Johnsburg hurdler Sandro Magradze aims for state return

Johnsburg's Sandro Magradze
Johnsburg's Sandro Magradze

Sandro Magradze admits there were times during his freshman and sophomore seasons when he was not all about track and field.

Magradze was decent at hurdling, and with his tall frame he had the potential to thrive, but his work ethic was slightly lacking.

“I wasn’t as motivated,” said Magradze, now a Johnsburg senior. “I didn’t have anybody [on my team] pushing me, like seniors. I’m not saying they were bad, but I didn’t have that person to get me going.”

Eventually, Magradze’s training habits got better and his times dropped. He became that teammate he felt was missing for others, and in turn that made him better as well.

Magradze is looking for a return trip to the IHSA Boys Track and Field State Meet next week in the Class 2A 300-meter intermediate hurdles. He is the top seed at Friday’s Grayslake Central Sectional, which starts at 4 p.m. with field events at William C. Eiserman Stadium.

All the local Class 2A schools will compete at Grayslake Central. Most of the Class 3A schools will be at the Huntley Sectional, with the exception of Dundee-Crown, which goes to Bartlett.

“Qualifying for state as a junior really sparked him to do something great at the state meet [this year],” Skyhawks coach Chris Setzler said. “Last year, I wouldn’t have said he was the same kind of leader. He’s become a great leader.”

Magradze ran his best 300 hurdles time (40.49 seconds) last week at the Fox Valley Conference Meet, where he was second to Cary-Grove’s Michael Saxon (40.14). Those are the best times in the area this season.

Next up, Magradze wants to get back to the big blue track at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium in Charleston for another chance. He tripped on a hurdle and fell last year, then got up and finished his race.

“He has a little bad taste in his mouth for that one,” Setzler said. “He definitely will be going back with redemption in mind. He’s been incredibly consistent, and he’s due to break a good one. It’s like a thrower ready to pop a big one.”

Maka Kverenckiladze Kartheiser came with her three sons – Levan and twins Nika and Sandro – from Georgia in western Asia before Nika and Sandro entered seventh grade. She married Tom Kartheiser of Johnsburg.

Sandro said youth sports were not readily available in Georgia like in the U.S., although he and Nika played some organized soccer. Mainly, they played in their yard.

In middle school, both twins showed some aptitude for running and hurdling, although Nika eventually gravitated toward theater and tennis. Sandro grew more passionate about track and wants to run in college.

Sandro is eyeing the 40-second mark he has yet to eclipse, but feels is well within reach.

“I feel I was a little bit late in the [college recruiting] process,” Magradze said. “It depends on what I can do, if I get my times under 40 seconds, I might have an opportunity.”

Magradze, now at 6-foot-2, feels he has benefited from different training with Setzler this season. Cari Setzler, the coach’s wife, and Johnsburg girls coach Tom Weaver coach the sprinters on the Skyhawks’ small coaching staff.

Magradze said the Setzlers and Weaver found some new training techniques at a clinic that have helped immensely.

“It’s crazy different,” he said. “They got some really good training styles and techniques. I’m doing the 300 hurdles six times a day in practice with different resting time. I’ve really improved on everything I’ve been doing. It depends on how I can pace myself through the whole race.”

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