Kyle Carter, jr., Kaneland
Carter won the 800-meter race at the Crystal Lake Central meet last Friday, finishing in 1:58.20.
What to watch for...
Kaneland boys at Kane County Meet @ Burlington Central, Friday, 4:30 p.m.
Knights will be tested against some Class 3A competition.
DeKalb, Sycamore, Kaneland girls at Northern Illinois Big 12 Meet @ DeKalb, Friday, 3 p.m.
Postseason stretch starts for a number of athletes with hopes of getting to the state meet.
Individual power rankings...
1. Jasmine Brown, sr., DeKalb, jumps: Still holds second-best TJ mark in state.
2. Dion Hooker, so., Sycamore, sprints: Running multiple events for Spartans
3. Lauren Zick, jr., Kaneland, sprints: Blazing 59.14 in 400 at Kane County meet.
4. Dave Emmert, sr., Sycamore, 800: Owner of second-fastest time in Class 2A.
5. Dylan Nauert, jr., Kaneland, hurdles: Edged at Crystal Lake in 300 hurdles
6. Marc Dubrick, sr., DeKalb, distance: Second in 1600 at Gib Seegers
7. Kyle Carter, jr., Kaneland, 800: 1:58 moves Carter into Top 5 of Class 2A.
8. Nathan Kucera, jr., Kaneland, middle distance: Posted 49.77 in 400 at Crystal Lake Central.
9. Kory Harner, sr., Kaneland, PV: Cleared 13-3 at Crystal Lake, taking second.
10. Billy Weissinger, sr., Hinckley-Big Rock, HJ: Finished fith at Oregon
Kucera hits first sub-50 finish
Kaneland junior Nathan Kucera had never run the open 400 fresh. At every track meet, Kucera, a middle-distance specialist, had either run in the 800 or been part of Kaneland's 4x800 relay team.
But on Friday at Crystal Lake Central, with no other event preceding the open 400, Kucera locked down a personal-best time of 49.77, the first time he had broken 50 seconds.
"We knew he was capable of running sub-50," Kaneland coach Eric Baron said. "He was actually disappointed because he took third."
Kucera wasn't done, recording a 49.3 split in the Knights' 4x400 relay to cap the day.
The junior is one of Kaneland's many middle distance stars and could be a force in the last month of this year's track season after qualifying for last year's Class 2A state meet in the 400 as a sophomore.
Kucera was one of Kaneland's top cross country runners in the fall and Baron said his experience in the grueling fall sport has given him added physical and mental endurance in the spring. Kucera has run an 800 time of 1:58 earlier this season, but Baron thinks that number could drop to 1:54 or 1:55 if he's pushed.
"Probably his best race is the 800," Barron said. "We just haven't gotten good weather or enough competition."
DeKalb distance runner Misha Ryzhov had a simple strategy heading into Saturday's 3200 meters at the Gib Seegars Invite – stick to Sycamore's Mark Stice.
Stice came into the race as the top seed by far, with a previous-best time of 9:53, while Ryzhov, who normally runs the mile, had a personal best of 10:04. The Dekalb junior held by his strategy for seven laps, then cruised to first place with strong final 300 meters to finish in 9:44.
“It always helps when you have good people to run against,” Ryzhov said. “'Just stick with Mark, that was the plan.' I stuck with him until the last lap.”
Distance coach Mike Wolf knew that Ryzhov was capable of running below 9:50, but he admitted he was a little surprised by the juniors last lap, which put him in first place by 10 seconds.
“His mileage is up and he's run really strong throughout the season,” “We talked about, 'If you can stay on Mark, you should be in pretty good shape, because he runs pretty consistently' … Misha had a pretty strong last lap, it was stronger than I thought it would be.”
VIEWS: Suitable weather means thriving athletes
Track athletes will compete in bad weather. They don't like to, but they will.
Temperatures in the 40s, headwind on the home stretch with rain coming down almost sideways: Those early-season meets don't often bring out the best marks or times.
But after almost a month of tough conditions, local track athletes are now thriving in more suitable weather.
A number of local distance runners, highlighted by Sycamore's Dave Emmert, DeKalb's Marc Dubrick and Kaneland's Nate Kucera and Kyle Carter, have already met the state qualifying times for their respective classes, a very promising start considering the lack of good weather. They'll certainly go faster when pushed at upcoming conference and sectional meets as well.
The same can be said for the area's strong crop of jumpers, led by DeKalb's Jasmine Brown who has the best chance right now to come away with a state championship.
Earlier in the season, I said there was the possibility that all six of our local schools would not only have at least one athlete qualify for the state meet, but also make it to Saturday's finals. With a month left in the season, that prediction looks more promising than when I made it.
Ross Jacobson is the sports editor of the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @RossJacobson.