Distance runners to anchor boys track in 2022


Mara Mellits

Cam Shaw (front) and Narcisse Tomboouda watch a teammate practice during indoor practice.

By Alex Burstein, Editor-in-Chief

After a top ten performance in the state for the 4-by-400 relay for Lane’s Boys Track team at the 2021 IHSA 3A state finals, this year’s focus is shifting from the short to the long.

With seven of the eight members of that relay graduating, this year the distance runners are set to shine for Lane, led by senior Jack Klein and junior Hunter Whitney.

According to Head Kris Roof, the team is going to be stronger in the longer distance events all year long.

“I mean Hunter Whitney was all-state in cross country and Jack Klein — he’s already ran a meet where he ran a 4:29 for a mile. … We just got a lot of depth,” Roof said.

Lane also kicks off what could be a long and successful season with indoor track, which is starting on time for the first time since 2020 due to COVID-19.

“It’s good because it’s kind of a necessary preseason,” Roof said. “And it’s also [good] because the weather’s so bad here in the spring. It’s important to get some quality meets in indoor season because sometimes the rain, the wind — outdoor season just doesn’t always allow for great marks.” 

Indoor season started for Lane with the Proviso West 5-Team meet on Feb. 4, which offered a glimpse of the season for Lane, though some athletes competed in different events than they will this season. 

Senior Donnell Adams won the 55-meter dash, and Lane took first in the 4-by-400 and 4-by-800. Senior Abraham Aileman won the triple jump, an event he went to state for last year. Lane also sent a 4-by-800 team to state in 2021. 

Klein finished second in the 400, and Whitney finished second in the 800 at Proviso. Whitney ran in the 4-by-400, though Roof said he will mainly be a part of the 4-by-800 and the 1600 this year.

[Whitney will] race the two-mile but as of now, our plan is we think we’ll have a really strong 4-by-8 — like state medaling 4-by-8 and then Hunter [Whitney] in the mile and maybe Jack [Klein] in the mile as well,” Roof said.

Proviso was the first of seven in-state events that Lane has scheduled for this season, but according to Roof, there is one that sticks out for the team, especially because of the strength in the 4-by-800 this year.

The Downers Grove South Mustang Relays. And that’s at North Central College on Monday, March 7, and so that’s the meet that we’ll aim to try to win the 4-by-8,” Roof said. “The whole event is made of just three relays.

Lane will hope to contend in these distance relays after strong offseasons for the team, including Klein, helping the team prepare for this upcoming season before official practices began.

Really the only time we stopped running after cross country season is like two weeks, which really should be 10 days if you’re trying to be optimal,” Klein said. “So after those 10 or 14 days are over, you instantly just start running six days a week again ideally.”

Now, after the strong offseason, Roof is ready to raise the level of competition for Klein, Whitney and the team as a whole, even past the in-state level.

We’re going back to California because we had a big California trip planned two years ago that got canceled and a big meet there is Arcadia,” Roof said. “And it’s pretty much the top meet of the year in the country for that time of the year. So we’re trying to get Hunter in bigger meets.”

Whitney, who ran at the IHSA state meet for cross country, has shown a great deal of promise, having competed in a national meet this offseason. Now, the star junior will have a chance to face off against national track competition after missing most of last track season with injury.

Arcadia’s invitational will take place April 8-9, after the conclusion of Lane’s in-state indoor season. But Klein sees the two seasons as two pieces of the same puzzle.

“Really it’s more like an extended season,” Klein said. “So it’s a lot of racing practice. It’s a lot like earlier experience, whereas the condition will probably be around the same I’d imagine.”

While flat track races are expected to take center stage for Lane, the future of throwing and hurdles events are looking up with new coaches in those two fields, in addition to Aileman returning for the triple jump.

With distance covered, and throwing, hurdles and jumping developing, the lone question for Lane remains in the sprints.

It’s going to be a project for the sprints,” Roof said. 

Roof believes the team has the ability to be competitive in sprints, but have to work on technical aspects of rankings after so much missed time due to COVID-19 the next two years.

As the team works on building up its sprinters and their entire lineup, the expectations are high for the first full season since 2019 expected at Lane.

I think a lot of people have a lot of goals like just how we’re going to perform at state,” Klein said. “But for me, personal goals or looking at times, I would like to qualify for the New Balance National Indoor, which would be a 4:16 [in the] 1600 or 1:56 [in the] 800, which is a big growth period, but I hope I can hit it.”