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  • Written by Anthony Nasella

Despite losing a large group of seniors to graduation last spring, Shepard’s boys’ track team is showing signs of promise in the early weeks of the 2014 season, as evidenced by a pair of first-place finishes in its two most recent meets.

On March 6, the Astros were the top team at the Argo Invitational, which featured Richards and Oak Lawn in addition to Shepard and the host school. Last Friday, the Astros also set the pace at the Morton West Invitational, a meet that included six squads in all. Besides the home team and Shepard, the field contained Addison Trail, Fenwick, Ridgewood and Riverside-Brookfield.
“We competed in three meets before Argo, [including a 28-team meet at Illinois Wesleyan University], but the kids really competed well in the past two,” Astros coach Scott Wilkins said. “We graduated a lot of talented kids [from] last year, but we’re a very deep team this year and will be strong in our area.
“We cover all the events really well, and we have a lot of kids who are very versatile. With that said, we don’t have many really big-time studs, [but] there definitely is some potential for some of the kids to qualify for the [upcoming] indoor Top Times meet.”

At Argo, high jumper Denzel Callion gave Shepard a first place and Josh Maier did likewise in the 3,200-meter run. Mike Evancich followed Maier across the finish line in the latter race, then the two teammates switched positions in the 1,600.
Victories were also produced by the Astros’ 400- and 1,600-relay units. Demarcos Anderson, Chanel Dotson, Kyle Dye and Callion comprised the winning lineup in the shorter event.
Shepard made a clean sweep of the jumps at Morton, with Sean Finley taking first in the long jump, Marlon Perkins leading the field in the triple and Corey Williams winning the high jump. Williams was also the fastest finisher in the 55-high hurdles.
Other triumphs came from Dye in the 55-dash, Sean Johnson in the 200, Maier in the 1,600, and the 1,600- and 400-relay teams. Maier, a state qualifier in cross country last fall, joined Williams, Andrew Miller and Nick Zuiker in the longer relay, while the 400 quartet was made up of Johnson, Anderson, Dye and Callion.
Among the many athletes in the program — a total of 95 are currently active at three levels — Wilkins anticipates numerous individuals being able to accomplish a great deal.
“Josh Maier is definitely one of our best talents,” he said. “I also have a sophomore, E.J. Rueck, who I’m keeping right now on the frosh-soph team, but who I think will definitely contend in the 55-hurdles. Potentially, Sean Finley could qualify in the long jump, and maybe our 4-by-200 relay team has a chance.”
And while Wilkins doesn’t believe his current squad will win the South Suburban Conference Red meet by 75 points, as was the case last year, he does think a repeat of qualifying athletes in at least four state events is entirely possible.
“I think we’re going to have a lot of success this season,” Wilkins said. “In the 4-by-4, we’ve had five different groupings already, [so] we have a lot of versatility. We’re still figuring things out being so early in the season, but we have a lot of potential. We’re still trying to figure out talent we haven’t even discovered yet.
“It was a great feeling winning at Morton West. We’ve had success in the immediate area, but we seem to be also doing well outside of the area. We’ve started out pretty strong.”
BOYS’ WATER POLO
Andrew edged Stagg 15-14 in sudden-death triple overtime last Monday despite a seven-goal performance from the Chargers’ Zack Amendola. Also playing well for Stagg in the SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover match were Connor Kaufmann and Nick Amendola, who scored three and two goals, respectively.
The Chargers squandered an 11-9 lead with less than a minute to play in regulation.
The Thunderbolts notched the equalizer with 47 seconds to go, then held a 13-12 advantage after the first of two mandatory overtime periods. However, Zack Amendola scored twice in the second extra session — including the tying goal with just 19 seconds left — to force sudden death.
Amendola collected five more goals on Saturday to help Stagg beat Bradley-Bourbonnais 12-5 and take fifth in its own invitational. The Chargers dropped a 9-4 verdict to Oak Park-River Forest in an earlier match that same day.
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Shepard earned a split last week, with its win coming by a 10-5 score over Chicago Agricultural School on Wednesday. That victory was preceded by a 15-4 loss to Lincoln-Way North on Tuesday.
Christian Reyes and Jerry Zachary paced the Astros in their win by tallying four goals apiece. Lucas Souza and Andrew Choragwicki supplied the others. Also contributing to the success was solid work on the defensive end from netminder Julio Martinez and Zach Segina.

GIRLS’ WATER POLO
After opening its 2014 season with a victory, Stagg dropped a 20-1 decision to SouthWest Suburban Conference powerhouse Andrew last Monday and then fell 16-1 to Hinsdale Central on Wednesday.

GIRLS’ TRACK
Grace Cain, Miranda Scarlata, Elsa Erling and Isabella Khan were responsible for Chicago Christian’s win in the 3,200-relay at Saturday’s University High Invitational. The foursome completed the race in 10 minutes, 34.32 seconds.
The Lady Knights (16 points) finished seventh in the eight-team meet, which was won by Grayslake Central (113).

 

SPORTSWRAP.PHOTO3.3-20-14Photo by Jeff Vorva: Jerry Zachary, shown here winding up for a shot, scored four goals for Shepard co-op in the team’s 10-5 conquest of Chicago Agricultural School last Wednesday.

 

SPORTSWRAP.PHOTO1.3-20-14Photo by Jeff Vorva: Shepard co-op’s Sanders Yu (right) reaches for the ball during his team’s 10-5 victory over Chicago Agricultural School last Wednesday.

 

SPORTSWRAP.PHOTO2.3-20-14Photo by Jeff Vorva: Shepard co-op’s Christian Reyes gets his hand on the ball during last Wednesday’s water polo match versus Chicago Agricultural School.

 

SPORTS-WRAP.PHOTO5.3-20-14Photo by Jeff Vorva: Not waiting to exhale - Stagg’s Nick Harres lets out a breath while running in a frosh-soph race at Saturday’s SouthWest Suburban Conference track meet.

 

SPORTSWRAP.PHOTO4.3-20-14Photo by Jeff Vorva: Sandburg’s Tamonte Brown (left) hands off to Jovani Jones in the 800-meter relay at last Saturday’s SouthWest Suburban Conference indoor track meet at Lockport. The Eagles wound up second to Homewood-Flossmoor.

 

SPORTS-WRAP.PHOTO6.3-20-14Photo by Jeff Vorva: Meeting the challenge -Sandburg’s Jordan Woods stays in front of a pursuer during one of Saturday’s races at the SouthWest Suburban Conference track meet, hosted by Lockport