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West Athletic Feature Story

By Randy Whalen

James Kokuro, Jr. is healthy. Tommy Polacek feels like he is flying, and Marcellus Mines is back. 

Those three, along with many others should equal another great boys' track and field season for Joliet West. 

The Tigers did well on Tuesday, April 9, when they hosted a triangular meet with Joliet Central and Plainfield Central. It was the second outdoor meet of the season for Joliet West, 

"It was just great to have a meet on our brand new track," Joliet West coach Joe Tucker said. "It was just great to see everyone compete and run all our guys."

Billy Bailey, Jr., who was second in the state in the 400-meter and finished fourth in the state in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dash last year in Class 3A, has graduated and is now at Eastern Illinois University. But there is plenty of talent returning for the Tigers. Starting with Mines, who placed third in the 1600-meter run at state last spring. 

Mines sat out Tuesday's meet but Kokuro and Polacek showed that they have state aspirations of their own with nice results. Take Polacek's performance in the hurdles as he won the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 15.88 seconds and the 300-meter hurdles with another PR time of 42.70 seconds. He edged out Joliet Central senior Jamari Straughter in both. 

"The 110-meter is my favorite," Polacek said. "It's quick, I get the steps in and get in a rhythm, and feel like I'm flying.

"It felt good to PR in both and I'm almost at the state time in both. This is my third year of track and field, I started as a freshman. This meet is great because everyone is up for it. We really enjoy it."

Polacek enjoyed a trifecta of victories as he helped the Tigers capture the 4x400 relay. The all-junior lineup of Payton Turner, Polacek, Kokuro, and Juelz Jones won by eight seconds over Plainfield Central with a time of 3:40.59. 

That was also the third win of the meet for Kokuro. He sprinted his way to first place in the 100, in 11 seconds flat, and 400-meter, by well over three seconds with a time of 50.50 seconds, races. Both were PR marks as well. 

"That was my season best," Kokuro said of the 400. "I'm currently No.17 in the state in the event."

But he's more excited to be able to be out there after missing most of the previous two seasons.

"I've been hurt since freshman year," Kokuro said. "Last year it was a hip injury and freshman year it was my knee. But now I'm healthy. I just want to try to get better, and better, and better, and get to state this year.

"It was fun to have this home meet and have the people come out and support us."

Also placing first for Joliet West was senior Ethan Podmolik with a time of 2:05.47 in the 800-meter run and Jose Nevarez with a PR time of 4:40.71 in the 1600, In the field events, senior Jayden Jurkowski won the shot put with a distance of 12.54 meters and the discus with a PR distance of 38.25 meters. Junior Caiden Koerner and sophomore Aiden O'Malley (PR) each had a height of 2.75 meters in the pole vault, and junior Wonder Ankamah got a PR of 6.16 meters to win the long jump. 

Finishing second was senior Dereon McBroom with a PR time of 23.25 seconds in the 200, sophomore Joshua Calvert with a PR of 54.17 seconds in the 400, and junior D'shon Woods with a PR height of 1.72 meters in the high jump. 

The Tigers opened the outdoor season on Saturday, April 6 at the Stagg Invite and edged Oswego East (122.5) to win it with a total of 126 points. Joliet West had a trio of champions. Mines in the 800 with a time of 1:56.87, senior Keldon Caldwell with a PR distance of 6.28 meters in the long jump, and the foursome of McBroom, Kokuro, Jones, and senior Aiden Rodriguez captured the 4x100 relay with a time of 43.56 seconds. 

"I just want everyone to continue to improve one percent each day," Tucker said. "The kids are working hard and small steps equal big things."