hoping to take bigger strides in his senior year. While Ryan and his cross-country teammates look to run their way to success in the 3200, 1600 and longer relays having strong competitors and multiple sport athletes will help bring these guys closer than ever.
“It’s a lot of different people lots different people you compete with compete against even in some cases when we have a distance vs sprinting four by four. That’s always really fun but it’s just like the community that we build on the team that’s just so strong and unified. I really enjoy that aspect.”
Two of those athletes involved are sprinters Danny Eloe and Ethan Robert. Eloe was dealing injuries last season that limited his events to relays. Now fully healthy, the junior is ready to give it his all and is off to a hot start by setting the fastest time in the state so far in the 55-meter dash.
“I really haven’t had that much competition because of my injuries I’m just excited to get back at it” “I actually hope to get back into long jump because like around Washington ish so junior high I was a pretty good long jumper, but I stopped I don’t why for High School and I really wanna get back to it”
For Robert’s case he runs sprints and throws the shot put. It’s not often you see someone with the ability to be a sprinter and a thrower. But watching the senior on the football field this fall showed that this bulldozer of an athlete will do whatever it takes to help the team get the job done.
“With sprints you get one shot you get one race the throws you get a couple throws to kinda perfect it and that’s the thing I like about throws you can have one bad throw in a meet and it doesn’t really affect you as long as you like figure it out your next throw you do better.”
With two indoor meets remaining on the schedule before moving outside exclusively, there is a lot of excitement on the track for Naperville North. So far in their five meets, multiple PR’s have been set and some of those helped the dogs finish as runner up in the Plainfield South Invitational. Whether more top performances come against Neuqua Valley or the other top teams in the area, this is time of year is still a warm up for a fast spring season.
“You look at the sport as a hole in the state of Illinois it’s really a strong sport tons of kids do it across the state it’s just a great competition everywhere you go it’s one of the top sports in the state.”
For Naperville Sports Weekly I’m Patrick Codo.