High-SchoolTrack-and-XC: state sectionals

Roselle, Ill--- Wheaton-Warrenville South Head Coach Rob Harvey sent a direct message to his team prior to entering the premises of Lake Park High School: “our #1 goal is to qualify as many girls as possible for [next week’s state championship].” The Tigers won the sectional title with 101 points but more importantly qualified nine individuals and four relays for Charleston (site of state championship).

It was a total team effort for the Tigers

Wheaton South got things rolling in the field events with returning all-state high jumper Kasey Gassensmith won with a personal best 5-5. It was also a big sigh of relief from last week’s lowly performance at the Dupage Valley Conference meet when she only mustered 4-11.

Desirae Ranberg has already had a career year in the discus throw with personal bests every weekend. The senior standout continued to raise her approval rating with another fine performance another personal best effort of 131-3. Her efforts netted third place and will more than likely be situated in a scoring slot for the state championship.

Pole vault specialists Emily Schwartz and Christen Saccucci go 1-3 with very respectable 11-3 and 10-9 marks. Schwartz will be among the favorites in Charleston based on being the second best returner and season best of 12-0 set a week ago at the conference meet.

The tone on the track was set immediately in the event’s first event: the 4x800 relay. Wheaton South showed the Glenbard West express that their road to a state championship is not going to be easy. The Tigers struck the Hilltoppers and the rest of the talented field like lightning bolt with Amy Yong assuming the lead off chores. The senior got things started with a fast 2:15.4 split that put the competitors in a big hole. Although Madeline Perez was able to quickly close down the deficit on the second leg and take a lead for her team, it would be short lived.

Wheaton South regained the momentum when third leg Hope Schmelzle took the baton and virtually sprinted the opening 200 which produced a huge gap on Glenbard West and Mt. Prospect (Prospect). It was all peaches and cream by the time anchor McKenna Kiple got the baton. She could have just maintained a safe lead, but instead chose to hammer it for the entire two laps. The final outcome was a sensational 2:12 split and 9:06.25. The sizzling mark is good for US#5.

Wheaton South continued to rack up key performances including Schmelzle’s fine second place effort in the 1600 (4:59.00), Kiple in the 800 (2:17.81), and Jessica Spera’s 100H winning performance (15.32).

Kaylee Flanagan sets tone in the 3200

Everyone in the stadium knew that the 3200 was going to be an event that would attract a fleet of runners vying for Charleston. Lake Park distance coach Lauren May had a specific plan for her star runner Kaylee Flanagan. “I told her to go in 75-seconds… and we can work from there,” she said directly with a hint of a smile. Was that smile because she knew what the real outcome would be?

Flanagan took the pace out fast, as it is her customary style, in 70.6. She continued to surge against the field over the next three laps in 2:27.5, 3:44.7, and 5:04.7. Flanagan was already ahead of a strong field by over 15-seconds but still would not show any mercy.

The next three laps were each conducted in a shade under 80-seconds, which meant she had a shot at setting a personal best. On the gun lap, Flanagan passed by in 9:04.6 and on pace to run a very fast time. Indeed, it would be 10:25.98. Flanagan recaptured the state lead over Winnetka New Trier’s Courtney Ackerman (10:28.98). She also outdistanced runner-up Emma Fisher (York, Elmhurst) who ran a fine 10:46.45. In addition, a total of six girls qualified for the state championship.

“I tried to go out [easy],” Flanagan said with an honest shrug in reference to her coach’s plan. “I just wanted to run and not think about anything… make it a fun race.”

Rakosnik continues to excel
University of Illinois-Champaign bound Lindsey Rakosnik (Glenbard East, Lombard) has come a long way from being a long sprinter. Rakosnik was the state runner-up in the 400 in 2010; she moved up to the 800 last season and won the state title in 2:11.08. After a great cross country campaign that netted her the seventh place medal, she has moved up in distance once more to the “mile.” On Thursday evening she would sweep the 800 and 1600 runs in stellar fashion.

Rakosnik methodically controlled her first race of the day, the 800, by going out in 65.6- a sizable pack with Lauren Poplawski (Prospect, Mt. Prospect), Michelle Frigo (York, Elmhurst), and several others in close proximity. However, the dream of an upset would not materialize as Rakosnik turned on the jets with 250 to go and easily won in 2:12.78. Poplawski set a school record (2:14.55) to place second. A total of six runners earned tickets to Charleston. Rakosnik quickly exited the track after her race to prepare for her next event.

The 1600 started as modestly as the 800 for Rakosnik in a 71.2 and 2:30.3 for the first two laps. Believe it or not the pace for the four-lapper was slower than what Flanagan ran for the 3200. The lagging tempo allowed a fleet of girls to stay with Rakosnik, and set themselves up with perhaps a shot of winning or at the very least earn a personal record and a trip to state. The third lap did not pick up any (3:45.4) and two runners lurking. The gun lap sounded and Rakosnik moved hard on the backstretch and opened a bit of day light on Schmelzle and Brooke Wolfe (Prospect, Mt. Prospect). With less just the final curve to negotiate, Rakosnik picked up the pace a bit more but not full out. Schmelzle and Wolfe moved into all out sprint mode but would not catch Rakosnik who cruised home in 4:57.79. Rakosnik once again disappeared after crossing the finish line.

Rakosnik appeared after her the 4x4 relay to discuss her day. “I knew that there was more break between the races,” she said regarding reserving energy and pacing herself hard at different points in her races. It may have also been a way to test herself for next weekend’s strategic preliminary races that begin on Friday.

The state’s best kept secret
Cherise Porter (Willowbrook, Villa Park) has a very impressive resume in that she is a five-time state medalist in the 100 and 200. In addition, she has been a decorated sprinter on the summer track circuit. But standing in her way are superstars Aaliyah Brown (Lincoln-Way East, Frankfort), Morolake Akinosun (Aurora, Waubonsie Valley), and Cessily Jones (North, Plainfield). Now, let’s re-enter Porter after she produced workwomen like evening on the track. The standout speedster ran four events and produced three tough victories for: herself, team, and fans.

After cruising past qualifying rounds in the 100 and 200, it would be the 4x1 that presented a challenge for Porter. Her team was sitting in fourth place and on the verge of not advancing to state when she got the stick. The two-time state 200 runner-up bolted down the track and passed Wheaton South for second and then nipped Proviso West for the heart pounding victory 49.11-49.17.

Porter returned a short later and won the 100 in less dramatic fashion but a still solid 12.06. After speaking with her teammates and coaches she ushered off the track to get ready for her next race. That next race would be the 4x200 relay. Once again it would be Porter vying to rescue her squad’s fortunes when she moved hard on the anchor leg. She needed to least catch at least two or three teams to secure a spot to state. Porter rolled past three teams and placed second to Proviso West 1:44.11. “I’m out here running my best and having fun,” she said afterwards with a smile.

The final event of the day for Porter would be winning her specialty the 200 in 24.51 over Hoffman Estates Angela Hermann. “I want to win state year,” she said pointing to her back-to-back second place state finishes in the 200. “I’m aiming for it this year.”

Other key meet performances

Morgan Keller (Rolling Meadows) won the shot put (41-10) and discus (140-4) and completed the throws sweep. Keller improved on her 137-0 mark from the prelim but stays in the IL#3/US#53 positions.

Colleen Krawczykowski (Willowbrook, Villa Park) helped herself by winning the long jump in a solid 17-4.5 effort.

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