MINOOKA – The Minooka Track & Field Invitational took on an entirely different meaning during the 2017 season. In November 2016 Minooka teacher and assistant track coach Mark Smith passed away after a battle with cancer. During his fight, Indians coach Nick Lundin came up with the hashtag #SmithStrong to help raise money for Smith’s fight against cancer. In 2017 the name of the meet was changed to The #SmithStrong Invitational to honor Smith.
With 16 teams competing Saturday, the meet is one of the best in the state.
“Originally when we separated the girls and boys invites many years ago, we wanted this meet to be the best team meet in the state,” Lundin said. “We have achieved that, but it has become so much more. To honor Mark [Smith] has meant so much for me personally and also for our alumni, team and the community. The #SmithStrong hashtag has become one of the most recognizable hashtags in the state and is pretty powerful.
“We do not charge admission to this meet and just ask for donations, and we continue to give scholarships in Mark’s name, which is also so great. This year we gave two scholarships, and Tyler Colwell and Dan Schalk received them, both very deserving Minooka athletes.”
This meet featured two of the top track and field teams in the state, in the Indians and Batavia, along with some of the best individual athletes across all events.
Batavia used their team depth, scoring in all but one event to top Minooka, 114.5 to 90. Plainfield South placed seventh, with Lockport taking 13th.
The Bulldogs had only three individual wins on the day, compared to Minooka ‘s five, with Jalen Buckley winning the triple jump (46-4 3/4), Scot Parker in the 200 (21.95) and the 4X400 relay of Jacob Hohmann, Andrew Gerke, Jonah Fallon and Quintin Lowe (3:31.85).
“We have a balanced team and it showed today,” Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. “We have a very well rounded team, and we knew the competition would be great today. What Coach Lundin has done with this meet is remarkable, and when we came her last year after all the pandemic stuff it really felt like normal and that is what kicked everything off for us. This is a wonderful and purposeful meet, and I’m certainly proud to be a part of it.”
The Indians five saw Tyler Colwell leading the way with victories in the 100-meter dash and he was joined by Samuel Drey, Elijah Martin and Cael Hiser in the 4X100 relay and then won the 4X200 relay with Hiser, Malik Armstrong and Collin Forrest. Forrest also won the 300 hurdles, with Zach Balzer winning the 800 meters.
“Today was awesome because of the total team concept of the meet, and I’m proud of our team,” Lundin said. “Today was about getting out there as a total team on all levels and competing, and we did that.”
Lockport received a win from Gabe Czako in the 110-meter hurdles in a meet record time of 14.77. Czako is the top hurdler in the state, but on this day, he ran the 400 meters instead of the 300 hurdles and placed fifth.
“We just wanted to change it up a little and work on some strength for Gabe, it’s still early in the season, and it really matters in May,” Lockport coach Tom Razo said.
Source: The Daily Chronicle