By Bob Balgemann

Having avoided the month of March with its iffy weather, Harlem’s 2022 boys and girls outdoor track and field teams have made up for lost time by scheduling nine meets and invitationals during April.

Two have already been held (weather permitting): the Gene Shipley Track and Field Invitational on April 2, in Rock Island, followed by the nearby Rockford Auburn High School meet.

Up for the coming weekend are two multi-team gatherings, one for each team. The Gans Zeedyk Invite at suburban Niles West High School is for the boys and it’s on tap for Saturday. Also Saturday, and also in suburbia, at St. Charles North High School, is the girls invitational by the same name.

Three days later, on Tuesday, there will be action in back of Harlem High School where a quadrangular meet will be held in the afternoon with visiting Boylan Catholic, Freeport and Belvidere.

Both Harlem teams have new head coaches this year, who welcomed a blend of veterans and newcomers to practice sessions that opened last month.

For the Huskies and head coach Jared Richardson, quite a few of his candidates kept busy during the recently concluded indoor season, during which they finished fourth in the annual NIC-10 meet.

He has coached at Harlem for the past two years, serving as head coach of the cross country program in 2022. No stranger to track and field, and cross country, he ran both for Harlem from 2002 to 2006, and then at the University of Illinois, Champaign, from 2006-2010.

Harlem is returning nine veterans to this year’s boys team, six of them seniors. Those back in the fold and their personal best times, distances or heights in their chosen events are:

* Senior Ethan Taylor, 100-meter dash, 11.71 seconds; 200-meter dash, 23.87 seconds; and triple jump, 37 feet, 3 inches.

* Senior Austin Durnil, 200, 25.25 seconds and 400-meter dash, 57.41 seconds.

* Senior Riley Lundgren, shot put, 46 feet, 4 inches; and discus, 150 feet, 5 inches.

* Senior Aktanay Kwazdran, 800-meter run, 2:07.48; and 1,600-meter run, 4:49.06.

* Junior KeShawn Harrington-McKinney, shot, 49 feet, 4 inches; and discuss, 132 feet, 9 inches.

* Senior Tyrone Tyus, 100, 11.81 seconds.

* Junior Tyler Wehde, 400, 57.7 seconds; and 800, 2:14.71.

* Senior Deven Ortiz, high jump, 5 feet, 6 inches.

* Sophomore Dylan Malmgren, 800, 2:13; 1,600, 5:09; and member, 4-800-meter relay team, 3:59.19.

Among the highlights from the 2021 season was Lundgren placing third at the conference meet in both the shot put and discuss. He wound up being very close to qualifying for state in the discus.

Also, now graduated Aiden Gruner finished second in the 3,200 and fifth in the 1,600 at the NIC-10 meet. He was one place away from advancing to the state meet. He currently attends Northern Illinois University, a Division I school in nearby DeKalb, and already has competed on his own in one marathon.

Looking back at last season, coach Richardson said the Huskies wound up sixth in the outdoor conference meet. “We’re hoping to improve on that,” he said. Top contenders this year are Belvidere North, Hononegah and Rockford East.

In a year when the team was heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the varsity roster was down to 30 athletes, he said, with only two freshmen. “We currently have 66 athletes and 22 freshmen on the roster, so we are getting back on track,” he said.

A number of freshmen were a presence on this year’s indoor team and are expected to make immediate contributions during the outdoor campaign. Those newcomers and their personal best times, heights and distances are:

* Owen Recoy, 800, 2:16; and 1,600, 5:09.

* Nick Tyrcha, 400, 58.32 seconds.

* Leo Ramos, 1,600, 5:25; 3,200, 11:34.

* Dominic Carlson, 800, 2:24; 3,200, 11:36.

* Brady Johnson, 200, 24.5 seconds; long jump, 16 feet, 6 inches.

* Junior Kaden Davies, 200, 26.71; 400, 59.1 seconds.

* Romeo Olivares, 200, 25.5 seconds.

Assistant coaches this year are Lyle Rich, throws; Cody Haun, throws and weight room coordinator; and Mike Bushman, springs and jumps.

Lady Huskies

New head coach Nate Dodson and his 2022 Lady Huskies are coming off a second-place finish in the conference during 2021. And this year, senior school-record holder Hannah Bilodeau qualifying for the indoor state meet in both the 200 and 400-meter dash events. While there, she established a personal best in the 400, with a time of 1:01.41. That now ranks second all-time at Harlem, behind Jenna Combs who ran a 1:00.43 in 2010.

In the 200, Bilodeau was clocked in a near personal best time of 26.97 seconds.

She enters her final year at Harlem holding its best-ever times in the outdoor 100, 200 and 400-meter dash events. Each was established in 2019, when she was a freshman. She also has competed in the long jump and been a member of various relay teams.

Bilodeau is considered one of the key returnees for this year’s squad along with seniors Kaitlyn Zintak, Sherry Wehde, Aaliyah Haun, Kiki Bailey and Emma Rich, juniors Bryanna Travieso, Gabby Xayasouk, and sophomores Whitney Schlaht and Hannah Ranstead.

Underclassmen expected to contribute right away are freshmen Hailey Bilodeau and Celia Riportella, along with sophomore Kelcie Logan.

In looking at this year’s NIC-10 opponents, coach Dodson said, “Guilford and Hononegah will be very tough, but we are developing some young talent along with some strong senior leadership.

The roster of the 2022 Lady Huskies totals 45 with 13 seniors, 12 freshmen, 12 sophomores and eight juniors.

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