High-SchoolTrack-and-XC: cross country

2012 Illinois 3A Boys Distance Preview

February, 3, 2012

3A Sprints | 3A Distance | 3A Relays | 3A Field Events | 3A Team Preview

Here is a glimpse of what to watch for in the 3 distances races in 3A for 2012. With the influx of 2A schools moving up, we should have some great races in Charleston.

3200 Meter Run
9:06.80 Malachy Schrobilgen SR Oak Park-River Forest 2nd - AAA
9:09.62 Garrett Sweatt SR Edwardsville 5th - AAA
9:14.38 Jack Keelan JR Chicago St. Ignatius 10th - AAA
9:14.48 Mark Derrick SR Naperville Neuqua Valley 6th - AAA
9:16.35 Leland Later SR Winnetka New Trier
9:17.37 Pat Niyork SR Villa Park Willowbrook
9:18.95 Tyler Yunk JR Belvidere North 3rd - AA
9:20.27 Erik Peterson SR Barrington
9:21.01 Mike Lederhouse SR Glen Ellyn Glenbard West
9:23.70 Anthony Gregorio SR Palatine
9:25.80 Paxson Menard JR Belvidere North 11th - AA
9:26.40 William Hague SR Wilmette Loyola Academy
9:26.42 Mitch Wilkins SR Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge
9:27.80 Billy Clink SR Elmhurst York
9:27.99 Zack Kingsbury SR Oswego
9:28.33 Tyler Anderson SR Schaumburg
9:29.62 Patrick Santino SR Chicago St. Ignatius
9:32.90 Kevin Proffitt SR Downers Grove North
9:33.20 Scott Milling JR Elmhurst York
9:33.70 Tim Johnson SR Palatine
9:33.70 Pat Juras SR Lake Zurich

In the last 3 years, there have been 3 different York runners that have won this race. It is highly unlikely that this will happen in 2012, but it is only February. We will have to see what transpires during the season.

Malachy Schrobilgen of Oak Park (Oak Park-River Forest HS) placed 2nd in this event last year behind York’s Jack Driggs. “Mac” had a good cross country season finishing 3rd at the state meet and qualifying for both the Nike and Foot Locker National Meets. Schrobilgen will be starting out slow this indoor season. Before the Nike National Meet, he suffered an Achilles injury. He took some time off in December, He is recovered but don’t expect to see him racing before March.

Garrett Sweatt of Edwardsville HS had the same type of season as Schrobilgen in cross country. He lost only one race before state meet, that to Michael Clevenger at the Peoria Invitational. He finished 4th last November. In the 3200 last spring he finished 5th. I am sure he will be pushing the pace in the state race. Mark Derrick of Naperville (Neuqua Valley HS) finished 6th in the 3200 last spring running a personal best. He has the talent to run well under 9:10 this spring.

The one wild card to watch in this event is Tyler Yunk of Belvidere (North HS). The big question right after the state cross country meet was how would he race against the top runners in 3A. He proved himself by running a strong 7th place at the Nike Midwest Regionals. Yunk finished 2nd last November behind Clevenger in the 2A race. At state track, he ran a personal best of running 9:18 in finishing 3rd as a sophomore. He will definitely be in the mix with the leaders in Charleston.

There are two runners to watch in this event this spring. The first is Peter Tomkiewicz of Palatine HS. He did not run last year at the state track meet. His best time last spring was 9:41.14. He showed he was one of the elite runners in the state last fall by placing 11th at Detweiller. I am sure he will better his personal best. That is a no brainer but it should be below 9:20.

The second runner to watch is Jack Keelan of Chicago (St. Ignatius Prep HS). He is coming off of a rough cross country season where he did not qualify for the state meet. In track, he was consistently in the low 9:20’s during the season culminating with a 10th place finish. Two weeks later, he ran 9:14 at the Midwest Distance Gala. The big thing to watch in this young man is how he responds to the setbacks he had in the fall. I am sure it will have a positive outcome.

Other runners to watch in this event include Patrick Niyork of Villa Park (Willowbrook HS), Erik Peterson of Barrington HS, Anthony Gregorio of Palatine HS, Paxson Menard of Belvidere (North HS), William Hague of Wilmette (Loyola Academy HS), Taylor Soltys of Naperville (Neuqua Valley HS), Jereme Atchison of Buffalo Grove HS, and Scott Milling of Elmhurst (York HS).

800 Meter Run
1:52.54 Michal Filipczak SR Park Ridge Maine South 2nd - AAA
1:53.28 Mike Fahey SR Lombard Glenbard East 12th - AAA
1:55.06 Jake Mazanke SR St. Charles East 10th - AAA
1:55.19 Neal Omar SR Skokie Niles West
1:55.21 Johnny Moore SR East St. Louis-Senior 11th - AAA
1:55.45 Will Crocker SR Belvidere North 7th - AA
1:55.82 Michael Simon SR Springfield 1st - AA
1:56.19 Chris Alvarez SR Crystal Lake Central 2nd - AA
1:56.47 David Timlin SR Chicago Lane Tech
1:56.60 Anthony Farinella SR Downers Grove South
1:56.78 Kevin Paller SR Moline
1:56.82 William Hennessy SR Algonquin Jacobs
1:57.05 Devario Moore SR East St. Louis-Senior
1:57.26 Brendan Thielsen SR Rolling Meadows
1:57.52 Marc-Daniel Julien SR Skokie Niles West
1:57.57 Alex Riba JR O'Fallon
1:57.71 Sam Stanek SR Glenview Glenbrook South
1:58.00 Evan Schiewe SR Lombard Glenbard East
1:58.43 Felipe Garcia SR Des Plaines Maine West
1:58.48 Makoto Bowering SR Deerfield

After looking at the runners that are returning in this event, I think we could see some sizzling times this spring if the weather cooperates. Michal Filipczak of Park Ridge (Maine South HS) was a surprise last year at the state meet when finished 2nd. He will not be a surprise this year. He has the talent to go under 1:50.

Second runner to watch is the 2A champion Michael Simon of Springfield HS, now in 3A. His personal best last year was 1:55.82. He used the tactics last year of running fast enough to win. I do not think we saw the fastest out of this athlete. We could see some fast time from this runner this spring.

There are 2 other runners from 2A that could make a difference in this event. Chris Alvarez of Crystal Lake (Central HS) finished 2nd last year in 2A; Will Crocker of Belvidere (North HS) finished 7th last year after running in the 4 x 8 relay. Both runners have the talent to challenge for the state title.

A big question will be Mike Fahey of Lombard (Glenbard East HS). He diod not run cross country in the fall instead of opting to play football. He has a PR of 1:53.28. If he decides to run this spring, he could be a factor in this event.

This is a deep event. Other runners to keep a watch on include Jake Mazanke of St. Charles (East HS), Neal Omar of Skokie (Niles West HS), Johnny Moore of East St. Louis (Senior HS) and David Timlin of Chicago (Lane Tech HS).

1600 Meter Run
4:14.30 Leland Later SR Winnetka New Trier 4th - AAA
4:15.02 Mike Lederhouse SR Glen Ellyn Glenbard West 6th - AAA
4:15.50 Malachy Schrobilgen SR Oak Park-River Forest
4:17.29 Pat Juras SR Lake Zurich 9th - AAA
4:18.60 Mitch Wilkins SR Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge 10th - AAA
4:18.70 Garrett Sweatt SR Edwardsville 12th - AAA
4:18.84 Erik Peterson SR Barrington
4:18.93 Alex Riba JR O'Fallon
4:19.36 Todd Ford SR Wilmette Loyola Academy
4:20.63 Garrett Lee JR Belvidere North 12th - AA
4:21.21 Neal Omar SR Skokie Niles West
4:21.80 Michael Simon SR Springfield
4:21.82 Billy Clink SR Elmhurst York
4:22.20 Aron Sebhat SR Skokie Niles North
4:22.40 Tim Johnson SR Palatine
4:22.59 Keith Sands SR East Moline United
4:22.60 Anthony Gregorio SR Palatine
4:24.18 Jack Keelan JR Chicago St. Ignatius
4:24.60 Paxson Menard JR Belvidere North
4:24.64 Joey Santillo JR Minooka

It was not a fast pace at last year’s state meet in the 1600 but it sure was exciting. Will we see more of the tactical racing this season? Of course it is hard to tell, but we have runners that are returning that like to push the pace. We could see some times coming close to 4:10 and perhaps below that.

State 3A Cross Country Champion Leland Later of Winnetka (New Trier HS) is the fastest returner in this event when he ran 4:14.30 for a 4th place finish at the state meet. You could see the change of him over the summer where he ran with more confidence in the cross country season. I think that the way he is running now, I think we can see fast times from this young man.

Mike Lederhouse of Glen Ellyn (Glenbard West HS) has the second returning time in this event. He did not have the best of cross country seasons. During his training last summer, he suffered an osteochondral lesion in his ankle as a result of an earlier ankle sprain. It hampered his training and thus he was unable to qualify for the state cross country meet. He is in shape and will be interesting to see how he progresses during this indoor season.

Pat Juras of Lake Zurich HS will be a runner that will be in the hunt for the state championship. The same can be said about Erik Peterson of Barrington HS and Mitch Wilkins of Crystal Lake (Prairie Ridge HS). They are sub 4:20 milers that are capable of running in the low teens. Also watch for Malachy Schrobilgen of Oak Park (Oak Park-River Forest HS) and Garrett Sweatt of Edwardsville HS. Both most likely will be coming off of a double. Both runners are strong enough to challenge for the state championship if they choose to run just the both races.

There is a wild card runner in this event and that runner is Alex Riba of O’Fallon HS. He ran 4:18.93 last spring in the 1600. He did not qualify for the state meet in this event. He had a great cross country season finishing up with a 2nd place finish at the state meet. He has the confidence and could be the surprise to win the individual race. Could he run sub 4:10? Possibly.

Other runners to watch include Todd Ford of Wilmette (Loyola Academy HS), Garrett Lee of Belvidere (North HS), Bill Clink of Elmhurst (York HS), and Aron Sebhat of Skokie (Niles North HS).

Questions Comments? Contact Michael Newman > newman.dyestatIL@gmail.com

2012 Illinois 2A Boys Distance Preview

February, 3, 2012
Here is a glimpse of what to look for in the distances races for 2A in 2012:

3200 Meter Run
9:09.00 Michael Clevenger SR Decatur MacArthur 1st - AA
9:25.78 Luke Zygmunt SR Grayslake Central
9:29.67 K.J. Matuszak SR Mundelein Carmel
9:31.55 Marc Maton JR Chatham-Glenwood 5th - AA
9:34.93 Ethan Adifinger JR Rock Island Alleman
9:35.40 Clint Kliem SR Burlington Central
9:37.87 Jamison Dale JR Chicago Jones Prep 8th - AA
9:38.26 Joe Fritzsche SR Mt. Zion 9th - AA
9:39.00 Ryan Prais JR Lake Villa Lakes
9:39.25 Will Brewster SR Grayslake Central 10th - AA
9:42.96 Dan Fox SR Johnsburg
9:43.55 Joe Singleton SO Glen Ellyn Glenbard South
9:44.20 Dylan Hartley SR Benton
9:46.55 Jeffrey Rector SR Chicago Roosevelt
9:46.70 Drew Spargo SR Columbia
9:46.81 Tyler Morse SR Bartonville Limestone
9:46.86 Wesley Ward JR Normal University
9:47.72 Jacob Heser SR Salem
9:48.33 Jamen Helton SR Waterloo
9:49.52 Ryan Clardy SR Oak Park Fenwick
9:49.87 Jake Brown JR Mt. Zion

The question will be this spring will be whether or not there is any runner in 2A that can beat Michael Clevenger of Decatur (MacArthur HS). After all, he is only the defending champion in this race along with being the defending 2 time 2A state cross country champion. He had a great post season in cross qualifying for both the Foot Locker and Nike National Meets. He capped off his cross country season by being named the Gatorade Boys Cross Country of the Year for Illinois. A well deserved honor for this young man.

I think this race could have been closer. But with Troy Yunk running in 3A this spring, it could change the strategy. I am sure Clevenger will go for some fast times during the season. Decatur MacArthur may have a shot at getting a team trophy so we could see a double from him and a scenario similar to last year with York’s Jack Driggs: just go for the points.

Clevenger ran 9:09 last year and has the fastest returning time by 16 seconds. The next in line is Luke Zygmunt of Grayslake (Central HS). Last year, Zygmunt just ran the 1600. If he is in this race, it could be interesting. 3 other all staters in this race return. Marc Maton of Chatham (Glenwood HS) did not have the best state meet in cross country last fall. He was 5th last year as a sophomore. He has the talent to be in the top 3. Jamison Dale of Chicago (Jones College Prep HS) and Joe Fritzsche of Mt. Zion HS are the other two returnees. Both have improved. Both will have an impact in this race.

Other runners to watch include K.J. Matuszak of Mundelein (Carmel HS) who was all state in Cross Country, Jake Brown of Mt. Zion HS who finished 3rd in 1A cross, Ethan Adfinger of Rock Island (Alleman HS), Will Brewster of Grayslake (Central HS), Joe Singleton of Glen Ellyn (Glenbard South HS), Ryan Clardy of Oak Park (Fenwick HS), Wesley Ward of Normal (University HS), and Dylan Hartley of Benton HS.

800 Meter Run
1:56.24 Adam Lange JR Galena 7th - A
1:56.84 Clint Kliem SR Burlington Central 4th - AA
1:57.06 John Wold SO Glen Ellyn Glenbard South
1:57.32 Ryan Prais JR Lake Villa Lakes
1:57.51 Nathan Allyn JR Decatur MacArthur 10th - AA
1:57.65 Alec Andrewson SR Manteno 8th - A
1:57.68 Grant Inskeep JR Peoria Notre Dame 11th - AA
1:58.10 Darren Payton JR Cahokia
1:58.31 Jeffrey Rector SR Chicago Roosevelt
1:58.59 Sam Welbourne JR Jerseyville Jersey
1:58.66 Mike Gulik SR Burlington Central
1:58.80 Mark Pedziwiatr SR New Lenox Lincoln-Way West
1:58.81 Timothy Warren SR Chicago Jones Prep
1:59.13 Beau Salsman SR Galesburg
1:59.13 Cameron Rohmann SR Dunlap
1:59.56 Zac Justus SO Pontiac
2:00.20 Grant Grimshaw JR Freeburg
2:00.45 Traxton Taylor SR Marion
2:00.50 Matt Meyers JR Aurora Central Catholic
2:00.97 Eli Johnson SR Mahomet-Seymour
Michael Simon of Springfield HS is the defending champion in this race. However, since Springfield HS is now 3A for track and Belvidere North’s Will Crocker will also be in 3A, this race becomes more wide open.

There are 3 runners returning that are all-state in this event. The only all stater in 2A returning is Clint Kliem of Burlington (Central HS). Kliem finished 7th in the fall and 4th in this event last season. He does not have the fastest returning time. That belongs to Adam Lange, a junior from Galena HS who finished 7th in this event in 1A. The other returnee is Manteno’s Alex Andrewson, who finished 8th in 1A in 2011.

In this event, there are always wild cards with runners that could run other distance events or doubling off of the 4 x 8 relay. That question went through the mind of John Wold of Glen Ellyn (Glenbard South HS) last year. He had quality times in both the 800 and the 1600 last year. He ended up running the 1600. Will it be the same decision this year? The same can be said about Ryan Prais of Lake Villa (Lakes HS). However, he ran both events.

There is a ton of talent in this event making it interesting who will step up. Other runners to keep an eye on include Nathan Allyn of Decatur (MacArthur HS), Grant Inskeep of Peoria (Notre Dame HS), Darren Payton of Cahokia HS, Sam Welbourne of Jerseyville (Jersey HS), Mike Gulik of Burlington (Central HS), Timothy Warren of Chicago (Jones College Prep HS), and Mark Pedziwiatr of New Lenox (Lincoln-Way West).

1600 Meter Run
4:18.33 Luke Zygmunt SR Grayslake Central 2nd - AA
4:19.37 Michael Clevenger SR Decatur MacArthur 3rd - AA
4:20.27 Tyler Morse SR Bartonville Limestone 6th - AA
4:22.94 Ryan Prais JR Lake Villa Lakes
4:22.95 John Wold SO Glen Ellyn Glenbard South 11th - AA
4:23.48 Murphy Affolder SO Mascoutah 7th - AA
4:24.92 Torben Hoffmeyer SR Marengo
4:25.23 Clint Kliem SR Burlington Central
4:25.81 Dylan Harkness SR Sterling
4:26.07 Jamison Dale JR Chicago Jones Prep
4:28.48 Riley McInerney JR Charleston
4:28.93 Shawn Milhauser JR Pontiac
4:29.37 Nick Hess SO Champaign St. Thomas More
4:31.89 Marc Maton JR Chatham-Glenwood
4:32.00 Cale Stallard SR Olney East Richland
4:32.45 K.J. Matuszak SR Mundelein Carmel
4:33.02 Kyle Reiling SR Geneseo
4:33.18 Ethan Adifinger JR Rock Island Alleman
4:33.36 Josh Rodenberg JR Waterloo
4:33.50 Tom Berg JR Lisle Benet Academy

This could be a great race in this class. 4 all state runners return in this event. Along with that, this event is deep in talent which means so much could happen. So let’s look at the what could happen in May.

The fastest returnee and highest returning placer in this event is Luke Zygmunt of Grayslake (Central HS). He finished 2nd last year right behind Belvidere North’s Paul Zeman. He was having a great cross country season until he injured his shin right before his conference meet, which shelved him for the rest of the season. He won the Peoria Woodruff Invitational in September and would have been in the mix for the individual title at Detweiller in November. I am sure there is a fire burning inside of him wanting a state championship.

Then you have Michael Clevenger of Decatur (MacArthur HS), who finished 3rd last year after winning the 1600. There is always a question of a runner doubling at the state meet. Clevenger showed that he could do it. He also is battle tested and has the heart of a champion. He will be ready for the challenge.

The two other all state returnees are Tyler Morse of Bartonsville (Limestone HS) and Murphy Affolder of Mascoutah HS. Morse finished 6th last year. During the season, Morse was running around 4:28. When it came to the state meet, he dropped his personal best 8 seconds. He runs similar to former state champion Johnny Crain of Dunlap HS who is now at North Central College.

Murphy Affolder is the one runner I believe that is hidden in southern Illinois but could be the big surprise here. He finished 7th in this event last year and had a great cross country season finishing 10th. One runner not to discount.

Other runners to keep an eye on include John Wold of Glen Ellyn (Glenbard South HS) who finished 4th in cross country and 11th here last year. Wold in the prelims last year lost his shoe in the prelims which hampered his final’s race, Riley McInerney of Charleston HS who finished 3rd in cross last fall, Torben Hoffmeyer of Marengo HS, Ryan Prais of Lake Villa (Lake HS), Clint Kliem of Burlington (Central HS), Dylan Harkness of Sterling HS, and Chris Martin of Mascoutah HS.

Comments / Questions? e-mail Michael Newman > newman.dyestatIL@gmail.com

2012 Illinois Boys 1A Distance Previews

February, 3, 2012
Here is what to keep an eye on in the 3 distance races for this upcoming season in Class 1A

3200 Meter Run

9:27.76 Steve Schroeder SR Monticello 2nd - A
9:37.94 Jesse Hahne JR Danville Schlarman 10th - A
9:38.97 Scott Woodward SR Tolono Unity 7th - A
9:40.88 Cole Dill SR Tremont 8th - A
9:51.19 Cameron Harvey SR Sullivan
9:52.33 Spencer Friske SR Lake Forest Academy
9:55.84 Sam Whan SR Aledo Mercer County
9:57.90 Connor Ehnle SO Tremont
10:01.54 Luke Hill JR Ottawa Marquette
10:02.30 Luke Zocher SR Monticello
10:11.89 Colby Purcell SR Tolono Unity
10:13.90 Wesley Bradshaw SR Sparta
10:14.30 Sam Schuette SR Aurora Christian
10:15.82 Daniel Plunkett SO Pleasant Plains
10:17.47 Kevin Claus JR Port Byron Riverdale

It came down to a last lap kick for Henry Arndt of Westmont (Westmont HS) to move by Steve Schroeder of Monticello (Monticello HS) in the last 100 meters to win the state championship in this event. It has pushed Schroeder to bigger things in this past cross country season. After an earlier season defeat to Grant Nykaza of Beecher (Beecher HS) in September, Schroeder responded with a convincing 9 second win at the state cross country meet in November. I would imagine Schroeder still has that image of last May in his mind and would like to exorcise it.

Schroeder comes into this year with the fastest returning time by over 10 seconds to the time of Jesse Hahne of Danville (Schlarman HS).

After the state cross country meet, Nykaza shocked with his second place finish was thinking out loud about racing in the 3200 Meter Run this spring. Last year, Nykaza was a part of his team’s winning 4 x 800 relay and then in the 1600 Meter Run. With parts not being there for Beecher in that relay, we could see Nykaza running in this race at state in May.

This could be a tough field and we could see some quick times at state in this event. Also keep a close watch on Scott Woodard of Tolono (Unity HS), Cole Dill and Connor Ehnle of Tremont (Tremont HS), and Cameron Harvey of Sullivan (Sullivan HS).

800 Meter Run
1:55.34 Eric Leonard SR Niantic Sangamon Valley 2nd - A
1:55.77 Zeke Elkins SR St. Joseph-Ogden 4th - A
1:56.97 Brittian Henderson SR Chicago Latin
1:58.01 Lance Curtis SR Bushnell Prairie City 9th - A
1:59.37 Blake Hale JR Robinson
1:59.58 Steve Schroeder SR Monticello
1:59.95 Dakota Conrad SR Auburn
2:00.60 Jon Hill SR Sparta
2:00.88 Nick Jones SR Oregon
2:01.20 Josh Weier JR Colfax Ridgeview
2:01.42 Kendall Eckert SR Tolono Unity
2:01.49 Zach Quinn SR Heyworth
2:01.54 Armon Kennedy SR Poplar Grove North Boone

This race is always effected by the runners that doubling back after running the 4 x 8 relay earlier in the day. Last year’s rushing of the time schedule took out some of the runners who could have factored into the outcome.

The 800 in 1A will be a tight affair between Zeke Elkins of St. Joseph (St. Joseph-Ogden HS) and Eric Leonard of Niantic (Sangamon Valley HS). Leonard placed 2nd last year behind Josh Jones of Herscher (Herscher HS). In that race, Leonard ran a 3 second PR showing that he is capable of going much faster this spring. Elkins will be the chief competition for Leonard. Most likely coming off of the 4 x 8 relay, the senior showed he has the strength this past fall by finishing 15th at the state cross country meet. Last year, Elkins anchored his team to a second place finish and came back to finish 4th in this event.

Britt Henderson of Chicago (Latin HS) was on the outside looking in at last year’s state meet. He finished 14th in the preliminaries missing the finals by 6 tenths of a second. He ran a 1:56.97 at the Lisle Sectional last year. He has the talent to compete with the above mentioned.

There are a group of runners that will be in the mix. Keep an eye on Lance Curtis of Bushnell (Bushnell Prairie City HS) who made the finals last year and finished 11th, Blake Hale of Robinson (Robinson HS), Dakota Conrad of Auburn (Auburn HS), Nick Jones of Oregon (Oregon HS), and Kendall Eckert of Tolono (Unity HS).

The record in this class is 1:51.22 of Peter Callahan of Winnetka (North Shore-Country Day HS) in 2009. Both Elkins and Leonard have the talent to get close to this.

1600 Meter Run
4:21.16 Grant Nykaza JR Beecher 2nd - A
4:24.99 Jon Hill SR Sparta 4th - A
4:27.03 Steve Schroeder SR Monticello 12th - A
4:27.61 Matt Vermeersch SR Pleasant Plains 6th - A
4:30.19 Brock Snarski SO Macon Meridian
4:30.73 Cameron Harvey SR Sullivan
4:31.16 Andy Arenz SO Auburn
4:31.21 Matt Avenatti SR Georgetown-Ridge Farm
4:32.17 Luke Zocher SR Monticello
4:32.20 Wesley Bradshaw SR Sparta
4:32.22 Kendall Eckert SR Tolono Unity
4:32.22 Luke Muzikowski JR Chicago Hope Academy
4:32.31 James Weissensel SR Ottawa Marquette
4:34.84 Blake Hale JR Robinson
4:35.32 Connor Ehnle SO Tremont

Last fall was a breakout season for Beecher’s Grant Nykaza. Even though he did not win the state meet in cross country, he did make his mark by posting some fast times and did qualify for the Foot Locker National Meet. Big step for this junior. We could see some bigger steps in this event this spring from him. He has the fastest returning time in the 1600 by almost 3 seconds. You expect this junior to double.

Should be a good pack after Nykaza. Steve Schroeder of Monticello (Monticello HS) has the XC championship under his belt, but would like to add some more honors to that. He ran 4:27.03 last year. Expect that time to drop this spring.

Other runner to watch include Jon Hill and Wes Bradshaw of Sparta (Sparta HS), Luke Zocher of Monticello (Monticello HS), Matt Vermeersch of Pleasant Plains (Pleasant Plains HS), Brock Snarski of Macon (Meridian HS), and Andy Arenz of Auburn (Auburn HS).

Comments: please e-mail Michael Newman : newman.dyestatIL@gmail.com

Illinois Class 3A 2012 Girls Track & Field Preview

February, 3, 2012
There are few things in life that are better than vintage aged cheese or certified Grade A steak… except maybe a smorgasbord of track and field for the weekend enthusiast. Last year’s awesome state championship was a nail-biter that literally came down to the final event for several teams vying for one of the three trophies.

The expectations for this season will more than likely follow the same cue as before: a) get through the prelims healthy and sound; b) ride on the back of the hot runner (s); and 3) watch and nail bite through all 18 events- all the way through the 4x400m relay.

Over the past decade or so, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) has made some very sweeping changes with its sports; track & field has been hit noticeably hard with the initial proclamation of the multiplier system assessed to Catholic and private schools. The aftermath also resulted in the sport’s advisory committee to approve the move to three classes in 2009. The initial reactions were mixed- some good delight to the 2A schools and no so for the 3A patrons. If that wasn’t enough the IHSA has added another wrinkle the enrollment mix. It’s somewhat confusing as to how it’s determined who gets moved up in class or moved down… but here is a list of changes:

New 3A (no particular order): Aurora (Metea Valley), Bensonville (Fenton), Belvidere North, Bloomington, Calumet City (T.F. North), Chicago Lake View, Chicago Mather, Chicago Morgan Park, Chicago Payton, Chicago Calumet Perspectives, Crystal Lake Central, E. Moline United, Grayslake North, Lemont, Normal West, Olympia Fields (Rich Central), Peoria Richwoods, Rock Island, Springfield, Yorkville.

-Dream rivalry: Aaliyah Brown vs. Morolake Akinosun-

Aaliyah Brown (Frankfort Lincoln-Way East)-
55m- 6.95 US#9
60m- 7.42 US#9
100m- 11.44 US#6
200m- 23.72 US#12
400m- 55.17

Morolake Akinosun (Aurora Waubonsie Valley)-
55m- 6.90 US#5
100m- 11.42 US#5
200m- 23.44 US#6
400m- 57.44
Throughout the history of Illinois girls sprinting lore, there have been some great sprinters setting the course of history: Alexandria Anderson (Chicago Morgan Park), Shalina Clarke (Evanston), Adia McKinnon (Homewood-Flossmoor), Ronecia Nash (E. St. Louis Sr.), Shakedia Jones (Waukegan), and Dora Spearman (Blue Island Eisenhower).

But rarely has there been a rivalry. Anderson vs. Clarke was all Anderson; Nash soundly defeated everyone in her sight with ease. Jones and McKinnon were untouched in their prime.

Now, one striving to reach or obtain something that only one can possess is the correct definition of a rivalry that fits Brown and Akinosun. These two titanic powers are as big as anything in track and field in the state of Illinois- boys or girls- in terms of one-on-one competitiveness.

Brown has become her team’s franchise athlete by earning three state event titles in leading the Griffins to a second place finish in 2011. In that same short time, Brown has victimized Akinosun on Illinois’ biggest stage- The IHSA State Championship. Brown has never lost to Akinosun in head to head competition outdoors.

Akinosun has become a dominant force in her own right. The University of Illinois signee became the indoor dash queen when she turned back Brown- twice- at the Illinois Prep Top Times Indoor Classic. Both athletes were believed to be at the top of their games then.

Brown and Akinosun put up great outdoor marks but they were not against each other. When Brown was blitzing the state competition, Akinosun went down with an lower leg injury during the early part of the season that kept her full acceleration at bay throughout the state series.

Brown had her share of injuries too. At the time of the Caribbean Scholastic Championship in early June, the then sophomore standout was on top of her game and ready to make a run at the all 100m mark held by Anderson. It wasn’t to be as Brown went down with a severe hamstring that ended her season. Meanwhile, Akinosun was 100% healthy and back in business; she went out and had one of the best summer competitions by a girl stateside- two AAU titles in the 100 and 200 sealed the deal on a rivalry if from afar.

What does the future hold? If both athletes can stay healthy throughout the season, we all may very well see some of the best performances in the history of sprinting among two rivals. Stay tuned 2012.

-2011 Top 10 teams at a glance-

1) E. St. Louis Sr. 46; 2) Frankfort Lincoln-Way East 37; 3) Hoffman Estates 36; 4) Homewood-Flossmoor; 5) Downers Grove South 32; 6) Glen Ellyn Glenbard West 31; 7) Edwardsville 30; 8) Evanston 28; 9) Palatine 23; 10) Belleville West 22.5.
Quick recap: The Flyerettes won their 15th state championship in surprising but rather easy fashion. Legendary coach Nino Fennoy didn’t have a 4x4r but it didn’t matter because his ponies scored big points in the field, short relays, and hurdles. Lincoln-Way East rode the services of a legend in the making sophomore Aaliyah Brown all the way to the penultimate podium trophy step. Brown showed no signs of a sophomore jinx by winning three events and scoring second in another: 100, 200, 4x1r, 4x4r. Evanston was the pre-meet favorite but the Wildkits had several mishaps including a fatal disqualification by Margaret Bamgbose in 300H. The door was now opened for teams like Hoffman Estates and Downers Grove South to march toward earning one of the three team plaques…

Top team previews-

1. E. St. Louis Sr.
Head coach: Nino Fennoy
2011 state final finish: won their record 15th State Championship
Key returners: Rheyana Branch (Sr.), Brandy Griffin (Sr.), Alexis Handy (So.), Joymesia Howard (Sr.), Dynesha Powell (So.), Markita Rush (Jr.), Daria Walker (So.)
Key events: 100, 200, 400, 100H, 300H, 4x1r, 4x2r, 4x4r, DT, SP, HJ
Season outlook: Griffin, Howard, and Rush will lead the team but they are complete athletes and will bring their respective individual talents to the forefront. The key for the Flyerettes in defending their state title will be to have consistent and steady performances in the same events that produce many lucrative results in 2011.

2. Frankfort Lincoln-Way East
Head coach: Caroline Gerritsen
2011 state final finish: 2nd
Key returners: Aaliyah Brown (Jr.), Meghan Marias (So.), Nicole Nepote (Sr.), Dana O’Grady (So.), Maria Perozzi (Sr.).
Key events: 100, 200, 400, 800, 4x1, 4x2, 4x4, PV, HJ
Outlook: if there is any team capable of dethroning the vaulted E. St. Louis Sr. machine it will be Brown. She is the defending state champion in the 100, 200, and 4x2r and will be at least a co-favorite in the short dashes. But there is a solid supporting cast in which to draw from. Nepote will be improved in the middle-distance area and a strong candidate to score a lot of points throughout the season- especially in the 800. Coach Gerritsen will welcome freshman Julia Junkroski to aid in the field event arena. Junkroski has a personal best of 10-0 in the pole vault and 5-0 in the high jump.

3. Chicago Morgan Park-
‘11 State final finish: 2nd – 2A
Head coach: Derrick Calhoun
Key returners: Nyasia Bolden (Sr.), Elexis Fairley (Jr.), Regine Hoover (So.), Ashley Johnson (Sr.), Olivia Price (So.)
Key events: 100, 200, 400, 100H, 300H, 4x1r, 4x2r, 4x4r
Outlook: Derrick Calhoun is one of the coolest and great tactical coaches that Illinois has ever seen. He will once again have a team in position to threaten for a state championship. To get it done, sprint ace Elexis Fairley is going to have to lead in the individual events. Fairly has won medals each year and that trend should continue; she clocked 12.00 and 24.73 in last year’s 2A final. Bolden is another name to watch for as a strong conduit in the three relays. Johnson was third in last year’s 100H; she will be much improved in the 300H this season in an attempt to earn state points.

4. Evanston-
Head coach: Fennie Gunter
’11 State final finish: 8th
Key returners: Margaret Bamgbose (Sr.), Parker English (So.), Jahnell Horton (Sr.)
Key events: 100H, 300H, 400, 800, 4x1r, 4x2r, 4x4r, LJ
Outlook: the Wildkits graduated several major parts necessary to win a state championship. However, it doesn’t mean that the team isn’t capable of redeeming themselves after falling short last year. Bamgbose will return as the state’s premier hurdler. She lost several golden opportunities to score state points by not contesting the 100H in the prelims. But it was in her specialty- the 300H- that disaster struck hard. Bamgbose had been undefeated and going for her first state title. She ran a state leading 43.00 in her preliminary heat. The final result was not to be as she hit the first hurdle and crashed to the ground. The team’s trophy hope was dashed at that point. But the team didn’t fold their tent and go home- after all of the bad fortunately there was sunshine at the end of the rain. Bamgbose lead off the 4x4 relay and the rest is history as the team won in fine fashion. Horton also endured happiness after a tough weekend by running well on that relay. She had the misfortune of being on anchor of the 4x1 and then 10th place in the 800. Everything should be fine when May arrives.

Other key teams to watch for: Belleville West, Belleville East, Edwardsville.

Event-by Event Breakdown-

Sprints: the fans are going to have a wonderful time watching top notch competition statewide…

All-time best: 11.41; Alexandria Anderson (Chicago Morgan Park)-IHSA 2A Final, 2005
State meet record: 11.41; Anderson- 2005
Top returners:
11.42 Morolake Akinosun (Sr.) Aurora (Waubonsie Valley)
11.44 Aaliyah Brown (Jr.) Frankfort (Lincoln-Way East)
11.69 Emily D’Amico (Sr.) Hoffman Estates
11.82 Cessily Jones (Sr.) Plainfield North
11.89 Cerise Porter (Sr.) Villa Park (Willowbrook)
11.94 Savannah Carson (Jr.) Naperville (Neuqua Valley)
12.00 Elexis Fairley (Jr.) Chicago Morgan Park
12.08 Mystic Thompson (So.) Rock Island
12.09 Kimberly Azie (Sr.) Bolingbrook
Outlook: not even the most archived history buff would argue against this being the fastest and deepest Century field assembled on paper. In fact, there are few states even capable of boasting more than few sub-11.00 marks- Class 3A had six. Of course, Brown and Akinosun will duel all season- indoors and outdoors- for sprint queen supremacy. Be sure to keep an eye on D’Amico. She hails from the distance rich Mid-Suburban League and will be looking to be among the top of the sprint crop. Names like Jones, Porter, and Carson will be there to add depth. Fairley and Thompson move up from the 2A ranks where they earned all-state honors. One final name to watch for is incoming freshman Brittny Ellis from Gurnee Warren. She has been bubbling on the youth circuit as far back as the 7th grade. She came to the forefront this summer in Orlando, FL at the ESPN Games when she won all three sprint titles.

All-time best: 52.63; Alexandria Anderson (Chicago Morgan Park)- IHSA 2A Final, 2005
State Meet record: 52.63; Anderson- 2005
Top returners:
54.89 Cameron Pettigrew (Jr.) Chicago Walter Payton
56.25 Jovanni Spears (Sr.) Chicago Calumet Perspectives
56.50 Brenna Detra (Jr.) Peoria Richwoods
56.71 Julia Dambra (Sr.) LaGrange (Lyons Township)
57.22 Jessica Oranika (Sr.) Belleville East
57.39 Brittany Williams (Jr.) St. Charles North
57.44 Morolake Akinosun (Sr.) Aurora (Waubonsie Valley)
57.57 Nyasia Bolden (Sr.) Chicago Morgan Park
Outlook: graduation losses will hurt this event depth-wise as 4 of the top 9 have graduated. The supposed heir apparent Megan Paul (Mundelein Carmel Catholic) has dropped down to Class 2A. However, two Chicago Public League competitors in Pettigrew and Spears move up from 2A. Both of these young ladies had tremendous seasons on the summer circuit clocking major times and medals. Detra will have to choose the flat event or the hurdles- she can’t do both. And there is Aaliyah Brown and Akinosun lurking somewhere in the woods. Brown clocked a swift 55.17 in 2010. Akinosun has run 55.xx on a relay leg. They will more than likely run this for strength purposes and not taken very seriously unless on a relay.

All-time best: 22.96; Alexandria Anderson (Chicago Morgan Park)- Jr. Nats; Carson CA, 2005
State Meet record: 23.32; Anderson- 2005
Top returners:
23.44 Morolake Akinosun (Sr.) Aurora (Waubonsie Valley)
24.00 Aaliyah Brown (Jr.) Frankfort (Lincoln-Way East)
24.08 Cherise Porter (Sr.) Villa Park (Willowbrook)
24.25 Savannah Carson (Jr.) Naperville (Neuqua Valley)
24.26 Cessily Jones (Sr.) Plainfield North
24.61 Emily D’Amico (Sr.) Hoffman Estates
24.73 Elexis Fairley (Jr.) Chicago Morgan Park
24.77 Aniecia Brewster (Jr.) Belleville East
24.95 Brandy Griffin (Sr.) E. St. Louis Sr.
24.99 Mystique Thompson (So.) Rock Island
25.00 Kimberly Azie (Sr.) Bolingbrook
Outlook: once again this could be a pick ‘em between Akinosun and Brown. They split their four meetings last season and that could happen again. But the deep field is more than two girls. Porter showed off some tremendous speed in the Jr. Olympic Nationals in Kansas running 24.08- barely over the legal +2.0 wind reading (+2.3). The point is that another sub-24 sprinter is in the cards. Jones is a disciple of Brown and this is clearly her best event. After regaining her strength after a tough rehab in fall ’10, it was all business on the track. That trend will continue through 2012. Alexis Hyshaw of Naperville North is a name that is known very well among the club circuit folks because of the blazing marks that she has put up. She has yet to put up any high school season marks due to injuries. Hopefully, the bug can stay away and Hyshaw can give her high school fans something great to look forward to.

All-time best: 13.32w/13.51; Shalina Clarke (Evanston)- Jr. Nats & Jr. Olympics, 2006
State Meet record: 13.54; Dawn Harper (E. St. Louis Sr.), 2001
Top returners:
14.47 Joymesia Howard (Sr.) E. St. Louis Sr.
14.51 Ladonna Caston (Sr.) Harvey (Thornton)
14.55 Riley Vann (Sr.) Oswego
14.55 Jessica McCaskill (Sr.) Belleville West
14.58 Claudette Day (So.) Belleville West
14.83 Brenna Detra (Jr.) Peoria Richwoods
14.89 Kristen Dowell (So.) Edwardsville
15.01 Imani Haynes (Jr.) Chicago Heights (Marian Catholic)
15.02 Ashley Johnson (Sr.) Chicago Morgan Park
15.05 Emma Spagnola (So.) West Aurora
Outlook: not as talented as the open event cousin the 100m, the short barrier dash is going to be extremely deep with 7 of 9 state finalists returning and will have as many as a half-dozen girls with a legitimate chance to win the state crown. Howard finished 6th in last year’s state final but she has the best returning mark. She could have placed higher if not for extreme multi-events. It was noted that she sprinted from the high jump pit to the start of her hurdle race. This obviously had a tremendous effect on optimal performance. It doesn’t plan to change anytime soon for the Flyerette. State runner-up Vann will look to move up one spot on the podium and become the champion. McCaskill and Day will be fighting to earn points for their team in the pursuit of a team championship race.

All-time best: 40.24+; Shalina Clarke (Evanston)- Palatine Sectional, 2005
State Meet record: 40.61; Clarke, 2005
Top returners:
42.40 Markita Rush (Jr.) E. St. Louis Sr.
42.73 Margaret Bamgbose (Sr.) Evanston
43.10 Brenna Detra (Jr.) Peoria Richwoods
45.25 Claudette Day (So.) Belleville West
45.43 Ladonna Caston (Sr.) Harvey (Thornton)
45.99 Melissa Madden (Sr.) Barrington
46.02 Ashley Johnson (Sr.) Chicago Morgan Park
46.15 Emma Spagnola (So.) West Aurora
46.19 Annie Martines (Sr.) St. Charles North
Outlook: the return numbers are as lean as it had been in a long time with 46.20 comfortably reaching the top 10. But there is good news though. The defending champ Markita Rush is back as is the top ranked Margaret Bamgbose- who will be out to avenge a Did Not Finish in the state final after crashing violently to the track over hurdle #1. 2A champion Brenna Detra moves up into the mix and should push the mid 42-second range.

Distance: the banter from the cross country season should translate well over to the track side with many girls setting big personal bests in 3-miles.

All-time best: 9:56.96; Kayla Beattie (Woodstock)- IHSA 2A State Final, 2011
State Meet record: 10:17.28; Maria Cicero (Elmhurst York)- 2001
Top returners:
10:40.82i Jill Hardies (Jr.) Hinsdale Central
10:45.51 Ariel Michalek (Sr.) Oswego East
10:46.51i Kaylee Flanagan (Jr.) Roselle (Lake Park)
10:47.58 Jessica Ackerman (Jr.) Winnetka (New Trier)
10:49.54 Haley Goers (Sr.) Hoffman Estates
11:00.60 Emma Fisher (Jr.) Elmhurst (York)
11:00.75 Kelsey Hjorth (Jr.) Oswego
11:01.53i Mallory Abel (Sr.) St. Charles North
11:02.79 Megan O’Brien (Sr.) Lockport
11:03.08 Mikayla Kightlinger (Jr.) Wheaton-Warrenville South
Outlook: the adjoining cross country season usually is an indicator as to how well the distance darlings will perform in track. The fall campaign was a venomous one in terms of performances and no one had a stronger run than Naperville Central ace senior Amanda Fox- who didn’t make the returning 10 marks! It doesn’t matter because she is the best long distance runner and a wonderful post-season run obviously built up her confidence. One would guess that earning All-American honors at the Nike Cross Nationals would do that. Jill Hardies will be returning the mix with a strong spirit after enduring a process of getting healthy after injuries have taken their toll over the past track and field season. Courtney Ackerman (Jr.) Winnetka New Trier should be back in the saddle after missing the entire ’11 outdoor season with a leg injury. Her twin sister will be right next to her every step of the way. Don’t forget about the defending state champion and most consistent one over the past season in Michalek. She used a tactical race in holding off a furiously finishing Jessica Ackerman to win her first state track title. Brooke Wolfe (Prospect) has a personal best of 10:46 from 2010, but she was also sidelined for the entire outdoor campaign because of injuries. Flanagan produced a great indoor season last year in nabbing 2nd place in the IPTT. But the times didn’t drop outdoors despite finishing 5th in the state meet. Megan Lemersal (Park Ridge Maine South) could emerge as a top individual and produce some big times. She dabbled with the 800 and 1600 during the track seasons. Other names to keep an eye on: Hjorth, Fisher, and Goers. She is one of the best runners to ever come out the mighty MSL.

All-time best: 2:07.39+; Shelly McBride (Crete-Monee)- IHSA 2A State Final, 1984
State meet record: 2:07.39+; McBride- 1984
Top returners:
2:11.08 Lindsey Rakosnik (Sr.) Lombard (Glenbard East)
2:12.90 Jahnell Horton (Sr.) Evanston
2:12.97 Courtney Clayton (Jr.) Rockton Hononegah
2:13.59 Michelle Frigo (Sr.) Elmhurst (York)
2:14.58 McKenna Kiple (Jr.) Wheaton-Warrenville South
2:15.15 Rebecca Stearns (Sr.) Downers Grove South
2:16.14 Kim Seger (Jr.) Belvidere North
2:16.36 Shianne Baggett (Jr.) Chicago Whitney Young
2:16.68 Hope Schmelzle (Jr.) Wheaton-Warrenville South
Outlook: the last time an Illinois big class girl broke 2:10 was in 2008 when Bloomington’s star middle-distance runner Ashley Verplank accomplished the feat. This season there could be three. Whether or not Lindsey Rakosnik or Horton put their full effort in it here, this event is going to be a tough one. Clayton showed promise as a sophomore when she completely surprised everyone and made the final and placed second. Horton was actually leading the final with less than 100m to go and finished a heartbreaking 10th. Frigo doubled back from the 4x8r to nab 3rd- showing tremendous strength and fortitude.

All-time best: 4:43.65; Kayla Beattie (Woodstock)- IHSA 2A State Final, 2011
State Meet record: 4:49.34+; Shelly McBride (Crete-Monee), 1985
Top returners:
4:58.43 Haley Goers (Sr.) Hoffman Estates
4:59.01 Ariel Michalek (Sr.) Oswego East
5:00.42 Jill Hardies (Jr.) Hinsdale Central
5:01.10 Jessica Ackerman (Jr.) Winnetka (New Trier)
5:01.11 Stef Sanders (Sr.) Lockport
5:03.64 Gabriella Hesslau (Jr.) Downers Grove North
5:05.50 Emily Brelsfoard (Jr.) Normal West
5:07.16 Tess Wasowicz (Jr.) Palatine
5:07.49 Kaylee Flanagan (Jr.) Roselle (Lake Park)
5:08.52 Emma Fisher (Jr.) Elmhurst (York)
Outlook: even if the chart masters do not add Rakosnik’s tremendous 4:38.20 1500m winning USATF Jr. Olympic mark from last summer, the crop of talent is bursting at the seams. There will be more than six girls breaking 5:00 this season. Goers has the top returner tag, but the one to watch will be freshman sensation Mimi Smith from Winnetka New Trier. She set the IESA mark last year in the 8th running a great 5:05; it’s time that would have placed 6th among the high schoolers. Sanders was 3rd in last year’s final and still should be considered a threat if she can stay healthy. Back in 2010, Courtney Ackerman ran 4:57 and placed 6th in the state final. Her sister Jessica isn’t too far behind with at 5:01. Both will be under 5:00 this year.

Relays: the fan favorite and some schools signature event (s) year after year.

Top potential returners:

All-time best: 9:03.19+; Barrington; St. Charles North Sectional, 2008
State Meet record: 9:04.14; Barrington, 2008
9:11.27 Wheaton-Warrenville South; will be heavy favorites until further notice
9:13.75 Palatine; shooting for another top 4 finish for the state’s top mid-distance program
9:17.69 Elmhurst York; will replace Downers Grove North as the league’s top 4x8 squad
9:18.99 Mt. Prospect (Prospect); will battle Palatine for league and stat supremacy
9:23.73 Glen Ellyn Glenbard West; quartet will be stronger with experience and maturity
9:25.32 Winnetka New Trier; made final without superstar twins Ackermans
9:25.92 LaGrange Lyons Twp; endured a down year but state made the final
9:28.25 Wilmette Loyola Academy; return three legs
9:30.42 Chicago Lane Tech; all four legs return
Outlook: the defending champions Downers North was ruled out for repeating for a title because of several big losses including starlet Jillian Kothanek, who has decided not to run this season. However, Wheaton South will lead the pack and will have the horses to chase down the 9:00 mark.

All-time best: 46.23; E. St. Louis Sr.- IHSA 2A final, 2008
State Meet record: 46.23; E. St. Louis Sr., 2008
46.83 Frankfort Lincoln-Way East
47.37 Evanston
47.52 E. St. Louis Sr.
47.69 Chicago Morgan Park
47.80 Bolingbrook
47.91 Homewood-Flossmoor
48.17 Willowbrook
48.58 Rock Island
Outlook: the always exciting and action packed one-lap thriller will be at the forefront. Lincoln-Way East will be the heavy favorite as all four legs return featuring the outstanding Aaliyah Brown on anchor. The Griffens quartet could be pushing under 46.5 this season. Evanston loses two legs but that means absolutely nothing for a team who can reload. E. St. Louis returns all four legs from last year’s 3rd place state squad; the Flyerettes will be counting big points in their title defense. Morgan Park enters from 2A and will be a threat in an event they have always competed well in. Bolingbrook should be a faster team with returning depth led by Kimberly Azie.

All-time best: 1:37.87; Evanston- Bulldog Classic; Louisville KY, 2004
State Meet record: 1:37.97; Evanston- 2003
1:38.33 Evanston
1:39.28 E. St. Louis Sr.
1:40.26 Belleville East
1:41.29 Hinsdale Central
1:41.48 Bolingbrook
1:41.59 Glen Ellyn (Glenbard West)
1:41.69 Chicago Morgan Park
Outlook: defending champion Evanston will have to replace two legs if they hope to stay on top of the food chain. E. St. Louis on the other hand will have no issues because they return all four legs that gave the heavily favored Wildkits all they wanted in the final. The all-time could be threatened at some point during the season. 2A champs Morgan Park will be on the scene and ready to show off. Belleville West will be strong with the addition of Asia Cochran who transferred from rival Belleville East. East will remain strong despite the loss. Glenbard West will have to replace Bridget Flanagan; Bolingbrook and Hinsdale Central will be running extremely hard on the track too.

All-time best: 3:45.14+; E. St. Louis Lincoln- 2A State final, 1984
State Meet record: 3:45.14+; E. St. Louis Lincoln, 1984
3:48.71 Evanston
3:51.48 Frankfort (Lincoln-Way East)
3:53.49 Glen Ellyn (Glenbard West)
3:54.65 Edwardsville
3:55.36 Chicago Morgan Park
3:55.88 Belleville East
3:55.97 Palatine
3:56.55 Chicago Whitney Young
3:57.85 E. St. Louis Sr.
Outlook: the grand finale event continues to get better and this year will be no different as a number of schools return mass arsenal. Lincoln-Way East brings back their entire squad that finished second. You can bet that Aaliyah Brown will be on it. Glenbard West returns 3 runners from a 3:53 squad. Of course, the southern part of the state will be strong with Edwardsville, Belleville East, and E. St. Louis Sr. Don’t forget about the state champion Evanston. They return 3 pieces and surely will scoop up a solid 4th leg roaming the school hallways.

Field events: events will be top notched from jumps to throws.

Discus Throw-
All-time best: 167-4; Kelsey Card (Carlinville)- IHSA 1A State Final, 2010
State Meet record: 167-4; Card, 2010
161-1 Emmonnie Henderson (Jr.) Edwardsville
134-8 Mariah Hoke (Sr.) Quincy
130-1 Morgan Keller (Jr.) Rolling Meadows
129-8 Brittany Bush (Sr.) Moline
126-6 Shayna Clark (Sr.) Roselle (Lake Park)
125-0 Autumn Miller (Sr.) Machesney Park Harlem
124-8 Melissa Dunham (Jr.) Fox Lake Grant
117-9 Kayla Koenig (Sr.) Normal Community
117-2 Desirae Ranberg (Sr.) Wheaton-Warrenville South
Outlook: expect 2012 to be a good year in the Discus, but also keep in mind that it will be all about Emmonie Henderson- that is once basketball season is over. The state title is a virtual lock so going for the all-time best has to be the paramount goal and then on to national scene where a few girls are in the way. Henderson has yet to test those waters. Perhaps, this will be the year. Also, look for Hoke to be in the mix. She placed 7th in the state meet last season- one spot below Keller. It should be a solid year where depth rises to the top.

Shot Put-
All-time best: 51-0.75; Daniella “Dani” Bunch (Mahomet-Seymour)- Cornbelt Conf. meet, 2008
State Meet record: 49-11.5; Kelsey Card (Carlinville)- 2011
47-9 Emmonnie Henderson (Jr.) Edwardsville
43-11 Morgan Keller (Jr.) Rolling Meadows
42-8 Autumn Miller (Sr.) Machesney Park Harlem
42.6 Haleigh Theuerkauf (Sr.) Batavia
41-11 J’Lynn Ayers (Sr.) Danville
41-2 Katie Lawesen (Sr.) Bartlett
40-1 Melissa Dunham (Jr.) Fox Lake Grant
39-7 MaKayla Hubbard (Jr.) LaGrange (Lyons Twp.)
Outlook: Henderson will lead 5 returning girls who eclipsed the 40-foot mark in 2011. It was a record setting year for the event in general and Henderson got into the act as soon as her basketball season concluded in early March. The mammoth 47-9 effort happens to be the 5th best performance in Illinois history and it happened in the state championship. Now, the big time performer will look to smash into the 50-foot range. There have only been two girls to ever do that: Dani Bunch (Mahomet-Seymour) and Kelsey Card (Carlinville).

Pole Vault-
All-time best: 13-5; Emily Grove (Pontiac)- AAU qualifier, 2011
State Meet record: 13-3; Sarah Landau (Geneva)- 2004
12-3 Carolina Carmichael (Sr.) Lake Forest
12-0 Brittany Hull (Jr.) Normal Community
12-0 Riley Vann (Sr.) Oswego
11-0 Erin Kluck (Sr.) Geneseo
11-0 Krista Newseda (Sr.) Lockport
11-0 Megan Klee (Sr.) Tinley Park Andrew
11-0 Lexi Dahl (Sr.) Crystal Lake Central
11-0 Emily Schwartz (Sr.) Wheaton-Warrenville Central
Outlook: a trio of 12-footers will be headliners in an otherwise anonymous returning field. Carmichael was state runner-up behind one of the events best ever vault specialists Taylor Kirby of Normal West is now competing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Carmichael has signed with the University of Memphis and now has the peace of mind to go out and perform meet after meet. Hull will lead the central Illinois charge where year after year top performances hail from the Flying Dragon Club. Watch out for the multi-talented Vann. She is a future heptathlete in the making.

High Jump-
All-time best: 6-1.25; Denise Daebelliehn (Moline)- USA age group nats; Dayton OH, 1980
State Meet record: 5-11; Melinda Morris (Buffalo Tri-City), 1980
5-8 Lauren White (Jr.) Edwardsville
5-8 Joymesia Howard (Sr.) E. St. Louis Sr.
5-6 Kelsey Shannon (So.) Belleville East
5-6 Claudette Day (So.) Belleville West
5-6 Jaclyn Arema (Sr.) Plainfield North
5-6 Elissa Bitterman (Sr.) Lemont
5-5 Omo Tseumah (Jr.) Huntley
5-5 Rashidah Williams (Sr.) Blue Island Eisenhower
5-5 Kailey James (Jr.) Carol Stream Glenbard North
5-5 Kasey Gassensmith (Sr.) Wheaton-Warrenville South
5-5 Tyshai Freeman (Jr.) Roselle (Lake Park)
5-5 Haley Becker (Jr.) Libertyville
Outlook: a ton of mid-range talented jumpers return but no outstanding frontrunner as in year’s past to point out. Arema has the distinction of being the state runner up last year, but she didn’t have the profile of White and Howard- both of whom have 5-8 personal best. White is looking to improve on her 13th place finish from a year ago.

Long Jump-
All-time best: 20-9.5; Jackie Joyner (E. St. Louis Lincoln)- AAU Nats; Lincoln NB- 1980
State Meet record: 20-9; Alexandria Anderson (Chicago Morgan Park)- 2005 prelims
19-6.25 Aliyah Harmon (Jr.) Olympia Fields Rich Central
18-7 Patrice Jones (So.) Rockton Hononegah
18-2.25 Emma Spagnola (So.) West Aurora
18-1.25 Nia Joiner (Sr.) Lombard (Glenbard East)
18-0.25 Claudette Day (So.) Belleville East
18-0 Tyshai Freeman Roselle (Lake Park)
17-11.75 Uzo Okoro (Sr.) Hinsdale South
17-11 Rahsidah Williams (Sr.) Blue Island Eisenhower
17-10 Kelly O’Connor (Sr.) Wheaton North
17-10 Brenna Detra (Jr.) Peoria Richwoods
Outlook: lots of talent and balance flowing here anchored by Harmon who already jumped 18-7 in early 2012 at Texas A&M. Harmon was one of the best jumpers in 2A last year. Savannah Carson from Naperville Neuqua Valley is also a person of interest after entering the high school scene. She has skied 18-7.5 thus far and should eclipse the 19-foot barrier again.

Triple Jump-
All-time best: 42-2.75; Deanna Simmons (Decatur MacArthur)- USATF Regionals, 1996
State Meet Record: 41-5; Simmons, 1996
37-10.5 Allie Virgilo (Sr.) Algonquin Jacobs
37-7.75 Annette Hodges (Sr.) Belvidere North
37-6 Anne Yahiro (Sr.) Lisle Benet Academy
37-5.75 Uzo Okoro (Sr.) Hinsdale South
37-3 Kate Kondry (Jr.) Naperville Neuqua Valley
37-2.25 Naomi Fuller (Sr.) Harvey Thornton
37-1 Meg Jump (Jr.) Palatine
Outlook: the departure of All-American talent Abie Ehimwenman (Homewood-Flossmoor) and Tori Franklin (Downers Grove South) will be felt tremendously- both jump queens have continued their rivalry in the Big 10 Conference at Ohio State University and Michigan State University respectively. The little known Virgilo placed 3rd last year in the state championship; she will be vying for visibility at the expense of her competition. But watch out for some familiar yet but new names to the 3A arena. Aliyah Harmon has been mentioned along with Savannah Carson in the long jump. They both can frog leap with the best of them. Harmon won the Texas A & M Indoor Classic with a performance well over 38-feet. She is in outdoor performance mode right now. Okoro is a multiple state performer who will be along with Yahiro dueling for the top of the pack.

contact: anthony.jones@espn.com

Illinois Class 2A Girls 2012 Track & Field Preview

February, 3, 2012
The Class 2A division will undergo major changes this year with the addition and departure of some powerhouse programs. For instance, Chicago Morgan Park, Springfield, and Rock Island move up to the 3A ranks. There is an infusion of several 3A schools moving down, such as Chicago Northside Prep, Mundelein (Carmel Catholic), and Oak Park (Fenwick). Former solid 1A programs Aurora (Christian), Bloomington (Central Catholic), Breese Central, and Stanford-Olympia will add some depth to a vastly weakened league.

Two-time defending state champion Springfield Southeast will still be the favorite despite some heavy losses through graduation, most notably gone is jump star Alex Harden. She has taken her talents to Wichita State University, playing only basketball (for now).

In addition, it’s going to be hard to pinpoint what kind of division 2A is going to be after so many defections within the class itself. One suspects the IHSA didn’t envision this, and the unthinkable may just happen in May. The championship may lose some of its team aspect and be settled by a few individuals.

The spotlight will definitely be more of an individual variety. The tiny south side of Chicago college prep school known as Lindblom College Prep may as well be known as “Team Shamier Little.” As a sophomore, Little scored 27 points and placed sixth in the team standings. Everyone knows that the scoring system is not going to change and if Little crafts a plan to enter more events under a water downed system, she very well could win a state team championship by herself.

Let’s take a look how this could occur:

Assume that it will take at least 30 points to reach the podium and hoist a team plaque, probably 35-40 to garner first or second place. How would Little be able to achieve this historic achievement?

If she enters the the 100 hurdles, 400, 300 hurdles and 200, Little could win any of them, or all four. The difficulty comes in surviving the fatigue of all the prelim rounds. In the 100 hurdles, advancing to the final would be a piece of cake because she is the defending state champion. Several of her toughest foes have either graduated or moved into different classes. Defending her title would only take minimal effort because the nearest competitor maybe capable of 14.60 or 14.70. Little has clocked 14.00 wind-aided and 14.16 legally -- not to mention that she would be fresh entering her first final of the day.

In the 400, Little would be relatively sharp and could just match the talents of Megan Paul (Mundelein Carmel) or Mercedes Young (Hillcrest) stride for stride and not expend any true effort until the last 120 meters. If Lake Kwaza (Sycamore) enters and is improved, Little may have to deploy her fourth or fifth gear a little sooner than she originally planned. Still, she would not have to run at top-end speed until the final quarter of the race.

The 300 hurdles may be Little’s best event because she is a born hurdler. The turnaround time would be between 7-15 minutes defending on meet management moving on the back-to-back event. No one in IHSA history has ever attempted this particularly strenuous double and succeeded. But if anyone can do it, it is Little. Also, keep in mind that this event is probably the leanest on the log. It only took 46.59 to advance to the final last year. Little could cruise a full second faster and still would not feel much exertion. Another break is defending champion Brena Detra (Peoria Richwoods) is in 3A. Samone’ Thompson from Champaign Central may be the only threat, but her personal best is only 44.80. If she improves a full second, it would not be enough to tire out Little. Keep in mind, Little has run US#2 57.83 in the 400-meter hurdles, which suggests she is capable of least of sub-41 seconds in the 300. Little probably wins here despite running her seventh race in less than 24-hours and back to back.

The 200 is where the moment of truth arrives. None of the key speedsters will be fresh, but Kwaza will more than likely be here and she has the most top-end speed. Little will lose this one and settle for second place.

That could leave the team standings: Team Little: 39, Springfield Southeast 36

2011 Top 5 State recap: 1) Springfield Southeast 50; 2) Chicago Morgan Park 49; 3) Springfield 45; 4) Kankakee 32; 5) Rochelle 29.

The Spartans rolled through the regular season and postseason pretty comfortably. The state championship wasn’t nearly as easy as some expected because Morgan Park dropped down from 3A because their school enrollment shrunk. The Spartans got on the board before the track finals began on the legs of Alex Harden’s double jump victories (TJ, LJ). Morgan Park scored first in the 4x1 relay and then a third place 100 meters effort from then-sophomore Elexis Fairley. The Spartans countered with Charday Crawford’s sixth place finish. Meanwhile, Springfield picked up a high jump victory courtesy of Sarah Maxon. The Senators also nabbed quality points in the middle-distance area and big points in all four relays. But it all came down to the final event of the day: the 4x4 relay and Southeast didn’t have a team. Morgan Park did and could win the championship with a victory. They ran valiantly for three legs and actually were in the lead with about 300 remaining on the anchor leg before getting impeded and then almost knocked to the track by Rich Central. No flag was thrown. By the time the Mustangs' Tia Smith recovered she had lost all of her momentum. They finished second in the race and the final verdict resulted in Springfield Southeast escaping with a one-point victory.

Event-by Event look:
11.76 Lake Kwaza (Sr.) Sycamore
12.21 Ebony McClendan (So.) Chicago Brooks
12.22 Ladaisha Steen-Yates (So.) Peoria
12.27 Jazmin Jackson (Jr.) Chatham-Glenwood
12.29 Alex Rosignol (So.) Mt. Carmel
Outlook: Lake Kwaza came onto to the scene as a pre-high school sensation but injuries and outside interests (basketball) have curtailed the enormous pressure put on her. Also, Dominique Kimpel (Kankakee) came along and stole the show for three titles. Kimpel secured her place as one of the best that Illinois has seen. Quietly, Kwaza had a resurgent junior campaign in which she set a personal best as well as earned a 2nd place finish to Kimpel.

24.53 Shamier Little (Jr.) Chicago Lindblom Prep
25.14 Mercedes Young (Sr.) Country Club Hills (Hillcrest)
25.32 Megan Paul (Sr.) Mundelein (Carmel)
25.69 Lake Kwaza (Sr.) Sycamore
25.50 Jazmin Jackson (Jr.) Chatham-Glenwood
Outlook: Subtract Rock Island’s Mytique Thompson, Brena Detra, and Elexis Fairley because they will be competing in 3A. Paul will give this event some quality depth as will Young. Kwaza will be much improved in this area as she will be presumably healthy.

53.83 Shamier Little (Jr.) Chicago Lindblom
55.35 Mercedes Young (Sr.) Country Club Hills Hillcrest
56.49 Megan Paul (Sr.) Mundelein Carmel Catholic
57.34 Brittany Letts (Sr.) Country Club Hills (Hillcrest)
57.63 Lake Kwaza (Sr.) Sycamore
57.64 MacKenzie Bollinger (Jr.) Aurora (Christian)
Outlook: This event will probably be the strongest and deepest on the log. Little is perhaps the class of the entire state when it comes to the 400, with barriers or flat. She won her summer age group AAU title in the fastest time since Morgan Park’s Alex Anderson set the state all-time record in 2005. As easy as it sounds to just go and lace up the spikes and hit the track running, the competition isn’t going to bow down. Paul also had a great summer and is equally a great athlete with a personal best in the 54-second range from a few years back. But she will have a few tough choices to make in terms of race selections when the post-season arrives. Young will more than likely be a mainstay in the open event if multiple relay duty is not in the team title cards. Finally, the big mystery is Kwaza. If she can improve on her personal times in the early portion of the season, we may all see her among the leaders.

2:14.43 Kelsey Cramsey (Sr.) Effingham
2:15.64 Cassie Kruse (Sr.) Hampshire
2:16.01 Emma Preston (Sr.) E. Peoria
2:16.24 Megan Paul (Sr.) Mundelein (Carmel)
Outlook: It’s a very safe choice in predicting Cramsey as the top half-miler based on consistency; she never finished lower than second in a race. It will be interesting to see if she can raise the stakes a little higher and get under her lifetime best of 2:13.55 set in ’10. The competition will be stiff to say the least. Paul, who recently inked with the University of Arkansas, took a plunge into the middle-distance arena and performed magnificently. She competed on the AAU summer circuit and actually built up her confidence (IHSA season was not the best); producing several sub 2:17 marks along the way. Don’t be surprised if you see her try a 4/8 double a few times during the season before choosing one or both or three. Kruse is a strong candidate as well; she is a tough competitor who often doubles back from running in the 4x8 relay. A final name to keep a watch for is Brittany Letts from Country Club Hills Hillcrest. Letts is a multi-purpose runner who possesses a ton of speed but loves to run the half-mile. She had a tough year in ’11 in which she barely made the final and didn’t chart among the favorites. If she can get anywhere close to the season she had in ’10, then her competition had better watch out. She put up 25.5/57/2:13 numbers and even pole vaulted over 9-feet.

5:06.54 Katie Adams (Jr.) Marengo
5:09.24 Leah Brooks (Sr.) Dunlap
5:10.17 Sydney Billingsley (So.) Normal (University)
5:12.62 Claire Haggerty (Jr.) Grayslake Central
5:13.68 Alex Van Hoof (Jr.) Bloomington (Central Catholic)
5:18.66 Karyn Paisley (So.) Macomb
5:18.95 Cassie Kruse (Sr.) Hampshire
Outlook: Yorkville’s Ali Hester competed in 2A for cross country but strangely will be in 3A for the track season. Adams will probably have an unimpeded ride all the way to Charleston in May if no one steps up. The pre-high school star has the talent to get back to her 2007/08 level when she ran 5:01.28 for the full mile- this translates to sub 5:00 for 1600m. Brooks will need to peak better from indoor to outdoor season. She placed 2nd in the IPTT in 5:09, but she only mustered the same exact time by the end of the outdoor season. Kruse has the talent to be among the leaders when the season gets into full swing. Lombard’s Ericka Laviste (Sr.) has a personal best of 5:11; she will be a person at-large in ’12.

11:08.19 Ashley Pribble (Sr.) Morton
11:09.33 Meredith McClain (Jr.) Springfield (Sacred Heart-Griffin)
11:14.51 Alex Van Hoof (Jr.) Bloomington (Central Catholic)
11:17.26 Sydney Billingsley (So.) Normal (University)
11:19.59 Caitlin Pribble (Sr.) Morton
11:22.90 Leah Brooks (Sr.) Dunlap
11:26.18 Briana Daley (So.) Oak Park (Fenwick)
Outlook: Now that Illinois’ all-time best distance runner Kayla Beattie (Woodstock) has graduated and moved on to college, there will be a stability of girls with similar numbers. Ashley Pribble and her twin sister will be in the mix all season. Ashley finished 2nd behind Beattie in last spring’s championship race. McClain was just a few tenths back; she also enjoyed a great cross country season finishing 9th.

14.16 Shamier Little (Jr.) Chicago Lindblom Prep
14.79 Natasha Seymour (Jr.) Richton Park (Rich South)
15.36 Destini Artis (Jr.) Country Club Hills (Hillcrest)
15.37 Allison Rogutich (Sr.) Marengo
15.39 Kaci Storm (Sr.) Geneseo
15.42 Sydney Hellwig (Jr.) LaGrange Park (Nazareth)
Outlook: Little won her first state title with ease against a solid field. Now that field is gone and she should have an easier time. But her goals are much bigger than winning a state title- it’s about being among the very best in the country.

44.80 Samone’ Thompson (Sr.) Champaign Central
44.87 Erin McCoy (Sr.) Oak Park (Fenwick)
45.40 Joslyn Jones (Jr.) Cahokia
45.50 Sarah Goodale (Jr.) Carbondale
45.60 Shamier Little (Jr.) Chicago Lindblom Prep
Outlook: A ton of graduation and losses has severly weakened this event. Defending state champion Brena Detra of Peoria Richwoods has moved up to Class 3A. To matters worse, Little produced the US #2 mark in the longer 400H last summer could easily be a sub 41 performer. There is only one athlete in Illinois history to do that. Little may forgo this event and concentrate on her favorite event - the 400 meter dash - and run in June's Olympic Trials 400-meter hurdles. If so, the spoils will go Thompson and McCoy.

Discus Throw-
125-9 Bryn Buckwalter (Jr.) Freeport
124-5 Lindsay Herra (Jr.) Rockford Boylan
122-3 Morgan Young (Jr.) Mahomet-Seymour
120-10 Alyssa Mussatto (Sr.) Ottawa
120-3 Lauren Haas (Sr.) Rock Falls
118-7 Lena Giger (So.) Highland
Outlook: The state champion Buckwalter returns to defend her title. She will have some tight competition as four girls are within five feet. Herra will look to add a state medal on to her 124-5 personal best; she failed to advance to state in the event last year. Young is another quality thrower from the same Mahomet-Seymour program that produced an all-time great known as Daniella “Dani” Bunch several years ago.

Shot Put-
43-2.25 Kortnee Hall (Sr.) Jersey
42-2.25 Lena Giger (So.) Highland
40-5.75 Bryn Buckwalter (Jr.) Freeport
39-9.25 K’leesa Gilliam (Sr.) Springfield Southeast
39-5.75 Claire Nolan (Jr.) Taylorville
37-9 Myra Diggins (Sr.) Galesburg
37-5.25 Katy Spesard (Sr.) Paris
Outlook: Hall was just several inches away from a state title last year. Fortunately, she will have another season to redeem herself. Giger is from the same area as Hall which should lead to some spirited matchups all season long. Gilliam could be a candidate to replace former graduated teammate Lateria Fairlee. Her team will appreciate the points in a quest for a third straight team championship.

Long Jump-
18-1.5 Ellen Renk (Sr.) Lasalle-Peru
17-10 India Steward (Jr.) Richton Park (Rich South)
17-9i Lexi Hobbs (Sr.) Dunlap
17-7.5 MiCayla Collins (Jr.) Cahokia
17-6.5 Lexy Duncan (So.) Dixon
17-5.5 Jasmine Johnson (Sr.) Midlothian Bremen
17-5.5 Taylor McCammon (So.) Kankakee McNamara
17-4.5 Miranda Hankins (Sr.) Charleston
Outlook: For the first time in a long time, four years to be precise, there is going to be a new state champion and brand new face in the long jump. Alexandria Harden dominated this event for so long for Springfield Southeast that they could have named it in her honor. The days of the 19-foot mark will not happen but a more even playing field will surface. Renk will now get a shot be the top jumper. Steward and Hobbs will challenge Renk for the gold medal in May.

Triple Jump-
37-10.25 Ellen Renk (Sr.) Lasalle-Peru
37-6 Allison Rogutich (Sr.) Marengo
36-7i MiCayla Collins (Jr.) Cahokia
36-6.75 Lexi Ellis (Sr.) Morton
36-0.75 Mackenzie Bollinger (Jr.) Aurora (Christian)
Outlook: It’s Déjà vu here for Renk as she now has an opportunity to be the best in Illinois with Harden’s departure. Also, would be apparent Aliyah Harmon (Rich Central) has moved up to 3A. Rogutich placed 4th at state last year and was just 4 inches behind Renk. These two young ladies will be the class of the field.

High Jump-
5-6 Molly McGraw (So.) Bloomington Central Catholic
5-5 Katie Trupp (Jr.) Burlington Central
5-5 Shannon Nugent (Jr.) Vernon Hills
5-4 Jasmine Johnson (Jr.) Midlothian Bremen
5-4 Abi Sowash (Jr.) Troy- Triad
Outlook: This event will see a total makeover. The top 5 finishers from last year’s state final have either graduated or moved into different classes. McGraw placed third in 1A last May and actually has the top returning performance mark. Bridget Bodee (Jr.) from Lombard Montini has the highest returning placement in 6th, but she only jumped a paltry 5-3. She may improve but more than likely won’t finish ahead of McGraw, Trupp, or Nugent if they are on their game.

Pole Vault-
12-6 Sarah Bell (Jr.) Bloomington Central Catholic
11-6 Jesse Dryden (Sr.) Marion
11-6 Katie Trupp (Jr.) Burlington Central
11-6 Grace Shadid (Sr.) Peoria Notre Dame
10-6 Darrian Hartman (Sr.) Geneseo
Outlook: Bell moves up from Class A and will be a heavy favorite to win a state title. She is also the top overall rated vaulter in Illinois and was US#2 at press time of this preview with a super mark of 12-8. Shadid is one of only three vaulters who cleared 11-6 last season in the Class. Dryden and Trupp are the other two.

Hampshire, Maple Park Kaneland, Burlington Central, Mahomet-Seymour, and Effingham will see their fortunes improve dramatically with record holder Yorkville moving to 3A. Rock Island and Springfield HS were state charters too and they follow suit with Yorkville. So, the prognosis is going to come down to the best anchor legs. Effingham has Kelsey Cramsey and Hampshire will go with Cassie Kruse- may the best team win.

Once again a ton of movement makes it hard to predict who is going to perform well. Springfield Southeast may be the favorite despite the loss of Alex Harden. Chicago Morgan Park was the champion but they move up to 3A as does Springfield and Rock Island.

Southeast will return three legs and should be strong as last year. The Spartans have a wealth of frosh-soph talent to draw from if need be.

Rich South will be the favorite with three legs back from a record setting performance in last year’s final. Vernon Hills was a surprise last season. No one had them among the best but yet they placed 3rd in the state rankings. They will be right there with the top squads again this season. Let’s add in Hillcrest. They had a troubling year in ’11 but it’s a clean slate now. They will be a much better team overall and should get back to 2010 levels when they dominated their competition and finished 2nd in the state. All four girls return included the talented Brittany Letts and Mercedes Young.