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Central Athletic Feature Story

By Randy Whalen

Zion Kostyra entered Joliet Central as a guard on the basketball team. 

He helped the Steelment to 19 wins this past winter.

But now, as a senior, he's looking to find his most glory in a different arena: On the boys' track and field team.

He's well on his way as he aims to break the school record in the triple jump.

"My main goal is to get the school record," Kostyra said of the mark of 46-feet-1 inch, which Deston Martin set in 1975. "It's my first year doing the triple jump and it's just pure natural ability." 

His ability showed on Tuesday, April 9, when Joliet Central traveled across town to participate in a triangular meet with Joliet West and Plainfield Central. It was the first outdoor meet of the season for the Steelmen.

"This was our opener and we did really well in the 4x1 and 4x2 relay's too," Joliet Central coach Brian Reed said. "But a lot of it was a practice and getting everyone a chance to run and enjoy themselves."

Kostyra certainly enjoyed himself as he was part of three winning events. But none was bigger for him than the triple jump. He had a PR of 13.94 meters, which is is 45-feet-8 inches. 

"Not bad for someone in his first season in the event. 

"I've started with the long jumper but I tried it and it went pretty well," Kostyra said of the triple jump. "I'd like to get to state in the event in my senior year. I'm already past the qualifying distance of 43 feet 10 inches (13.36 meters). 

"I was in the 4x1, 4x2, and 100 also. But the triple jump is my favorite event now. It's a blessing. It's a difficult event but when I enjoy something, I get better at it."

After excelling at track and field, Kostyra may pursue that rather than basketball in college. Either way, with a 3,9 GPA, he should be set to do well whatever he decides. 

But Kostyra isn't the only one with state aspirations in the triple jump. Fellow senior Jamari Straughter was there last in the event last season and placed 25th at state with a distance of 12.83 meters. He had a second-place mark of 12.70 at the tri meet this week and he hopes to advance again and join Kostyra at O'Brien Field on the campus of Eastern Illinois University in late May.

"Yes, we are pushing each other. We just have to stay consistent," Straughter said. "I like the triple jump because it's all my own pace. I can go on my own time. There's no starting gun telling me when to go. It's just me, the runway, and my own little world."

Straughter also loves the hurdle events and he placed second in both of those behind Joliet West junior Tommy Polacek. Straugher went 16.29 seconds in the 110-meter and 43.59 seconds in the 300-meter hurdles. 

"My favorite is the 300," he said of the hurdle events. "There's just an excitement to get over the next hurdle."

The Steelmen captured two of the relay events. Straughter and Kostyra along with juniors Antwi Boakye and Anthony Miranda won the 4x100 relay with a time of 43.94 seconds. In the 2x200 relay, Kostyra, senior Ryan Cornell, Boakye, and Miranda edged Plainfield Central by a quarter of a second with a time of 1:33.40. 

Miranda also won the 200-meter dash with a time of 23.13 seconds. Finishing second for the Steelmen was sophomore Deven Triplett with a PR time of 11:06 in the 100-meter dash and also with a PR of 5.83 meters in the long jump. Esteban Vasquez had a second-place time of 4:50.13 in the 1600-meter run, and the foursome of junior Esteban Vasquez, sophomore Leonardo Martinez, senior Myles Wedic, and freshman Nathaniel Gabriel placed second in the 4x800 relay.

"Ryan Cornell has been much improved for us too," Reed said. "But at the end of the day, I don't care about what happens on the track as much as I care about what kind of men the guys become. We have a lot of high-quality guys."

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