High school track and field: As county meet approaches, Huntley hoping relays keep Red Raiders on top

Huntley has produced a string of Class 3A sprint successes at the IHSA Boys Track and Field State Meet that is unprecedented in the Fox Valley Conference.

There were stars, such as individual state medalists Connor Boos, Dubem Anikamadu and Eric Mooney. And there was depth, as 10 other Red Raiders picked up medals in either the 4x100- or 4x200-meter relays the past four years.

No FVC school had placed at state in the 4x100 or 4x200 before 2015. Huntley has done it every year since then.

Three-quarters of the Raiders’ 4x100 relay team – Antonio Passarelli, Zach Tepper and Ron Noll – returned this season for another run at a state medal and should make key contributions Thursday as Huntley defends its team title at the McHenry County Track and Field Meet at Huntley’s Red Raider Stadium.

Field events start at 3:45 p.m., with the first heat of the 3,200 meters going at 4:45. The meet usually is split between two days with field events the first day and running the second, but because of Good Friday, everything will take place Thursday.

Huntley boys coach Chris Maxedon said boys races will be run first, followed by girls races. Field events, other than high jump and pole vault, will have four attempts and no finals to speed things up. Huntley’s boys and girls are favored to repeat their team titles. Cary-Grove’s and McHenry’s girls teams, which were second and third last year, are competing elsewhere in other meets.

Passarelli, Tepper and Noll ran with Mooney last year to take seventh in the Class 3A 4x100. Sophomore Paul Kerber, a rookie to track, has taken the place of Mooney, who graduated and plays football at Northern Iowa.

“It’s pretty surprising,” Tepper said. “[Kerber] did not run at all his freshman year and comes out this year, and it was really amazing watching him run 7.4s and 7.2s (in the 60 meters) indoors, coming out of nowhere. We knew he was the one for our relay.”

Noll and Kerber are nursing injuries and may not run Thursday. Maxedon wants to have them healthy for next month. Maxedon lauded the work of former coach Jim Rolando with sprint relay handoffs and believes Huntley’s middle school programs help sustain the Red Raiders’ sprint excellence.

“Our kids get interested in track because our middle schools compete at the IESA level (at state),” Maxedon said. “They get to go to that state meet and get a little taste of it in middle school. That kind of carries over, and those kids want to continue to compete.”

Tepper medaled each of the past two years in the 4x100. Passarelli and Noll got their first medals last year.

“It would mean a lot (to medal again),” Passarelli said. “I’m really looking forward to it. I’m striving for something because I want to see us get there, all of us. I really want to see us go down there as a team and not one or two relays. We got one (medal) last year, but there’s still improvement that could be done with handoffs and takeoffs.”

The Raiders took fifth in both races at the Minooka Invitational on Saturday. Kevin Adams stepped in to replace Noll for those races.

“In the 4x100, our handoffs were kind of shaky,” Passarelli said. “We ran well as a whole, but the handoffs were not where they needed to be. If we got those down, we could have been first.”

Huntley’s state-medal 4x100 race last year was notable because Anikamadu, one of the state’s top sprinters, was battling an injury and did not run.

Tepper, who will run at NCAA Division I Illinois-Chicago next year, said consistency has been the key for Huntley’s sprinters.

“We have consistent practices to make sure we’re performing our best,” Tepper said. “There’s a lot of big shoes to fill. Mooney, Dubem and Melvin (Aninagyei-Bonsu) are gone. It’s our job, me, Passarelli and Ron Noll, to carry their legacy and show people what Huntley’s about.”

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