The IHSA Class AA meet had two huge storylines: Chicago Lindblom junior Shamier Little's quest to win four individual golds and the quest for Charday Crawford-led Springfield Southeast to defend their team title for outgoing head coach Tom McBride (and in memory of the late assistant coach Dana Rountree).
The team vs. individual hype was fun while it lasted. Little got her hurdles titles (100 and 300) and 400 decisively enough, but Crawford had too much speed for her in the 200. In fact, with the 100 win as well and two winning relay anchors, Crawford's weekend could stand up pretty well with anyone's in the meet. She led a record-breaking day for Southeast, which tallied 63 points. Melrose Park Walther Lutheran, who moved up from Class A this year, outlasted Little's Lindblom team, 46-38 (all 38 by Little), to take the runner-up trophy.
The Spartans unleash full assault on the field
After Friday’s preliminary round, Coach McBride had to be pretty ecstatic with six total team entries into Saturday’s final. His group included two relays (4x100 and 4x200) and four individuals (Crawford, Brion Portis, Shawnise Stelivan, and Shaniera Wilson).
The team’s heavy hitters would be Crawford, Portis, Stelivan, and the relays.
Portis picked up big points when she won the triple jump with a fine effort of 39-2.5 nwi. She improved by over a foot from the prelims (38-1). Portis also picked up vital points in the long jump by placing 6th. Her teammate Stelivan did even better with a third place effort in 17-10.5.
The major fireworks though, would soon begin on the track.
The 4x100 began its defense against a solid field. The first two legs saw Walther Lutheran running hard and perhaps even slightly ahead. Stelivan moved incredibly hard on the final turn, and it was all Crawford on the anchor as she put to bed any thoughts of an upset. The Spartans replaced their own record with a new one in 47.53.
Crawford would go on to pick up three more victories in the 100 (11.48), 4x200 (1:40.38), and the 200 (24.14). As good as the 100 time was it was incredibly wind-aided (+3.8). Still, a great win is a great win.
Little was in the middle
Everyone knew this day was coming... but it was still unbelievable that it actually happened. Little accomplished a feat that no one other athlete in IHSA history has ever done. She competed in four pretty compressed events without any trepidation, winning the 100H, 400, 300H, and finishing second in the 200.
The arduous journey began in the 100H. At the sound of the gun, Little actually wasn’t the first one to the initial hurdle. Samone’ Thompson (Sr., Champaign Central) got there first. However, her lead would evaporate very quickly as Little turned on the rocket jets and left the field in setting a meet record 14.02. It would also be the best time of any athlete in the meet, legal wind or not.
The first real test would come in the 400 against foe and friend Megan Paul (Sr., Mundelein Carmel Catholic). Paul is having a great season and would love nothing more than to defeat her friend in her signature race.
The first half of the race Paul attacked the field while Little sat back and bided her time. Finally, with 150 left, Little pushed hard and ran even with Paul at the top of the homestretch. The pair wouldn’t stay together long as Little surged away to a comfortable win in 54.19. Paul ran a personal best 55.21 as a consolation prize. As well, it made Little two-for-two in the record department.
The third race would be actually be the defining moment of the four-event log. The 300H is arguably the most taxing event in high school track and field. It would be even tougher because it’s right after the 400, the events just 15 minutes apart!
One had to wonder if Little would finally break down after two days of non-stop competition. But according to her mother, their plan was already in motion and there was no time to think about failure.
Little settled in the blocks and ready… bang, the gun sounded the race and it was Thompson ahead of Little and the field again. She must have thought the only way to break Little would be to storm to a big lead. But that didn't work in the previous event, either, ultimately costing Paul a better time.
Thompson led the first four hurdles comfortably. Little began to move hard near the end of the final curve. It was the sound of the meet announcer that appeared to energize Little and the crowd more as she closed in on her goal of a third title. The final few hurdles were all Little as she stormed home in a fast 42.80 - her third consecutive win and record. The feat left the crowd buzzing in disbelief.
The final event of the day would the 200. This race was undoubtedly be Little’s biggest challenge in going up against Crawford. Crawford had enjoyed an awesome day as well up to that point. She bolted out fast and won the race easily in 24.17 to stop Little’s record-breaking win streak.
The aftermath was all smiles for Little and her family. Little’s mother and coach Tiffany Mayfield said an old family remedy of sucking on peanut butter with her finger or eating it on a spoon helped Little stay energized. Perhaps her competitors should pick up on this source of success.
Busch kept the faith in 3200 win
“Never give up, don’t ever give up,” were some very wise words bestowed by the late North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano in his regard to fighting cancer. Kristen Busch (Sr., Freeburg) may have heard these words somewhere before and applied it to racing. She admittedly was upset about being in the first section of the 3200 (slow heat). “I had one of the worst races of my life at sectionals,” she said after receiving her gold medal. “I was like I’m going to go out and run under 11:00; I just went out and ran against the clock.”
Busch set a high standard (about an hour before the championship heat) with a fine 10:54.74 - a huge improvement from her sectional mark of 11:49.
Busch said she didn’t know she know that she won the race overall until after the conclusion of the fast heat. It was unfortunate for Katie Adams (Jr., Marengo) and several other girls that they used the first half of the race as a tempo run. The opening mile was around 5:35 - pedestrian for a championship affair. By the time Adams decided to race hard with 600 to go, it was too late. A hard sprint over the final 200 would not be enough and she fell short in 10:57.48.
Quality performances all around
Adams would come back to win a kicker’s battle over Busch in the 1,600, 5:05.10-5:07.96. Adams pulled away with 200 to go to earn her first state championship.
MaShayla Kirksy (Jr., Melrose Park Walther Lutheran) continued the streak of a winner eclipsing the 19-foot mark in the long jump. It has been five straight years that the winner has accomplished this marvelous feat.
Sarah Bell (Jr., Bloomington Central Catholic) last won the pole vault title in 2010 as a Class A competitor. The one-time US#1 vaulter has gotten back to winning again, albeit it short of her personal best 13-0.25. Bell wasn’t satisfied with her 12-0 winner, but a gold medal looks the same whatever height was cleared to earn it.
The Lake Villa Lakes 4x800 would not be deterred by fast 2:17.9 lead off leg by Lombard Montini’s Brittany Fisher. The Eagles slowly chipped away at the deficit and used a strong 2:16.0 anchor carry by Danielle Griesbaum to seal the deal in 9:24.02. It’s the third-fastest time in the recently created 2A system.
Richton Park Rich South closed out the state meet winning the 4x400 in a record 3:52.64. The quartet of Cierra Garrett, Ninaa Edwards, Taylor Kriha, and DeAsia Garrett used splits of 58.3, 58.2, 59.2, and 56.9 to get the job done.