Everything points toward Cary-Grove junior thrower Ricky Hurley having a highly productive spring.
Hurley’s fitness has never been better – he dropped 30 pounds, now weighing about 250, and gained strength. He already has thrown the shot put farther (57 feet) than last year.
Hurley also has shown a penchant for coming through under pressure.
He won the discus in the boys intermediate division at the USA Track and Field National Junior Olympic Championships last summer on his final throw.
Then, there is Hurley’s mentor, former teammate Josh Freeman, who now is a sophomore at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Freeman, who won the Class 3A shot put and discus state titles two years ago, serves as both an inspiration and a long-distance coach.
Hurley, who medaled in the shot and discus as a sophomore, will be one of the key performers in the local track and field season.
“The sky’s the limit for him,” Trojans coach Layne Holter said. “I fully expect him to medal in both events again. He has a way of rising to the occasion and not letting pressure get to him. He is so calm sometimes that you wonder if he’s excited about competing.”
Hurley was fifth in discus and seventh in shot put at the state meet last year. He won the national title at 174 feet, 7 inches with his final throw.
“I just want to beat what I did last year, which I already did in the shot,” Hurley said. “I’m looking to win a state title in either, that’ll be a big accomplishment. Sophomore year, I was the youngest guy there, so now I want to win it.”
Hurley watched closely as Freeman won state titles two years ago, nearly breaking the state shot put record. He learned a lot from Freeman and frequently corresponds with him.
“Every so often, when I’m in a jam with my technique, he critiques me and tells me what I need to do,” Hurley said. “It gets me over that wall. From his junior year to senior year, he threw 10 more feet, that shows me I can do the same thing. I’m almost 60 as a junior, so maybe I can [eventually] go greater than what Josh accomplished.”
Holter said Freeman has been an excellent influence on his former teammate.
“Clearly, Ricky’s goal is to beat Josh’s records,” Holter said. “Josh is good about helping Ricky and talking to him. Josh will be happy for Ricky if he broke those records.”
Along with Freeman’s advice, teaming up with trainer Mike Spagnola at Edge Strength and Conditioning in Cary has paid dividends. Hurley lost weight, but is stronger than he was before. Spagnola designs workouts specifically for throwing.
“He put me on a no-carb diet and I dropped the weight,” Hurley said. “I just busted my butt. He mainly focuses on my sport, a lot of shoulder work, lots of squats, perfect for throwing. And speed to keep me in shape.”
Here are some of the other storylines for the upcoming season:
Cary-Grove’s girls: The Trojans have won five consecutive Fox Valley Conference girls meets and look like they have the talent and depth to add to that number. Hurdlers Morgan Schulz and Eva Burk, jumpers Erika Sternard and Faith Furio and throwers Olivia Roehri and Nikki Freeman will be some of their top athletes.
C-G coach Mark Anderson listed Crystal Lake Central and Huntley as other favorites in the FVC, but the rest of the teams squarely have C-G in their sights as the one to chase.
Top girls: Woodstock senior Maura Beattie is back to finish a standout career likely by defending her Class 2A state 3,200 meters title. Beattie will run at Central Michigan next year.
Marengo senior Allie Sprague was the Class 2A 1,600 runner-up to teammate Katie Adams, who now runs at Iowa, and also was fourth in the 800. Sprague will run at South Carolina next year.
Jacobs junior Lauren Van Vlierbergen finished fourth in the Class 3A 1,600 meters and fifth with the Golden Eagles’ 4s800 relay team last year. Van Vlierbergen again could be one of the state’s top runners in the 800 and 1,600.
Top boys: McHenry junior Jesse Reiser made himself known as a freshman when he qualified for the Class 3A state meet in the 3,200 meters. He has been improving ever since and was Class 3A state runner-up in cross country.