Naperville Central’s Michael Jopes doubles his hopes

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Michael Jopes was seeking to own his home track.

After being edged for DuPage County honors in the 110-meter high hurdles last Friday, the Naperville Central senior had another go at the 300 intermediates.

Jopes did not disappoint.

“That’s definitely my stronger (event among the two),” Jopes said.

Jopes had a career race in the lower hurdles event, turning in a 39.08 to earn his first county championship in his final individual attempt.

“That was the fastest time I have ever run,” Jopes said.

Then again, it was not a complete surprise as the Illinois State-bound Jopes was All-State last spring in the 300 hurdles at the Class 3A state meet.

Jopes made a startling discovery when he was first introduced to the twin hurdles events as an underclassman.

“(The excitement of hurdling) just started taking off, and I have gained a lot more confidence,” Jopes said. “I have been very happy with my season so far.”

Jopes also played a leading role in the Redhawks’ 1,600 relay last spring. The quartet finished third at the state meet.

With fellow standout seniors Sam Bransby and Daniel Spaccapaniccia also in the Redhawks’ lineup, the unit is primed to break out.

“It’s going to be the first time we put our best team together,” Bransby said of plans for sophomore Christian Schafer to round out the quartet at the Joliet West Sectional next week. “We did the same thing last year.”

Bransby, the defending state runner-up in the open 400, has been slowed by a nagging hamstring injury.

Spaccapaniccia missed the state series last year with an ankle injury.

“It means a lot to have him back,” Jopes said of his classmate. “None of us enjoy starting (the relay). That’s his spot, and he knows it.”

“We want to see how we’re going to stack up against (the other elite relays) at Charleston,” Bransby said.

“Our goal for the championship season is to try and get top two in the state,” Jopes said.

Spaccapaniccia is primed after missing out on the festivities last spring. The Redhawks’ top 200 runner believes Jopes’ versatility could be a difference-maker at state.

“I definitely know running those 300 hurdles is the same as a running a 400,” Spaccapaniccia said. “I’m definitely excited for all of us to run.”

Bransby returns to the track Friday night for the DuPage Valley Conference championship at four-time defending state champion Lake Park in Roselle.

“It was more precautionary,” Bransby said. “The conference, sectional and state meets are much more important than the county meet.”

Jopes looks to defend both league hurdles titles.

“Things are going to be a little different,” Jopes said of the host Lancers’ skilled hurdlers.

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