CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. (May 30, 2023) – Two years ago, Braydon Waller wasn’t running track.
Now he’s Marian Catholic’s first state champ since 2010.
Waller won the Class 2A 100 meters in 10.75 on Saturday in the state meet at Eastern Illinois’ O’Brien Field in Charleston.
He also anchored the Spartans’ third-place 400 relay team, joining Paul Frazier Jr., Michael VanHootegem, and Tyler Lofton to run 43.15.
VanHootegem also medaled in the 300 hurdles as Marian tied for ninth with 18 points.
Waller ends a high school track career that didn’t start till last year with four state medals — he was third in the 100 and part of the sixth-place 800 relay team last spring.
“Honestly, I was a little disappointed with my (100) time,” he said. “I don’t know if there was or was not some wind in my face. But I’m happy to be a state champion my senior year, last year at Marian. Going off to college now, I hope I can do some great things.”
Waller and his teammates hit the reset button after having some mixed results during Friday’s preliminaries.
“Coach (Curt Crossley) sat us down, he was like, ‘Don’t get big heads,'” Waller said. “I made some mistakes (Friday), my teammates made some mistakes (Friday).
“So we needed to lock in because we were goofing around. … It made me focus because I’m the captain of my team. I need to be the one to bring everyone together, right?”
Crossley, in his first year as the Marian coach, knew from the get-go Waller could be a state champ.
“I told him, ‘You’re like a prizefighter, I’m like a trainer,'” Crossley said. “I told him he’s got tons of potential, (he’s) got to work for it. He grew in every way possible, as a person, an athlete, a student.”
Now Waller is weighing where to continue his running career. He holds one Division I offer from Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Crossley expects more, including from Southern Illinois.
As happy as Crossley was for Waller, that’s how sad he was for VanHootegem.
The senior was leading the 300 hurdles before making contact with the final hurdle and falling. He finished ninth in 42.28. Earlier, in the 110 hurdles final, he was disqualified after getting tangled up with another runner.
“That was heartbreaking,” Crossley said. “You can’t find a more deserving kid. Just to have those two races — the way they ended, I’m just distraught. … Michael has been the consummate teammate. I’m so proud of him.”
And, Crossley noted, VanHootegem has a bright future. He has earned a prestigious Evans Scholarship and will attend the University of Illinois.
Katie Pollock pitched a one-hitter and struck out 11 as the Spartans repeated as Class 3A regional champs on Friday, beating the hosts 5-0 at Oak Forest.
Jasmine Venson slugged a two-run double in a four-run fourth, while Pollock and Kayden Porter each added run-scoring singles. Gracie Jensen was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI for Marian (21-10), which plays Ottawa in Tuesday’s Lemont Sectional semifinals.
The Spartans wrapped up the best season in program history on Saturday, falling 25-13, 25-15 to Marist in the Brother Rice Sectional semifinals.
Jacob Haney had six kills for Marian, which finished 29-9 with its first regional title. Justin McGary had 11 assists and Seb Jaculbe added eight digs.
The host Spartans beat Reavis 25-20, 25-17 in Thursday’s regional final. Haney and Brandon Painter each had eight kills for the Spartans. Joe Staack contributed eight blocks and Jaculbe added 11 digs.
Marian opened the playoffs with a 25-15, 25-12 victory over Eisenhower on Wednesday. McGary paced the Spartans with 25 assists and eight digs. Phoenix McGruder had 10 kills, three more than Haney.
The Spartans’ season ended Saturday in the title game of their own Class 3A regional with a 10-3 loss to Marist. Nick Mangano went 2-for-2 with a double and an RBI for Marian, which finished 18-18. Lloyd Mills was 2-for-4 for the Spartans.
Marian advanced on Thursday with an 11-1, five-inning win over Kennedy. Mangano, who struck out eight in four innings, and Jack Markos combined for a no-hitter. Matthew Gonzalez went 2-for-3, doubled and drove in three runs, while Mills stole two bases and drove in two runs.
The Red Wolves are done for 2023 after falling 5-3 to the hosts Thursday in the Class 4A Joliet West Regional semifinals, but their future looks bright.
South went 23-13 with a young team that featured just four seniors, running off nine straight wins during a stretch of late April and early May.
“I love those seniors,” South coach Matt Tiffy said. “And some of them were limited. Our senior pitcher sprained his ankle, but he’s there every day teaching young guys how to grip and what to look for in situations. … One guy didn’t play very much but he’s a big part of our clubhouse every single day.”
Tiffy said the team’s spring break trip helped bring the players closer together.
“Guys learned from it — our junior class, our sophomores and freshmen — we had two freshmen up (on varsity) the majority of the year,” Tiffy said. “We’ll be back, we’ll be tougher.”
The regional game was a back-and-forth affair. Joliet West scored runs in the first and second to take a 2-0 lead, but South tied it in the top of the fourth.
Tyler Earmsmuth scored on a Tigers error and Jayden Armstrong came through with a two-out RBI single.
Joliet West went ahead again 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth. But once again the Red Wolves tied it on Earmsmuth’s RBI double in the top of the fifth.
The Tigers scored what proved to be the decisive run in the bottom of the fifth and added an insurance run in the sixth.
Sophomore Jayden Spann started for the Red Wolves and went six-plus innings, allowing six hits, five runs, and five walks while striking out one. He retired seven straight batters between the second and fourth innings.
“It’s a hard situation for a sophomore,” Tiffy said. “(But) he’s got some electric stuff. He’s pitched in big games for us all year. … Once he settled in, I thought he did a really nice job.”
Earmsmuth finished 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI for South, while leadoff hitter Khanon Gresham was 2-for-4 with a run and a stolen base.
Boys track and field
South’s Karrel Harvest finished 19th in the Class 3A discus at Eastern Illinois with a throw of 136-7.25.
The Red Wolves finished 17-17 with an 11-1 loss to Shepard last Tuesday in the Class 4A Shepard Regional semifinals.
Defending Class 2A state champ Illiana blanked the hosts 14-0 in Saturday’s Whiting Sectional semifinals.
The Vikings (20-9) shut out North Newton 16-0 in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.
The Vikings dropped the title game of their own Class 2A sectional on Friday, falling 3-1 to Andrean. Illiana finished 18-9.
Mikayla Derks pitched a three-hitter with nine strikeouts as the Vikings blanked North Newton 2-0 in Wednesday’s semifinals. Derks also was 2-for-3 with a triple.
Girls track and field
Illiana tied for 22nd with five points at last Tuesday’s Portage Regional and did not have any state qualifiers.
Boys track and field
The Vikings tied for 24th with three points at Thursday’s Valparaiso Regional and did not advance any athletes to state.
Boys track and field
Meteors senior Jevon Warren qualified for Saturday’s Class 3A long jump finals at Eastern Illinois and finished 13th with a clear of 6-0.75.
The Meteors’ season ended on Wednesday with a 19-0, four-inning loss to the hosts in the semifinals of the Class 3A St. Laurence Regional. North finished 5-23-1.
South Suburban College
The Bulldogs finished 1-2 in the NJCAA Division II World Series in Spartanburg, S.C.
South Suburban (37-14) lost 6-1 to Louisburg (N.C.), defeated Rock Valley 7-3 and fell 2-0 to Kirkwood (Iowa).
- Chance encounter led to Marian Catholic senior placing in shot put at state – other local scores (May 23, 2023)
- SSC Baseball wins region title, enters Midwest District tournament – other local scores (May 17, 2023)
- TF United girls soccer on six-game win streak heading into playoffs – local scores (May 13, 2023)