One-track minds

One-track minds

Dwayne Smith and Aaron Hodges haven't attended a class at Illinois, and already they are second on the football depth chart.

But they can't worry about that now. Both star athletes need to finish their high school careers first.

If it works as planned, Rantoul's Smith and Rich Central's Hodges will be handed medals at the Class AA state track meet May 28-29 in Charleston.

Another Illini football recruit, receiver Eric McGoey, hopes to join them at O'Brien Stadium. The Wheaton Warrenville South sprinter is recovering from knee surgery.

Smith spent Saturday afternoon at the Gene Ward meet in Champaign. He did a little jumping, a little hurdling. All in a day's work.

Smith could compete in seven individual events at the state level: 100, 200, 400, 110 hurdles, 300 intermediate hurdles, long jump and high jump. But athletes are limited to four events, including relays.

"He's a title contender in the long jump and high hurdles," Rantoul coach Roger Quinlan said. "Our relay teams are going to be good enough to be in the top five in state."

Smith isn't a football player killing time in the spring with track. He takes both sports seriously.

"Track and football, to me, go together like food and water," Smith said. "I need them both. If I couldn't do one, I couldn't do the other one."

The Illinois football coaches have promised Smith a chance to compete with the Illini track team.

Quinlan said Smith has college-level ability in track.

Hodges' track career ends, he hopes, on May 29. His goal is to earn a medal in the shot put. This season, he has the fifth-best throw in the state.

After the state meet, Hodges plans to put his shot and discus away.

"This is a high school thing," Hodges said.

Hodges, listed No. 2 on the UI depth chart at left guard, said track helps him with football. The footwork used in shot should carry over to the offensive line.

Track practice serves as Hodges' substitute for football workouts.

"It takes up a good part of the day," Hodges said.

"We're doing the throwing, lifting and running."

Unlike Smith and Hodges, McGoey started his high school career as a track athlete and later turned to football.

McGoey's special feeling for the sport goes back to his freshman year when Wheaton Warrenville South won the Class AA track title.

As a junior, McGoey finished fifth in the 300 hurdles and ran the second leg of the winning 800 relay team.

McGoey's senior track season got delayed by knee surgery. He had the meniscus in his right knee repaired during basketball season.

"I had to have surgery before I blew the whole meniscus in half," McGoey said. "I was kind of torn because we were having a really great basketball season. But I really had to get it done."

The knee is close to 100 percent, McGoey said. He began practicing with the team in April and had his first meet Saturday.

"From practice, I know I'm just as fast if not faster," McGoey said.

But his endurance isn't where it needs to be. The injury took care of that.

"I've been sitting on my butt for the last 21/2 months," McGoey said. "I really didn't do anything.

"Track isn't about running fast. It's about being strong and being able to run that 400 and come back and run another 400."

Listed third at split end on the Illinois depth chart, McGoey won't do anything to hurt his football future. He is sticking to the short sprints, avoiding the difficult hurdles to save the wear on his knee.

Not that McGoey is taking the rest of the season off. He expects to run in one or two of Wheaton Warrenville South's relays at Charleston.

The Tigers are trying to win state titles in both football and track during the same school year. They pulled it off when McGoey was a freshman.

"It would be huge," he said. "All of us who have been together have tried to model ourselves after the '95-96 teams."

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