The Lewis University men’s track and field team has seen the Flyer women’s track and field squad claim two of the last three Great Lakes Valley Conference indoor championships.
Lewis figures that 2013 will be the breakout season for the Flyer men.
“We’re pretty excited about the men’s program this year,” Lewis head men’s track and field coach Dana Schwarting said. “The men have been a little jealous of the women having all of the success, so they have been working hard.”
Schwarting will be counting on the performances of middle distance runners Scott Tanis (Yorkville, Ill./Yorkville) and Matt Jemilo (Tinley Park, Ill./Tinley Park) to score some big points for the Flyers.
Tanis won both the GLVC Outdoor 1,500-meter run (3:53.54) and GLVC Indoor 1-mile run (4:16.7) and qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in 2012. Jemilo was named the GLVC Freshman of the Year following his 800-meter run (1:52.84) title at the GLVC Outdoor Championships last season.
“They’re our biggest returners from last year in regards to points and national capabilities,” Schwarting said of Tanis and Jemilo. “They’re both running phenomenally well.”
Tanis and Jemilo both figure to account for two of the four legs of the Distance Medley Relay that Schwarting believes can make some noise at the national level. He also figures that the other two legs of the DMR can easily be filled.
“We have a deep enough squad of distance runners to where we can plug people in,” Schwarting said. “Hopefully we’ve built that for the foreseeable future to where we keep reloading.”
Schwarting can count on juniors Andrew McLain (Fort Wayne, Ind./Homestead) and Sean Smith (Winnebago, Ill./Winnebago/St. Francis (Ill.)) to spearhead the Flyer distance runners.
McLain and Smith played a key role in helping the Flyer men’s cross country team to a second-place finish at the 2012 GLVC Championships. Smith and McLain finished third and fourth in the event respectively. McLain advanced to the 2012 NCAA Men’s Cross Country Championships following his third-place performance at the 10K NCAA Midwest Regional Championships.
Over the past few years, Schwarting has been building his squad to become more well rounded and he believes that time has come.
“We’ve slowly been adding some pieces in the sprints, multi’s and the jumps,” Schwarting said. “We’re ready to make a jump on the GLVC stage and make a run at a title for the next two or three years.”
Keying the sprinters will be sophomore Mark Bonds (Chicago, Ill./St. Rita) and junior transfer Lamarr Blandon (Waukegan, Ill./Rend Lake C.C.).
Other sprinters expected to contribute are sophomore Jesse Steward (Chicago, Ill./Marian Catholic/Purdue), junior Brock Massie (Chicago, Ill./Kenwood) and senior Lonzo Harris (Oswego, Ill./Oswego East).
“We’re deep enough (in the sprints) to where they push each other every day, which is the key to track and field,” Schwarting said.
Harris, who will only be competing during the outdoor season, was an All-GLVC Indoor Second Team selection after second place finishes in both the 55-meter dash (6.52) and high jump (1.96 meters) at the GLVC Indoor Championships last year.
Steward and Massie will also compete in the jumping events with Harris. That trio will be pushed by the emergence of freshmen Matthew Simmons (Calumet City, Ill./Marian Catholic) and Cody Leach (Chicago, Ill./St. Rita).
“We have three or four national caliber student-athletes in the jumps,” Schwarting said. “They can practice against each other every day, push each other and that can only help us in the long run.”
“That’s why we’re improving so much,” Schwarting continued. “Our team is getting bigger and we’re having more competition in practice, which is huge.”
Schwarting believes that his multi-eventers Jared Harkness (Elmwood, Ill./Elmwood) and Dan Lentz (Minooka, Ill./Minooka) will be a force to be reckoned with in the GLVC.
“We feel like (Harkness and Lentz) will both be top-four in the conference in the multi-events and both of them could score points in the pole vault, hurdles or the high jump,” Schwarting said. “Having really good multi-eventers on your team is a huge asset because they score more points than anyone else.”
It’s been a long time coming, but the Flyers are ready, according to Schwarting.
“It’s been a four-year process of rebuilding this (program) and I think we’re pretty stable,” Schwarting said. “I think we’re going to see a four to five year run to where we’ll be very competitive at the conference championships and nationally”
Lewis opens the 2013 campaign on Friday (Jan. 11) evening, as the Flyers host the Lewis Open. Action is set to begin at 4 PM at the Recreation Center Fieldhouse.
Lewis University is a Catholic university offering distinctive undergraduate and graduate programs to more than 6,500 traditional and adult students. Lewis offers multiple campus locations, online degree programs, and a variety of formats that provide accessibility and convenience to a growing student population. Sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Lewis prepares intellectually engaged, ethically grounded, globally connected, and socially responsible graduates. The seventh largest private not-for-profit university in Illinois, Lewis has been nationally recognized by The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report.
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