Boys Track: Notre Dame’s Zoeller facing unwanted postseason hurdle
4/20/2012 Niles Notre Dame junior Rick Bobek competes in the high jump event during the annual Notre Dame Dons Relays at Notre Dame High School on Friday, April 20, 2012. | michael jarecki ~ for Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 18, 2012 8:32AM
Notre Dame junior Ryan Zoeller wanted to win his third straight conference title in the 300-meter hurdles, but the wiser course of action was to rest his strained hamstring, get healthy and aim for a state-qualifying time during sectionals.
Zoeller probably has the best shot of any Dons entry in the talent-rich IHSA Class 3A Loyola Sectional, which begins at 2:45 p.m. today (Thursday).
Zoeller tweaked his hamstring in the Carlinalley Invitational, held at Benedictine University, on May 5. He had to trot in the last 100 meters, but his time of 40.72 still approached his personal-best 40.46. The state-qualifying mark of 39.84 remains within his grasp.
“It feels a lot better now. I’ve still been jogging,” said Zoeller, whose Dons placed fourth among nine teams in the ESCC meet at Carmel on May 10. “The coaches wanted to be cautious. The way I look at it, I’ll be rested and ready.”
Head coach Mike Jankowski has faith in his hurdler.
“Ryan had a legitimate shot in the 300, and we hope he still does,” Jankowski said. “I don’t know how he’ll come back from this, but I know he’ll work that much harder to overcome it. He is a great kid.”
He’s also a great athlete. Zoeller was the conference champ in the 110 high hurdles as a freshman, and the runner-up a year ago. He has frequently bolstered the Dons’ swift 400 relay. Zoeller was a middle defender and MVP of the ND soccer team as a sophomore.
Zoeller is an adrenaline junkie — and patriot — who aspires to join the U.S. Marines and become a pilot. He loves the rush of video shooting games, especially Battlefield 3. His favorite song is Jason Aldean’s “Fly Over States,” a heartfelt country-music tribute to rural America.
The key for Zoeller in the 300 is the last hurdle — and finish. His starts are as good as anyone’s.
“Ryan just has to believe he can run all 300 meters at full speed, and then go out and do it,” said Neil Lubomski, who has been working with Dons hurdlers since 1996. “He has the experience and knows what he has to do.”
Notre Dame exploited its depth to post an 8-0 mark in conference triangular meets, but those don’t count in the standings. The league meet rewards top finishers, but the Dons were at a disadvantage with Zoeller’s unavailability and sophomore sprinter Tim O’Hara not at full strength. With 59 points, Notre Dame finished well behind Marian Catholic (138), Benet (117) and Carmel (97).
Junior Nick Bargione took second place in discus (144-feet-4) and unleashed the third-longest shot put throw (44-4). Senior Jim Kurpiel claimed third in discus (131-5).
Led by seniors Josh Maloney and Tristan Humbles, and sophomores O’Hara and Chris James, Notre Dame was third in both the 400 (44.51) and 800 (1:35.52) relays. O’Hara (11.40) and James (11.43) placed fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 100 dash. O’Hara (23.34) finished third in the 200.
Juniors Mike Gibson (2:06.09) and Matt Siemianowski (2:06.29) took fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 800 run.
Senior Thomas Bank placed seventh in the 300 hurdles (45.82), and eighth in the 110 hurdles (17.99). Junior Rick Bobek placed fifth in high jump (5-4), while classmate Adrian Bosowski’s personal-best 11-9 in pole vault was good for sixth.
The 16-team field at Loyola includes nine-time state champ Evanston, other CSL powers and perennially strong Prospect.