After four years with the Althoff track and field program, including, two trips to the Class 1A state meet, Kaleb Simmons is ready to take that next step.
One of the top 400 meter runners in the South Seven Conference during his high school career, Simmons has announced that he will continue to compete as a member of the Eastern Illinois University in Charleston track program beginning this fall.
And Simmons has some clear cut goals in mind.
“My goal is to either break or be right at 48 seconds for the 400 meters in my freshman year,’’ Simmons said. “I just want to get stronger and be able to train in a college environment with college-level athletes and see how fast I can go.
“The track program at Althoff is good, but it’s still in its infancy stage. You get a lot of kids out who have never really run track before or who don’t want to really be there. But they do it just for something to do. I think the coaches sometimes work more with them. That’s fine and I understand. But I need to become stronger to and I think I’ll be able to do that at Eastern.
Simmons, who qualified for the state meet in the 100 and 400 earlier this year, also considered Greensboro College in North Carolina and Tennessee State University before settling on the Panthers.
At EIU, Simmons will be competing on same O’Brien Stadium track where he ended his high school career. Eastern Illinois University is the host of the IHSA boys and girls state track meets each spring.
“Eastern has a great track and field facility and I’ve always enjoyed going there for track and field meets and then the last two years for the state meet,’’ Simmons said. “Plus, my mom and dad are also Eastern Illinois graduates. But the most important reason is that it’s got a great computer science program and that’s what I’m going to major in.
“Eastern is also close to home to where I can come back when I want to, but far enough away to where my mom can’t just pop in.’’
Eastern Illinois also has an excellent track program. A perennial Ohio Valley Conference power, Eastern Illinois won the league title this past season. Simmons thinks he will be running mostly relays at first, but hopes to compete in the 400 as well. Simmons also can run the 200.
“ I think my best time in the 400 meters this season was 50.6 and I ran like a 24.2 in the 200,’’ Simmons said. “They (Eastern) have two seniors coming back in the 400 meters next year so I’ll probably be running in the 1,600 meter relay and maybe some other relay events.
“I enjoy relays. I like the team element of them. Plus, for some reason I feel like I run faster in relays with a baton in my hand.’’
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.