When a college sports program develops a pipeline of talent from a particular high school, the trick is to keep the talent flowing.
Illinois State University has done that after University High School distance runners J.D. Lafayette and Sydney Billingsley signed national letters of intent on Wednesday.
“We’ve had a lot of success with U High grads the last few years with Tim Glover, Ryan Rutherford and C.J. Hamilton to name a few,” said ISU distance coach Jeff Bovee.
“There is certainly a lot of talent over there at U High. We’re just thrilled to keep that pipeline moving along.”
U High coach Lester Hampton is moved Lafayette and Billingsley chose his alma mater.
“Personally, it’s pretty awesome to have both of them going over there,” he said. “They are going to do some great things for that program.”
Lafayette wasn’t bad in the 1,600-meter run last spring when he led the Pantagraph area with a school record clocking of 4 minutes, 18.66 seconds. He also ran 1:55.80 in the 800 and split 1:52.2 for the Class 2A state runner-up 3,200 relay.
“I’m excited about his foot speed and his range,” Bovee said. “Initially he’ll probably help us more on the track, but in due time I think he’s someone who can help us in cross country as well.”
Billingsley holds U High records in the 1,600 (4:59.12) and 3,200 (11:11.3). She has won five state medals in track and three in cross country.
“Either one of them can run the 400 all the way up to cross country,” Hampton said. “That is versatility that, especially moving on to the next level, you don’t find very often.”
Both have what Bovee has been hunting for, the speed for track and the endurance for cross country.
“The thing that I look for in distance runners anymore is somebody that’s got versatility and is a good athlete,” he said. “Both these two show that in their different ways.”
Bovee has seen Billingsley’s ability at his summer camp.
“I’ve seen her do some things that make me think that she is going to have some good range between the mile, possibly the 5K, but mile and 3K for sure,” he said. “In cross country, she ran in the 17:20s at Detweiller so obviously she can move around the grass as well.”
Billingsley, who will major in nutrition, didn’t seriously consider any other schools. Her parents, Trina and Curt, are ISU graduates.
“I’ve always kind of wanted to be a Redbird,” Billingsley said. “I really like the coach, the team and the team aspect they have there.”
Wolfe to swim at SIU: Bloomington’s Michael Wolfe has decided to follow brothers Justin and Shaun to Carbondale to swim for Southern Illinois University. Justin is an SIU graduate while Shaun is a junior.
The Wolfe brothers hold seven BHS records with Michael currently atop the list in the 500-yard freestyle (4:34.07) and 200 individual medley (1:55.29).
“I really liked the school,” said Wolfe, who signed last fall. “I really liked the campus when I went down there. They treated me like I was part of the team even though I was just a recruit. It felt like home.
“I really like Rick Walker, the coach down there. He’s always shown interest in me. I know for a couple years I’m going to have a really good training partner down there.”
Wolfe said his brothers were excited about his decision.
“Justin called me that night and Shaun texted me,” Wolfe said. “They both said congratulations. I made the decision based on what I wanted.”
Wolfe, who also considered Minnesota and Buffalo, will study mechanical engineering. He expects to focus on the distance events in college.
“I think he made a very good choice,” said BHS coach Bob Loy. “I’m happy for him and I think he’s happy with where he’s going to go.
“The Wolfes have been a very good family for our program. They provide great motivation. Of course their talent is very good. All three boys have been a little different in their own way.”
Other recruits: Among seven Bloomington athletes announcing their college plans were distance runner Sam Doud (American University), pole vaulter Steven Bradford (North Central), wrestler Devante Gray (Wabash College), volleyball players Niani Lewis and Ashley Robinson (Lincoln College), softball player Lauren Summers (Heartland College) and soccer player Alex White (Illinois Wesleyan).