High-SchoolTrack-and-XC: lady pirates invite

by Tony Jones- anthony.jones@espn.com

The 2nd Annual Lady Pirate Invitational more than held its own and lived up to the pre-meet hype- thanks to the individuals who were spotted days before the meet even occurred.

The tale of three girls-

Aaliyah Brown (Frankfort Lincoln-Way East), Shamier Little (Chicago Lindblom), and Cessily Jones (Plainfield North) each one event but the magnitude held a separate meaning- by the end of a long day each athlete would have a story tell… even when it didn’t contain words.
The morning started rather slow with several field events on the docket coupled by frosh-soph and varsity hurdle and 55 dash prelims. Although Brown, Jones, and Little won their respective heats, the action remained a bit stagnant when meet officials decided to force multiple heats of the varsity 3200. It could have been staged in one heat with 17 girls or at the very least split evenly before the prelims started.

Shamier Little: things finally got serious after the national anthem with the 55HH. Little and Chicago Heights (Marian Catholic) 60HH leader Imani Haynes were ready to settle who would be the indoor dash queen to date. It wasn’t much of a battle as it would turn out. Little and Haynes were virtually even for the first three hurdles before Little accelerated away from her and the rest of the field. The final verdict was 8.26- a new state best. Ms. Little appeared to want more as she continued to sprint well past the finish line and around part of the first turn of the track. She finally slowed down enough to offer her assessment of a fine performance: “all I wanted to do was to stay low coming out of the blocks and attack each [hurdle].” The second fastest time actually came from a freshman, Jayla Stewart, who won the frosh heat in 8.51. She will be a name to watch as the indoor season comes to a peak in several weeks.

Little came back during the middle of the meet to compete in the 400. The field wasn’t stellar and she very quickly opened up an insurmountable lead on the field by 150m in. The smooth striding gazellean Little hit the halfway mark so alone it appeared as if she was conducting a solo time trial. Her competitors Jacky Bynes (Chicago Lane Tech) and Rebecca Stearns (Downers Grove South) fought hard but were no match for the dominant Little. Little won in 58.63, narrowly missing the meet record and over three seconds ahead of Stearns.

Aaliyah Brown: ‘The Franchise’ got her day off to a flying start with a solid 7.09 in her prelim. The mark held up over the next five rounds… the stage would be set for the final. Brown appeared to come out of her blocks just a tiny bit sluggish but not enough to be upset though. She gained her top speed at 30m and before the crowd could blink, the race was over in a smoking hot meet record: 6.95. The mark is now IL#2/US#8.

Brown continued her red hot ways when she brought her teammates back once again in a relay- this time the 4x2r- in dramatic fashion to win in 1:46.11.

The final event of the day was a little tough for Brown who finished second in the 200 in 25.21. It was a valiant effort before falling to Jones, who had a little more in the tank over the final 40m. Brown didn’t offer an excuse in one of her few high school losses. She immediately hugged her close friend and moved on.

Cessily Jones: it doesn’t bother her at all when she finishes second to Brown who she calls her “best friend.” Besides, “I have to go out and execute my own race”, she asserts. That would make a ton of sense for an athlete on the verge of elite status that Jones is. The senior standout has already signed to compete at the University of Oklahoma next season. Now, it’s all about finishing her high school season in good standing. The diminutive Jones ran well in the 55 in a personal best 7.00 and good enough for 2nd place and US#16- not bad for being a second place finisher.

The 200 has always seemed to be Jones’ better event. The final would be loaded with Brown, Alexis Hyshaw of Naperville North, and Seton Academy’s DaJanae Terry in the championship heat 7. Little had already put the pressure on when she coasted to victory in heat 6. The race got out well with Jones running even with Brown for the the initial turn and through first 100. Surprisingly, Brown didn’t pull away on the final turn. That inability gave Jones all the confidence in the world and in a matter of a few seconds, she turned on the jets and pulled away from her on the homestretch and won easily in a meet record 24.81. Jones knows the state championship doesn’t start today, so there wasn’t any need to jump and down or any big smiles. She realizes every finishing step on the track is a process in the plan to elite status.
By Tony Jones- anthony.jones@espn.com

Fans attending the 2nd Annual Proviso East Lady Pirates Invitational had better get a good and lasting snapshot of Lincoln-Way East (Frankfort, Ill) junior superstar Aaliyah Brown. It may very well be that she will be competing in the New Balance Indoor National Championships in New York City next year at this time.

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) recently amended several guidelines that will allow track and field athletes who meet qualifications to compete in USA Track & Field (USATF) sanctioned events.

There is a feeling in the air as Brown emerges as the top prep sprinter in 2013, it’s only right that she is afforded the same opportunities and spoils that many of her contemporaries around the country are enjoying.

As for Illinois’ premier all girls invitational, it should be a dandy as some of the state’s best sprinters and athletes who will be competing on the fast Mondo X flat track inside of the Proviso West HS field house on Saturday.

Here is a slice of what fans should look for:

Sprints galore-

Everyone knows the incomparable Brown will not have a challenger in any event she chooses to contest; Brown hasn’t contested a 55 that is eligible yet (marks under 400 must be FAT) but she still sits at US#4 for 60 (7.42). The question that most pundits will ask is: ‘will anyone be able to stay with Aaliyah?’ The answer will probably be NO but it doesn’t mean the competition will be subpar.

For starters, the 55 dash is stocked with talent as all-state speedsters like Plainfield North (Plainfield, Ill) senior Cessily Jones, E. St. Louis Sr. (E. St. Louis, Ill) sophomore Daria Walker, Springfield Southeast (Springfield, Ill) junior Charday Crawford, E. St. Louis Sr. (E. St. Louis, Ill), Seton Academy (South Holland, Ill) senior Dejanae Terry, and Naperville North (Naperville, Ill) sophomore Alexis Hyshaw. At any rate the short dash will be exciting and guaranteed to keep the fans out of their seats.

The field for the 200 is virtually the same as the 55 and will more than likely yield the same results: Brown running very fast and chasing records.

Shamier Little takes front stage-

There is no chance that Shamier Little is going to take a back seat to Aaliyah Brown. Little, a junior who is from tiny Lindblom College Prep High School on the south side of Chicago, made a name for herself in last summer’s AAU 400H final running US#2 57.83- that swift time just barely missed the US Olympic Trials “B” standard of 57.80.

So far this season, Little has produced two IL#2 marks: 8.28/55HH and blazed 57.25/400

Little is also a candidate to win a state team title in Class 2A by herself if she can pass the test of running and performing marvelously in four events- the maximum for an individual- at the state meet. Little will only contest the hurdles and long sprint at the Pirate Invite. It’s ironic that the team she is chasing is Springfield Southeast. The Lady Spartans are the 2A two-time defending state champions.

Team power surge-

High school track and field is vastly different that its counterpart on the collegiate side because of one fundamental thing: scoring. High school coaches and kids love team trophies at the end of the day for their efforts.

There will be several teams to watch vying for two trophies. E. St. Louis Sr., Springfield Southeast, Frankfort Lincoln-Way East, Downers Grove South, and Homewood-Flossmoor are the teams that should walk away with the hardware.

E. St. Louis is the defending 3A state champion with nearly everyone back. But don’t expect head coach Nino Fenoy to try and overpower the competition. The legendary coach will more than likely use this meet to move his best athletes in their off events. It’s hard to say what the relay line ups will be for the Flyerettes until the girls actually get on the track. Senior leader Joymesia Howard will be in her top events: 55HH and long jump- but that’s the only guarantee.

Lincoln-Way East opened their invitational season last weekend at Argo by winning it convincingly. But the Griffins really made a team statement at the Downers Grove South Mustang relays with two outstanding performances in the 4x2r and 4x4r- both are among the very best in the state. They showed that can roll hard with more than Brown as their franchise leader. Look for names like Nicole Nepote in the 800, Kaley McLawhorn- 1600, Collette Theodour- LJ, and freshman standout Julia Junkrowski-HJ- to show the rest of the state how good they can be.

Springfield Southeast will have a say in the final team scores because they are that good. The two-time 2A champions have stayed on top because of their ability to reload and restock every season. Now that the steady Alexandria Harden has moved on to college, it will be a little more difficult in finding guaranteed points. The Spartans will look to hold over Charday Crawford. Crawford earned all-state honors in two relays and one individual event last year. She will be the cornerstone that coach Thomas McBride and his staff will rely on.