MINOOKA — One of new Minooka head boys track and field head coach Nick Lundin’s stated goals for the 2013 outdoor season is a Class 3A state championship.
The Indians’ performance at the Illinois Prep Top Times Meet last Saturday may have validated that goal as more than wishful thinking. Minooka’s 44.5 points were good for second place in the 3A boys team standings. Only three-time defending 3A state champion Lake Park, with 68.5 points, finished higher.
“A lot of their success is in their field events,” Minooka junior Chris Wilson said of Lake Park. “We’re a lot better in our field events than we used to be, and we’re still improving across the board, so we have a shot.”
Wilson ended the indoor season having 65 points for the team, narrowly edging fellow juniors Devin Ingram (63.5) and Zach Zamora (63.25) for the Minooka lead. Lundin keeps track of the point totals and posts them at runminooka.com to encourage fun competition between his athletes.
But to Lundin, the Indians’ success in the indoor season — they won invitationals at Thornwood, Glenbard North, Plainfield South and Lockport and were second at York — and their outdoor hopes are largely due to athletes who are not established stars.
“You don’t get to the level of a state champion without having a few surprises along the way,” Lundin said. “Our biggest surprise has been Brock Whalen. He’s new to the shot put (at the high school level), but he’s already started to establish himself as one of the best around. That’s huge for us as we try to get to that level.”
Zamora, who placed sixth in the 60-meter hurdles at the Top Times meet, says the Indians’ performance there was “definitely” the highlight of their indoor season.
“We knew we had a chance to be a good team,” he said, “and that showed us we can maybe be a great team. It was great to go out and perform like that for Coach Lundin and Coach (Dan) Ingram. Finishing in second place was a team effort.”
Some might downplay the Indians’ success in the indoor season. Outdoor results are held in higher regard than indoor ones. Many of the state’s traditional 3A powers, like York, did not even compete at the Top Times Meet.
“I don’t like to look at it like that,” Ingram said. “All of the times you get and the places you get are important. If you look at it like it’s just another meet, it could cost you your spot in the lineup.”
Lundin says he purposefully packs the indoor schedule to get everyone involved and to get a sense of who should be used where during the outdoor phase. What results is the Indians compete against a number of opponents that have indoor track facilities the Indians cannot match.
“We try not to use the weather or limited facilities as an excuse,” Lundin said. “I believe that is why we’ve been having success. The athletes are working their tails off in the hallways, on the cold track or cold roads and in the weight room. The coaches are working well together to get the athletes training with the particular groups that they need to be training with.”
That Minooka has done as well as it has with its disadvantages has helped feed the optimism its athletes have for the outdoor season.
In addition to the team goals, Zamora wants to win the Southwest Prairie Conference hurdles races, though he expects Plainfield North’s Zion Mason and Plainfield East’s Jalil Manson to make it difficult.
Ingram hopes to place at state in four events — the 100- and 200-meter dashes, and the 4x100- and the 4x200-meter relays — and enjoy his final season on the same team as his brother, Minooka senior Daniel Ingram.
Wilson hopes to lead the Indians to state championships in the 4x800- and 4x400-meter relays, and to finish in the top three in the 400-meter dash.
“They have the potential to do great things now, but the best thing about Devin, Zach and Chris is that they’re all juniors,” Lundin said. “We’re not just looking for one good run. We want to be able to reload each and every year.”