The Power of Community

By Chris Quick, Distance Night in Palatine Meet Director

Over the past year, I have thought about community a great deal. The lack of vibrant, physical community seems to be related to so many of the ills of modern society. Too often, we outsource our need to be with others to a screen or a distant, but virtual, connection. Researchers are working overtime to understand this shift in human relations, to weigh the impact on both our individual and collective psyches.

In this context, I would like to put forth Distance Night as an intentionally designed reaction to our outsourcing of community to virtual sources. I may hype the meet online via Twitter and send out information via email and other channels, but the intent of all that virtual communication is to gather all of us in one spot, for one night. In such a space, genuine connection occurs. We have only done this four times, but my favorite part each year has been the reactions of our newcomers. People I know, many of whom love track and distance running fervently, are just aghast at the energy, the excitement, the joy, the fun, and the tactile intensity of it all. Here, in congregation, the distance running community comes together and celebrates what is possible through physical communion. We meet up with old friends, make new ones, celebrate victory, console defeat, and best of all…have an incredibly good time at a track meet.

I try to spend as much of my night watching races and being as gracious and grateful as I can. You all chose - some at the cost of great time and distance - to come and race with us, to help us build an incredible event. We set out a template for what might be possible, but it is the physical commitment of each athlete and coach that makes it reality.

And the most important reality is the athletes themselves. We all know what is possible when the right field is brought together with the right set of motivations. We want to come out and RUN FAST. And when the weather cooperates, we can achieve a sense of collective liftoff that is nearly impossible in the other constructs within which we conduct our track seasons. It is the kind of construct where dreams come true, where school records are broken, and where everyone leaves with a sense of awe and wonder at what just happened. Try having that experience on a screen. It is too full body, too immersive to be possible any place but at an actual track with all of your friends.

I thank all of you for making this particular reality with me.

And boy did we do well last Saturday night. We did over $5,000 at the gate. After expenses we will be able to donate more than $4,000 to Special Olympics. Last year, we did 10-11 boxes of shoe donations. This year, we had 20 full boxes . Our kids from Youth Hunger Opposition in Palatine doubled their donation total from the previous year. Making our event a charitable community endeavor is the best thing we ever did, and I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for your donations. On to some commentary…

Boys 1600 Results in 7 of the Top 14 Times Nationally

Everyone knew the Boys 1600 Main Event was going to be fast. The assembled field was just unbelievable: Drew Bosley (WI), Caleb Easton (WI), and Carter Cheeesman (TX) were all NXN qualifiers. Bosley and Easton just broke 9:00 at Arcadia with Bosley going 8:49. Cheeseman had just finished 31st at World Junior Cross Country. Add into that mix Andrew O’Keefe (IL) and Thomas Shilgalis (IL) who are the co-favorites for the Illinois state title, and you had quite the potential for speed. The weather cooperated, and we got a classic race.

After the race was re-started due to early jostling, Bosley put the hammer down, bringing the field through 400 and 800 at a sizzling 62-2:03 clip. It slowed just a bit in lap 3, and Zack Albrecht (Jacobs) made a huge move to put himself in contention at 300 meters to go. At that point, O’Keefe exploded and opened a commanding 10 meter lead at 200 to go. His explosive move caused an audible gasp in the crowd…but had he gone too soon?

Watching the race I saw shades of his bold charge to the lead in the 2018 Class 3A state 1600 final. In that one, Dylan Jacobs from Sandburg caught him at the wire for a state title. As O’Keefe faded badly in this one too, Bosley caught him from behind at 100 meters to go and looked like he would power to the win. But O’Keefe is a tough customer, and he rallied one last time, diving at the wire to take the win by .04 of a second - 4:08.98 to 4:09.02. He led seven athletes across the line in 4:11.44 or better. Those times were good for 7 of the top 15 marks nationally in the 1600. What a race! In total, 16 athletes across our three sections ran better than 4:20 for 1600 meters.

Youth is Served in Girls 1600

Pretty wild to have a race feature five girls under 4:55, and have the top three be freshmen, right? This one was a clash of youth throughout, esp between Roisin Willis (WI) and Katrina Schlenker (IL), and could be a preview of the national scene in years to come. Willis came to prominence with a stellar indoor campaign where she upset Atheng Mu to win the New Balance Indoor Nationals title for 800 meters in 2:05.90. Schlenker qualified to NXN in the fall and gave two time defending Class 3A CC champion Katelynne Hart all she could want in the state final. She finished that race in 16:07 before claiming 27th in the national final. Add to that mix Chicago Latin’s Ava Parekh and a star-studded field and you had all the makings of a classic.

Willis led throughout much of the race before the real fireworks began on the backstretch of the last lap. Willis’ height provided a marked contrast to Schlenker’s small stature as the two dueled down the backstretch before the Batavia athlete drew away to win in the final 100 meters. She led five girls under sub-4:55 with eight total running 4:57.81 or better. The top four all broke the previous meet record, and we should have quite the races on our hands the next few years if all these girls return.

Josh Methner’s Charitable Surprise

I have never missed an opportunity to talk up Class 3A Illinois state CC champion Josh Methner (Hersey, IL). Not only is he an excellent representative of our conference, but he is also a fan’s dream as a racer. He races so methodically and intuitively and always seems to have another gear. He displayed that talent in placing second this year at Distance Night in a new personal best of 9:02.54.

But even more impressive throughout his career has been his character and leadership. I know from talking to his Coach Kevin Young that Josh is an excellent student, and he helped prove his leadership this fall by aiding his teammates to a 2nd place team finish in Class 3A state CC and a NXN berth. But his most gracious action of all has to be donating $1,000 to Special Olympics at Distance Night. As Gatorade CC Athlete of the Year for Illinois, Josh gets to donate $1,000 to a charity of his choice, and he surprised me at the event by giving his entire amount to Special Olympics. I was incredibly surprised and emotional and cannot thank Josh enough for thinking first of our meet and our cause. What an incredible moment!

Right on Track and Scholarship Times

One of my goals this year was to begin turning Distance Night into a collegiate showcase event. Most other sports have a place where athletes can go and showcase their skills in front of college coaches, and I want Distance Night to be that place for distance runners. To that end, we formed a partnership with Andrew Novelli of Right on Track. Andrew provides consulting services to athletes seeking college scholarships and athletic placements, but he was also able to bring a network of college coaches to our event. All athletes were able to sign up for his spreadsheet so that their information could be marketed to college coaches. We hope to extend this partnership in the future and draw even more coaches to see these incredible athletes perform.

The Redemption of Jared Kreis

Jared Kreis (LincolnWay Central, IL) has clearly been on a mission this track season. You had to look deep in the Class 3A CC results to find his name, and I am sure that finish has been a prime motivator in what has become a phenomenal track campaign. He won the Illinois Prep Top Times 3200 in 9:10 to announce his emergence. That time is great, but he followed that up with a 9:02.47 PR and a huge win at Distance Night. In the process he held on in the kick to beat defending state CC champion Josh Methner. It will be exciting to see how Jared continues to develop, but this race certainly put him on the national map as a force to be reckoned with.

Alyssa Norris Demonstrates Depth of Girls Running

Wisconsin Athletes Excel

Fatima Giron 11:17.45

Junior High Kids

Lane Tech Wins After Late Entry

Ailey Mitchell - Another Small Town Athlete 30 sec pr

Drama in the Girls Distance Medley

Family Commitments

Thank You