High-SchoolTrack-and-XC: Tony Jones

Moweaqua Central A&M Wins Exciting Class A Girls Title

May, 24, 2012
It was perhaps one of the most diverse state championships in Class A history between the top three trophy winners.

Moweaqua (Central A&M) muscled their way to a first championship with power and strength. The Raiders picked up big points in the throws and hurdles to score 59 points.

The runner-up spot went to Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley on the strength of two young ladies: seniors Sydni Meunier and Angel Gaesser. They helped churn out 48 points in the middle-distance and relay arena.

St. Joseph-Ogden took the third and final team plaque with 46 points with long distance star senior Chelsea Blaase and standout sprinter/jumper senior Rachel Ballard leading the way.

Meunier and Gaesser form strong running pact-
It’s not a secret that Meunier and Gaesser are close teammates. But what is perhaps hidden is that the dynamic duo are very good friends who have competed together in a variety of sports since the sixth grade. GCMS has no cross country program so the pair uses the fall season to compete in volleyball to stay fit. Gaesser also played basketball during the winter session.

The spring season seems to bring out the best in the two runners.

After Gaesser assisted her teammates in earning one point the 4x100 relay it was time to go to work. The next event would be crucial for the Falcons. They needed to strike it big in their best event. Meunier got out well after the cut in bolting fast to the pole- Gaesser chased hard. The first 400 was clocked in 61.8 by Meunier. They were seemingly light years ahead of the chase pack entering the backstretch. Meunier continued to press the pace through the 600 mark. Gasser tired a bit over the last 200 but was able to hold off the surprisingly feisty Kristen Paris (Sr., Fisher) for second place. Meunier won going away in a personal best 2:11.30.

Meunier returned a bit later to breeze in the 1600 over 3200 champion Chelsea Blaase in 5:07.88.

The final event of the Spartan’s pair legacy was cemented in winning the 4x400 in a solid 3:59.22. It was very appropriate for Meunier and Gaesser to finish things off before heading into the sunset.

Field events enjoy a super day-
Often times the field events will get attention on the front page story because of a super human performance of one athlete.

It would be different this time.

Central A&M throwing ace senior Janie Howse would lead a strong contingent in the discus; she won with a healthy 140-7. Two other throwers eclipsed the 135-foot mark including teammate junior Genny Rose Stringer who placed third (137-9). In all it 11 of the 12 finalists exceeded the state standard of 112-3.

Megan Lauzon (Jr., Rushville-Industry) kept the pressure on the heavily favored Whitney Walker (Sr., Illini Bluffs) after leading in Thursday’s preliminary round. Lauzon was able to improve from her 42-9.25 to 43-9.5 on Saturday. Walker moved up well the 43-6 output fell short. Anisa Razo (Sr., Ottawa Marquette) also threw over 40-feet with a solid 40-1.75.

Katie Bloch (Jr., Argenta-Oreana) seized her shining moment with she tied a US#2/IL#1 high jump of 5-10. Upon being declared the winner at 5-8, Bloch asked event officials to place the bar up to 6-0 instead of the IHSA record of 5-11. The three attempts fell quietly short, but perhaps 2013 will be the year that Melinda Morris’ 1980 long standing record will fall.

The sprint action did not disappoint-
South Holland Seton Academy’s 4x100 upperclassmen quartet of Jasmine Gardner, Mykel Adams, Nancy Jeanty, and DeJanae Terry finally achieved a feat that many supporters thought they could, an IHSA record. The four young ladies got the stick around the track nicely in setting a meet record 48.51. Eureka ran well but had to settle for second with a very fine time of 48.63.

Sullivan Co-op took a bit of a chunk off of the 4x200 record (1:43.35) set last year by then 1A champion Aurora Christian with an impressive 1:42.82. Starlet Paige Neuhauser took the baton on the anchor leg and blazed the final curve with whippet appeal- so much that Seton Academy’s Terry had no answer and settled for a distant second in 1:44.87.

Moweaqua’s Madison Renfro and Taylor Adcock took care of the hurdle titles. The senior Renfro won in a speedy 14.55. Last year she ran 14.99. Adcock completed the sweep in 44.46.
Post-state note book-

Wow, what a weekend it was in Charleston for the girls state championship. The 40th edition was perhaps the best meet top to bottom in IHSA history. There were over a half-dozen meet or all-time records set to further cement any argument.

So what’s in the water?

There could be several factors as to why the girls have gotten mighty good over the last several years. 1) Better coaching of girls- coaches are using the latest coaching techniques as well as modern technology in dealing with girls. Some examples include nutrition, training, and female health concerns; 2) media- there is no longer a “Berlin Wall” up. Today’s athletes can hop on Dyestat/ESPN HS or some other medium to find out what their counterparts are doing. It’s that easy and instant inspiration is born.

There is no doubt that Illinois sprinters, field event, and distance athletes are at the top of the national food chain. Of course, talent rich states California, Pennsylvania, and New York have yet to have their state championships meets. Regardless, the land of Lincoln should be looking pretty when it’s all said and done.

Lots of all-time bests/hits to the national elite list-
The Wheaton-Warrenville South Class 3A 4x800 meter relay became the first Illinois team to break 9:00 with their sick 8:59.04 clocking. Aside from it being the freshly crowned US#1 mark in the country, the top three finishers put a serious hurting on the all-time state leaderboard. Second place Glenbard Ellyn (Glenbard West) 9:00.72 and third place finisher Mt. Prospect (Prospect) 9:06.18 move up to IL#2 and IL#5.

Evanston super senior hurdler Margaret Bamgbose showed that she was a true team player maxing out in four events that enabled her mates to earn a third place trophy. However, she dazzled the crowd in the Class 3A 300H with a US#1 41.11. Bamgbose made up for not finishing last year’s final when she tripped over the first hurdle. It’s also quite interesting that no-one outside of Shalina Clarke has ever run faster. The legendary Evanston great Clarke holds the top five times (40.24+, 40.40, 40.53, 40.61, 40.68).

Morolake Akinosun (Sr., Aurora Waubonsie Valley) finally got what she wanted, a state championship medal. She also got a bonus in the name of an all-time record. Akinosun tied the immortal Alexandria Anderson’s (Chicago Morgan Park) sizzling 100 mark at 11.41. It was just two weeks prior that doubts were setting in from the Akinosun camp because of a sore hamstring. But divine faith and great trainers lent a hand and the rest is history. Oh, by the way, the mark is US#2.

Kandie Bloch (Jr., Areana-Orgenta) kind of crept up on her competition if one considers that she placed second in the Class A high jump two years ago before slipping to fourth last year. Bloch rebounded during this past indoor season by winning the IPTT title and copping the US#8 mark of 5-8. But she peaked at the right time in the state championship. After winning the title at 5-8, Bloch cleared 5-10 on her second attempt. She asked for the bar to be moved to 6-0 instead of the IHSA all-time record of 5-11. She missed heartily on her three attempts and settled for the consolation prize: US#2.

Newcomer Brittny Ellis (Fr., Gurnee Warren) quietly introduced herself to the Illinois high school fans. Sort of. She kindly kicked the door in with several good performances and especially in the 3A 400 with a US#14 time blistering the track and shutting down Cameron Pettigrew (Jr., Chicago Payton) 54.08- 54.41. Ellis produced the fastest time of all the three classes. She will be the next Illini superstar if she can stay focused, hungry, and injury-free.

There have been several great 3A 800 battles in recent years but none as great as the Courtney Clayton (Jr., Rockton Hononegah) and Lindsey Rakosnik (Sr., Lombard Glenbard East) showdown. These two young ladies may have produced the prototype of what an elite half-miler in this state need to be. It is going to take someone with great speed, endurance, and strength to get into 2:08-2:09 range on the regular. On this occasion, Rakosnik and Clayton set a blazing opening pace that left the field off guard. After hitting the 400 in 62.3, they closed out a hard fought battle lifting both runners under 2:10. Clayton 2:08.48 and Rakosnik 2:09.23- IL#4 and IL#7 marks all-time respectively. It was only the second time in state history that two girls have gone under 2:10 in the state championship. Also, consider the fact that 12th place (last) was 2:18.21. How about Jahnell Horton (Sr., Evanston) running 2:14.86 and only getting 10th? It’s not hard to say that this was the deepest race in state history.

If there was any race that was scary to qualify in, it was the 3A 1600 preliminaries. Of the 12 finalists, seven of them broke 5:00. Haley Goers (Sr., Hoffman Estates) was the final qualifier at 5:00.97! She would go on to finish seventh in the final at 4:58.68. It is easy to say that the “mile” is no longer the IHSA doormat event.
It is very fitting that the Illinois High School Association has dubbed the three-day track weekend as "The Spring Spectacular."

The 40th edition of the IHSA Girls State Championships were filled with awesome performances throughout all three classes, but as is customary, Class 3A would cap off things off in style with unpredictable team scores as well as most of the weekend's best marks.

Edwardsville won their first state championship, scoring 51 points. The Tigers had to sweat things out after the 4x400 because they didn't have a team entered. However, the high jump results weren't final and they had a scoring performance not yet tallied. Sophomore Deborrah Blackburn would finish fourth in the event and the seven points were enough to topple rival Belleville West (48.5) and Evanston (47) for the victory.

Junior Emmonnie Henderson provided the foundation for Edwardsville's victory, sweeping the throwing events, as anticipated. She is now three-for-three in the shot put after a second-day performance in which she improved to US#14 with a monster 48-2.5. She smiled for the interviews afterwards and uttered a few choice words: "I wanted to come out here and help my team win first... but next year I plan on hitting [the 50-foot mark]."

Henderson would later claim the discus title. She actually sewed up the 157-11 winning performance in Friday's prelim.

4x800 was epic

Sometimes the best races turn out to be those with little advance hype. Earlier in the season, one might not necessarily have picked an event like the 4x800 to make history at state or produce a nation-leading mark, but maybe coaches Paul Haas of Glen Ellyn Glenbard West and Rob Harvey of Wheaton Warrenville-South knew something others didn't. But certainly when Glenbard West produced an eye-popping 9:06.69 in their conference meet, and Wheaton South did one slightly better at the Lake Park Sectional with a sensational 9:06.25, the stage was set for greatness. There have never been two teams with season bests under 9:10 before the state preliminaries.

The two powerhouses advanced to Saturday’s final with ease. In fact, Wheaton South’s anchor McKenna Kiple jogged home with a 2:23 split to win the heat for the Tigers in 9:13.56. Glenbard West and Elmhurst York also did the same with their heat winners.

The final started out fast as Mt. Prospect (Prospect) decided to take matters in their own hand. Lead leg Christina Santiago paced the field through a solid 65.6 first 400 split and came around first in 2:14.7. Glenbard West rolled the dice with Maddie Nagle and she did well, but came home to a cluttered transition zone.

Palatine used their best runner, Tess Wasowicz, on the second leg and she opened up a sizable lead on the field. Palatine had a four-second lead going into the third leg. The Lady Pirates know a little bit about competing in the 4x8, having won state five titles in their glorious history. But things would soon change.

Glenbard West and Wheaton South came to life on the third leg. The Hilltoppers had their diminutive, but super aggressive Madeline Perez to get things going. The Tigers deployed Hope Schmelzle.

It would be all Hilltoppers and Tigers from this point on. Schmelzle ran her best ever race in a Wheaton South uniform, producing a scorching 2:11.2 split and putting her team in the lead for the final exchange.

It was dually noted the time just after the two anchors got the sticks: 6:50. This meant something around 2:10 would break the mythical 9:00 barrier.

Wheaton South’s Kiple pushed hard on her first lap, but could not shake the Hilltoppers' Emma Reifel. They both worked hard in tandem through the first 500, and then 600. The trailing pack, aside from Prospect, was running well but completely in the rearview mirror.

Finally, Kiple got a little a bit of separation from Reifel as they entered the homestretch, with the entire stadium abuzz and on its feet.

The announcer, Billy Poole-Harris, shouted, “8:56, 8:57, 8:58, 8:59” as Kiple desperately sprinted home with her teeth clinched. Reifel followed just a few strides back and obviously also under the former meet record of 9:04.14. The official time on the scoreboard displayed 8:59.03, a new all-time state best mark, IHSA meet record, and made WWS the first under 9:00 in Illinois history -- as well as a national leader.

Glenbard West, which really got the sub-9:00 talk started, ran an amazing 9:00.72 -- good for the second-fastest in state history and the fourth-best time in the country.

Wheaton South splits: 2:16.3, 2:19.7, 2:11.2, 2:10.5
Glenbard West splits: 2:15.8, 2:17.4, 2:15.0, 2:12.7

Prospect set a school record as well as a Mid-Suburban League mark, placing third in 9:06.18 -- also good for US#8. Anchor Lauren Poplawski left her best effort the track with a solid 2:15 leg.

It was also the deepest 4x8 in state history -- all twelve finalists were among the 75 squads in the country. Lagrange Lyons Township had the distinction of taking the caboose spot in 9:22.95, but their time would have finished first in Class A and second in 2A.

“We wanted to just come here and run our best… run our best for each other,” said the second leg Erin Herrmann after the awards.

“We didn’t have a goal to break 9:00… it just happened,” added lead off runner Amy Yong.

Akinosun vs. Brown: Split decision

There was some concern that the Aaliyah Brown (Jr., Frankfort Lincoln-Way East) vs. Morolake Akinosun (Sr., Aurora Waubonsie Valley) 100 dash duel would be a dud.

Well, not exactly.

Both superstar sprinters won their respective prelim heats easily. The stage was now set for a showdown that featured a true all-star cast with the likes of Cessily Jones (Sr., Plainfield North), Kim Azie (Sr., Bolingbrook), Savannah Carson (Jr., Naperville Neuqua Valley), and Cherise Porter (Sr., Villa Park Willowbrook). Seven of the nine finalists ran sub-12.00 to make it to the big stage. By all accounts, it was the best girls 100 field ever assembled in Illinois.

The meet officials decided it was best turn the races around to avoid a headwind. They would also be taking a chance that the wind would pick up and go over the allowable 2.0. The 2A race had been 3.8.

Akinosun tweeted that all she wanted for her birthday was an Illinois state title. “I’m not leaving here without one,” she would add.

The race was a blur as Akinosun got out of the blocks fast. She already had a few meters on Brown and the field before the halfway mark. It became a complete blowout for Akinosun as she displayed the dominance she put on her foes during the indoor season.

Akinosun tied the all-time state best of 11.41 with the immortal Alexandria Anderson (Chicago Morgan Park) set in 2005. The wind reading was +1.7. She could now rejoice in the one record that she wanted.

Brown finished well back in second with a 11.67 clocking. In fairness to her, she had to wait in the infield for the 4x100 medal ceremonies. The wait was a ridiculously long 40 minutes. This is something that meet officials should consider altering - having finalists in subsequent races not wait and sit for mandatory medal sessions.

Six of the nine finalists broke 12.00; another record for the books.

Brown came back in the 200 trying even the score. The race was contested into a slight head wind (-0.9), but no match for the “Brown Franchise.” She won easily in 24.18.

Redemption time for Bamgbose

In last year’s 300H, she tried to carry the weight of the team’s trophy chances on her back. The result was Margaret Bamgbose (Sr., Evanston) never finishing the race. This year she has simply gone out and done whatever the coaching staff has asked of her. She earned medals in the 100H, 200 and 4x100. But the 300H is the race that she most adores.

There would be no doubt this year, despite the defending champion Markita Rush (Jr., East St. Louis Sr.) in the field. Bamgbose got a safe and conservative start over the first few hurdles before turning it on late in the contest. She hit the tape in 41.11, the fourth fastest time in state history and only the third fastest in her team annals. The legendary Shalina Clarke has the other three previous bests. Bamgbose will now take her talents to the University of Notre Dame.

Tomorrow’s stars get their start today

Brittny Ellis (Fr., Gurnee Warren) is no stranger to big time track. She was a celebrated athlete in the youth ranks for several years. In her first state final, she was one of the favorites in the 400. Ellis took the challenge from Cameron Pettigrew (Jr., Chicago Peyton) and matched her stride for stride before pulling away late to win in 54.08. The IHSA doesn’t keep class records, but if it did, Ellis would hold it. She would later return to the 200 and place sixth in 24.88 despite a painful blister on her foot.

Maya Neal is also a talented freshman who hails from Naperville Neuqua Valley. It has been said that she fits the mold of former Waubonsie Valley legend Shakeia Pinnick in her multi-event talents. Neal placed third in the long jump with a great jump of 19-1. She also placed eighth in the 300H and 4x100 relay. The future is definitely bright for Neal.

Distance races were as hot as the track

Kaylee Flanagan (Jr., Roselle Lake Park) has admitted on numerous occasions that she likes to run fast (sometimes too fast) from the beginning of the races. She has often times crossed the first mile of a deuce in a blazing 5:05. Her coach, on the other hand, prefers that she sits back and run more of a controlled and even race.

Flanagan showed Saturday she's coming around a little to the idea: She started the race under relative control, leading the first four laps with splits of 73.9, 2:30.0, 3:50.1, 5:12.4. Ariel Michalek (Sr., Oswego East) and Amanda Fox (Sr.,Naperville Central) were right on her hip.

Flanagan entered the fifth lap running her style. She picked up the cadence and that seemed to drop Fox back a few meters. It appeared to be over for Michalek, too, when the bell lap rung. Flanagan would hit the finish line in 10:30.47, while Michalek raced hard to the very end and held off Fox 10:33.53-10:35.17. The top 12 finishers would go on to break 11:00.

Courtney Clayton (Jr.,Rockton Hononegah) and Lindsey Rakosnik (Sr., Lombard Glenbard East) decided the best way to running fast in the 800 is to get out and do it. Rakosnik took advantage of her speed, strength, and endurance to lead the first 400 in 62.3. Clayton, who is also blessed with tremendous leg speed, remained patient until just after the 600 mark. She began to move on Rakosnik and actually passed her with ease. The end result was Clayton winning in a personal best of 2:08.48. As a consolation prize, Rakosnik also recorded a PB 2:09.23.

All 12 finishers broke 2:19 - a first in Illinois meet history.

Michalek returned several hours later to contest the 1600. Although she won in 4:53.37, it would not be an easy affair. The victory was set up by a tactical pace for the first three laps with as many as a half-dozen runners battling for the win. It was only 3:44.1 at the bell when Michalek asserted herself. She pulled away from a tiring Rakosnik to win her first title.
Believe it or not, it’s been four years since the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) implemented the three-class system for track and field. The system was supposed to balance equality throughout the class structure. Although it is too early to determine if having a third class was the right call, it’s not too soon to gauge the benefit of additional opportunities for quality athletes to compete in a state championship. Many of the supporters of the expansion are pleased with the outcomes.

Class 2A, formerly the biggest class and now the "middle" class, seems to be at full strength after four years. Sprint-rich schools Peoria Richwoods, Rock Island, and Springfield have added depth and talent. The distance powers had movement as well with Yorkville and Crystal Lake Central shoring up the division.

Springfield Southeast aims for another title through tragedy and triumph

The Spartans are in the midst of building a dynasty with two championships and a runner-up trophy in three attempts. This weekend at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium, it could be three plaques in a row.

Head coach Tom McBride is the patriarch of the program who will be retiring at the end of the season after a 31-year ride. He has seen some good and bad times in his program, but nothing could be worse than losing his assistant coach and long-time friend Dana Rountree, who passed away in February. “It was tough… I mean real rough not [having coach Rountree] around,” said a somber McBride during a meet in March.

Rountree was a revered coach among his peers and his athletes. He was a “lifer” in the sport. Rountree spent his entire teaching and coaching career in Springfield. Among the pupils he was most proud of was Alexandria Harden. She won four straight long jump and three triple jump titles under Rountree’s tutelage. She has earned a basketball scholarship to Wichita State University.

The Lady Spartans have taken no prisoners this season, despite the emotional downfall that engulfed the team. The team has won the city, conference, and sectional in dominating fashion. The final frontier would be the state championship.

The title chase will begin and end with emerging star junior Charday Crawford. Crawford, who cut her teeth under the guidance of Harden, now is the team leader. She also leads all sectional entrants in the 100 (12.03) and 200 (24.53).

The Spartans will also look to deploy their speed relays in which they posted the sectional best in the 4x200 (1:42.69). The 4x100 also qualified and produced a blistering 48.43 earlier in the season. The 4x400 will be a wildcard event should the Spartans need it at the end. The quartet has run 4:02 on several occasions.

In order to complete their task, the Spartans will need assistance from a strong supporting cast. Junior Brion Portis and senior Shawnise Stelivan will command the long jump. They both have competed well throughout the season and should make the final to score vital points. Portis will double back in the triple jump as one of the state’s top jumpers.

Senior K’Leesa Gilliam will look to duplicate her all-state performance from a year ago in the shot put. She has the third-best performance during the season. Gilliam doesn’t have to beat the favored Lena Giger (So., Highland); she just needs to score points. Her teammate Shauniera Wilson is a strong candidate to advance to the discus final in an evenly shaped field. The top 12 hurlers will advance to Saturday’s final.

The Shamier Little saga set for the weekend

Let the chase begin. It actually began at the beginning of the outdoor season when there was talk of junior superstar Shamier Little (Lindblom, Chicago) entering in four individual events for the state championship series. This is nothing innovative for top level track and field athletes. However, what is different is attempting four events featuring both hurdle races and with one of them back-to-back with a long sprint.

Little flew out to the prestigious Arcadia Invitational in California to test this theory. She competed in the 100H, 400, and 300H. The 400 and 300H were conducted within a 25-minute span that saw Little blaze 53.79 and 42.95 - both top ten marks in the country at the time. Those results proved to Little and her coaches that she had what it took.

Now, after easily qualifying for state in the four events, including the addition of the 200, Little has an opportunity to compete for a state title all by herself. It will be a very tall order but if anyone can garner 40 points solo, it is Little. The faithful of Charleston will have to wait until Saturday afternoon to see if history is made.

Paul focused on individual events

For the first time in her high school running career, University of Arkansas-bound senior Megan Paul of Mundelein Carmel Catholic will be entered only as an individual and free of relay duties. Paul now has the opportunity to settle matters in the 100, 200, and 400. The showdowns with Little and Crawford will be perhaps it will be the most intriguing part of the weekend on the track.

Distance running will have a new look

Last year, Kayla Beattie of Woodstock performed as Wonder Woman in the state tournament. It would be an understatement to say that she had the best performance of any athlete in the entire state meet, setting all-time records in the 3200 (9:56.96) and 1600 (4:43.65).

Junior Katie Adams of Marengo will be strangely chasing a title in the 3200 amongst strangers. None of the six girls who finished ahead of her in last fall’s cross country state championship will be competing either from moving up in class or running in other events. Even the Illinois Prep Top Times indoor champion Kristen Busch (Sr., Freeburg) has opted to run elsewhere in the meet program. Still, look for Stephanie Saey (Jr., Galesburg) to provide good company. Saey was the top sectional mark of 11:07.16 to Adam’s 11:10.20.
The 1600 will feature Adams, Sydney Billingsley (So., Normal University), Emma Preston (Sr., East Peoria), and Olivia Ryan (Fr., Oak Park Fenwick) as the prime targets- all five runners have run under 5:10. The state champion will more than likely run under 5:00.

Watch out for Sarah Bell
Sarah Bell (Jr., Bloomington Central Catholic) has quickly become of the best if not the best pole vaulter in the country. She concluded the indoor season as co- US#1 (13-0.25) with good friend Brittany Hull (Jr., Normal Community). That confidence has continued to produce great results as Bell is a big favorite win a title in a new classification. Last year her school competed in Class A.

The US#4 ranked Bell will take on all challengers and certainly the ones that Chelsea Bingham (Sr., Effingham) and from newcomer Hannah Swift (Fr., Canton) will provide. Both young ladies have vaulted 12-0 during the season.

Don’t sleep on the relays
The 4x100 will be an event to watch because of the thrill of speed as the well as the uncertainty of the unknown. If there are no mishaps in the prelims the battle between Melrose Park Walther Lutheran should duel for supremacy. Walther Lutheran has the top sectional and seasonal best of 48.37 compared to the Spartan’s 48.43 effort.

The 4x200 should be all Springfield Southeast. The Spartans are more than a second better than the nearest competitor.

Richton Park (Rich South) are the defending state champion; they also have the top mark of 4:00.74 heading into the 4x400 prelims.

Lake Villa (Lakes), Effingham, and Petersburg-Porta will challenge for the top spot in the 4x800 arena.
Many have tabulated the two-time defending state team champion Byron as the favorite to win their third in a row. But one well known coach (who wishes to remain anonymous) has said there are as many as four teams capable of knocking off Byron and supplanting themselves among the top three trophy chasers. Eureka, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, Moweaqua (Central A & M), and South Holland Seton Academy are the premier names being touted. But as the coach has said: “these teams still have to compete [for their trophies]… nothing is guaranteed.” Well said.

Here is a quick look at the key team’s chances:

Head Coach: Scott McMullen
2011 State Final Finish: State Champion, 54 points
Key qualifying events: HJ, 4x1, 4x2, 4x4, 4x8, 100, 200, 100H
Key individuals: Brooke Holloway (Jr.), Jael Christensen (Jr.), Cara Cortese (Sr.), Elyse Adkins (Jr.),
Team outlook: not as deep as the previous two state championship outfits, but the Tigers will pack a strong punch using a diversely talented team from the field to the track. Christensen, Cortese, and Adkins will carry a bulk of the load now that former star Paige Knodle has taken her talents to Northern Iowa University. For Cortese, she will be focused with redemption flowing through her veins after false-starting in last year’s 100 final. If she can get through Thursday’s prelim as well as the other events on the docket, then it should be a sweet ride for the Tigers.

Head Coach: Don Samford
2011 State Final Finish: Third, 44 pts.
Key qualifying events: TJ, 4x1, 4x4, 4x8, 100, 400,
Key individuals: Kalla Gold (Sr.), Shelby Kupferschmid (Sr.), Taylor Krile.
Team outlook: there are some minuses from the Tremont Sectional for the Hornets like a dropped baton in the 4x200 relay that led to the top seeded quartet not qualifying. How about several key members not running up their usual standards due to the flu. No matter because Gold is the main element the team will depend on for the open and relay events; she is a two-time defending champion in the 400 and favored to nab her third title. If winning the state crown comes down to the show-stopping 4x400 relay, it would most certainly be in Gold’s hands to bring home a championship.

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley-
Head Coach: Erica Kostoff
2011 State Final Finish: Tenth, 28 pts.
Key qualifying events: TJ, 4x1, 4x4, 800, 1600, 300H
Key individuals: Sydni Meunier (Sr.), Angel Gaesser (Sr.), Jordyn Nettleton (Sr.), LaToya Baillie (Jr.)
Team outlook: in order for the Falcons to excel and have a chance to hoist a trophy, the small but talented contingent must hit hard on all cylinders. Gaesser is a strong candidate to make the finals in the triple jump and it would be a bonus if she could score in the middle of the pack. But her bread and butter will be the 800 where she is ranked second in the state to her teammate Meunier. Meunier could be a triple winner if she can capitalize in her favorite event the 1600, and assist along with Gaesser in the 4x400 relay.

Moweaqua (Central A&M)-
Head Coach: Todd Rork
2011 State Final Finish: Eighth, 29 pts.
Key qualifying events: DT, SP, 4x1, 4x4, 4x8, 100, 100H, 300H
Key individuals: Janie Howse (Sr.), Genny Rose Stringer (So.), Madison Renfro (Sr.), Taylor Adcock (Jr.), Kaitlyn Corzine (Jr.)
Team outlook: the Raiders will start the assault with Howse and Stringer. They return as the state’s most dangerous throwing duo with Howse earning runner-up honors in the discus and Stringer placing fourth. However, this squad is much deeper than in recent years as depth on the track should aid the team’s surge toward a team trophy. Renfro is the returning runner-up in the short hurdles and the current state leader. Add in Adcock and Corzine on relay duty and it could be a great weekend for the Raiders.

South Holland (Seton Academy)-
Head Coach: Damani Shakoor
2011 State Final Finish: Eleventh, 21 pts.
Key qualifying events: 4x1, 4x2, 4x4, 100, 200,400
Key individuals: DeJanae Terry (Sr.), Mykel Adams (Jr.), Jasmine Gardner (Sr.), Hunter Guy (Sr.)
Team outlook: this is a team with an opportunity to do some damage with Grade A sprints and relays. It is also a team that cannot slip up in a sport where sprints are the name of the game. Terry returns as one of the best sprinters in the field and will perform solidly in four events. Look for her to move up one spot on the podium and take the Century. She will anchor the 4x1 and 4x2 relays along with unfinished matters in the 400 in which she took second last May. But as with all teams chasing a team title, the supporting cast must do their job. Adams, Gardner, and Guy will have a long and busy week getting their tasks accomplished.

Distance running preview:

University of Notre Dame bound Sydni Meunier will be looking to cement her legacy on the EIU blue track this weekend in the 1600, 800 and 4x400 in which it is quite conceivable that she could trot home with three gold medals. Meunier is among the state leaders in all of Illinois with smoking 4:55.19 (IL#1) and 2:15.40 (IL#9) marks.

Chelsea Blaase (Sr., St. Joe-Ogden) will be seeking her first distance triple crown. She won the cross country title last fall followed by the Illinois Prep Top Times indoor 3200 title. The final item would be the outdoor 3200 where she is entered as the top seed. Blaase, who has signed with the University of Tennessee, hasn’t touched her indoor marks of 11:01.81 and 5:05.07. Somehow the weather statewide, which hasn’t been that great during the spring thus leading to slower than expected times from many, is expected to be in the low to mid-eighties for state. That could either mean the age of fast times or slow and tactical paces leading to a fast lap finish.

Meunier’s teammate Angel Gaesser could be ready to strike first in the 800 after winning the indoor crown and finishing second in the main forum last spring. Gaesser has a life time best of 2:15.53 from last year. She has come within a second of that this season, and it will be prudent for her to be at least in the ball park of her career bests to challenge Meunier and Ellen Toennies (Sr., Breese Mater Dei). Toennies has busted out with a sensational spring and enters the state championship as a threat to the Muenier/Gasser balance; she has the second best sectional seeds in the 800 and 1600.

Sprints/hurdles outlook:

There are several different names listed on top of the sprint charts. The key athletes to watch for are Amelia Glueck (So., Tremont), DeJanae Terry, Cara Cortese, Kalla Gold, Molly Smith (Jr., Cambridge), and Madison Renfro.

Field events overview:

Alyssa Applebee (Sr., Seneca) is entered in several events going into the prelims, but most notably is the pole vault where she is the defending state champion. Applebee should be able to leap past any resistance once Saturday’s final begins. The only thing standing in her way may only be the meet record of 12-9 she set a year ago.

Kelsey Card- the greatest thrower in IHSA history- has finally graduated and moved on to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her exodus will obviously produce a huge void in terms of extreme excitement and performances, but a solid shot putter in Whitney Walker (Sr., Glasford Illini Bluffs) has seized the most of her opportunity. First, she captured the IPTT title ahead of the state’s top returner Olivia Herzog (Sr., Sullivan-Okaw Valley Coop). Second is obtaining the top state meet seed alongside the IL#2 mark. Walker will be tough to beat.

Janie Howse is entered in the shot put field but her bread and better will be the discus throw favorite in a deep field featuring teammate Genny Rose Stringer, Herzog, and Walker. Ms. Howse is the state’s top returner with the season’s best mark but she can be beaten if an off day occurs. The aforementioned young ladies will be there ready to pounce should the unexpected occur.

Sue Pariseau Invite Escapes Poor Weather

April, 21, 2012
Jill HardesBob Geiger/ESPNHSHinsdale Central's Jill Hardes kicks away from Maddie Perez of Glenbard West, to win the 1600 at the Sue Pariseau Invitational.

Saturday's meets found a break from the cold weather of the past week that had hampered Chicagoland. By mid-afternoon it was a spring-like lower 50s and light wind in Glen Ellyn- the site for the Sue Pariseau Glenbard West Invitational. A change from the cold weather and rain that had cursed the past years at Glenbard West. Not surprisingly, the performances were very good, included were several long held meet records broken.

Glenbard West Remix

Once again the Glenbard West 4x8 quartet was set to open the finals in a big way. The question would be which group would Coach Paul Hass deploy? Last Friday at the Downers Grove North Invitational he rolled out Maddie Nagle, Julie Sakach, Katie Born, and Emma Reifel to get the job done. It seems like every week the Hilltoppers are running their “A” team. But tremendous depth has afforded them the opportunity to do so. On this occasion, Born and Lisa Luczak would sit out and run different events.

For the second invite in a row Nagle was summoned to lead off and provide the hard hitting spark the team has grown accustomed to; she got out well over the first 400 ahead of Barrington and York as the three runners separated from the rest of the field. Nagle was first to transition in 2:18.4 followed by York and Barrington.

Maddie Perez ran the 3200 at Downers North last weekend but this time she would be the second leg. She did not disappoint the faithful in attendance. Perez ran well despite losing the lead momentarily to York; she concluded her run in 2:18.6- a sizable lead of twelve seconds. York and Barrington were now left to fend for themselves.

Meanwhile, eccentric meet announcer Bill Treece did his very best to encourage the hearty crowd to cheer on the home team. Sakach seemed to embrace the love and extended the lead over her pursuers to almost half a football length with a 2:19.8 split.

The final duty would be bestowed upon Reifel who brought home the previous record winner. Reifel opened up well despite running what seemed like a solo time trial. The only thing standing in her way was the team school record, stadium record, and the finish line. Reifel continued to surge hard down the backstretch and around the final turn to record a 2:16.3 carry. As well, the Hilltoppers smashed the meet record previously held by Hinsdale Central (9:19.68- 2008) with a sensational 9:13.01- good for US#5. Coach Hass has been trying to keep the 9:00 talk hush but slowly his Lady Hilltoppers are creeping toward that magical mark.

Speedsters Porter and Kieger put on a show

Willowbrook sprint queen Cherise Porter of Willowbrook has slowly been showing her trump card. She is one of the state’s top 100 and 200 sprinters, but for some reason she hasn’t gotten much acclaim. It didn’t seem to bother her after she completed the 100/200 sweep, the latter in 24.65. “I’m happy with my times… this meet is pushing me toward state,” she concluded. That push could include a date with Aaliyah Brown (Lincoln-Way East) and Morolake Akinosun (Waubonsie Valley) next month.

Porter wasn’t the only speedster who put on a show. Whitney Young emerging star Claire Kieger did her very best to upstage Porter. In Kieger’s first event of the day, she won a close battle in the 100H with a 16.21. In less than an hour after the hurdle prelims, she would lead her team in the 4x1 relay. The result was a winner in 50.25. Kieger went three for three when she took the stick as the anchor in the 4x2 with a deficit and made up ground and led her mates to victory in 1:46.90- a full second ahead of Willowbrook. Finally, Kieger was slowed by Porter in the 200, when she placed third in 25.47. But all in all it was a performance worthy of MVP honors if such an award was given out.

Best of the rest

Dhiaa Dean of Kenwood (Chicago) made the most of a last second add to the Pariseau Invite by winning the 800 in 2:15.45. Dean was hoping that the pace was a little faster than the 65.8 that Willowbrook’s Molly Krawczykowski set in the first 400. However, she remained poised before bursting away with less than 200 to go for the win.

Junior Jill Hardies of Hinsdale Central had been out of action for five weeks due to an injured tendon in her foot, but she showed very little rust in winning the 1600 in 5:01.69. Glenbard West’s Maddie Perez led going into the first lap with a 71, and followed with a 2:30, and 3:48. Perez opened up a sizable lead over Hardies and Naperville North's Rachel Weathered. With 300 to go, Hardies moved up on Perez before strongly surging past her over the last 200 of the race. Hardies’ finishing kick looked as though she was in peak form.

Lake Zurich triple jumper Kaeley Ferguson battled Hannah Davidson of Geneva jump for jump before holding on with her final effort of 35-9.75.

McKenzee Kroeschell of Oak Park-River Forest tied a meet record in the pole vault with 11-6 effort.

Host Glenbard West came away with the team title by five points over Barrington. York and Hinsdale Central finished third and fourth respectively, both within 10 points of Glenbard West.
Women - Varsity - Team Rankings - 18 Events Scored
1) Glenbard West 80 2) Barrington 75
3) York 71 4) Hinsdale Central 70
5) Naperville North HS 61 6) Willowbrook 57
7) Whitney Young 54 7) Lake Zurich 54
9) Geneva HS 40 10) Oak Park River Forest Gir 39
11) Kenwood Academy 27 12) Hersey 25
13) Wheeling 24 14) Carl Sandburg HS 20
15) Proviso East 4 16) Thornridge HS 1

Watch the Girls 1600
Kreikemeier, DGNTony Jones/ESPNHSSarah Kreikemeier anchored the Lyons 4 x 400 Relay to victory at the Bruce Ritter Invitational

Overcast skies, cool climes, and a hint of wind usually canvasses Midwest high school track and field venues during the early outdoor season. This of course is the expected mid-April track weather menu.

What usually isn’t expected is the cancellation of a major invitational. But that is what Midwest Prep Invitational (Lawrence Central HS; Indianapolis) meet manager Alfie Hernandez did less than an hour before the field events were to begin. He issued a distressing statement via email to all coaches and participants: “due to the inclement weather, we are canceling the 2012 Midwest Prep Track & Field Invitational. Sorry for the inconvenience that this may cause. We felt for the good of the athlete (especially the caliber of athletes entered) it was the best decision.”

Over the past six years, the Midwest Prep Invitational has been cancelled three times: snow and severe cold were the other two.

The weekend was not all lost though. The 25th Annual Downers Grove North Girls Invitational (12th year as the Bruce Ritter Invite) was held Friday evening. The non-stop action did not disappoint.

Glenbard West distance crew opens meet with record run

The festive evening started with Glenbard West and the 4x800 relay… and it did not disappoint.

The Hilltoppers got out of the gate on the strength of lead runner Maddie Nagle controlling the field of 15 runners through the first 400 in 69.7. Nagle pushed aside resistance from the host Downers North, Naperville Central, and a few more on the backstretch; she steamed home in 2:18.5.

Freshman Julia Sakach was up next for the Hilltoppers and continued to lead comfortably through the first part of the backstretch. The chase pack that included Naperville Central, Prospect, Downers North, and York closed the gap well. It actually appeared as though Downers North transitioned first with a sub-2:20 carry. Sakach ran well in 2:20.4.

Next up was Katie Born to get her Glenbard West squad rolling again. It was a little surprising to see Born in such a high powered situation; she has been known for her longer distance prowess in years past. However, it was distance coach Paul Hass who said his unit is so deep that he is still “experimenting… working on things.” Well, Born was able to retain the lead at the end of her leg despite Downers North and a hard charging Tess Wasowicz of Palatine making things interesting.

The anchor chores were rested assuredly on junior Emma Reifel’s shoulders. The drama and thrill of a tight anchor scenario would not happen. Reifel, who is quickly becoming one of the state’s best middle-distance runners, bolted away fast over her first 400 and it was over. The only thing left in her wake was the track and meet records. Reifel sprinted hard home with a cheering crowd on its feet. The final verdict was indeed the meet/track record in 9:16.0 (2:16.1 tote for Reifel). The effort moved the Hilltoppers into the US#6 spot and a real possibility to threaten the immortal 9:00 mark at the end of the season. Downers Grove North, who will be stronger when mainstay Jillian Kothanek returns, passes Palatine a few meters from the finish line take second 9:31.2-9:31.6.

Fox leads fast 3200

Naperville Central distance ace Amanda Fox has enjoyed a great senior year of running to date. First, she won the 3A cross country title in record time and then went on to become a Nike Cross Nationals All-American. She followed up matters with a solid indoor campaign that produced the 20th fastest 3200 in the country (10:46.28). But for some reason she wasn’t heard from… until now.

The deep field opened well with the front running Madeline Perez of Glenbard West leading in 2:34.5 through 800. Seven runners including Fox, Lisa Luczak (Glenbard West), Lisa Gordon (Lyons Twp.), Brooke Wolfe (Prospect), York’s Kayla Spencer and Shari Lund were in tow.

Perez continued to lead at the 1600 in 5:17.2 but Fox, Gordon, and Luczak was still there. Wolfe drifted a short distance back from the four-pack.

With less than a half-mile to go, Fox asserted herself in full control of the race and opened up a gap on Perez. Fox continued to run surge hard and finally come home with a 10.40.7 personal best win. Perez, who did the majority of the yeoman’s work, also set a lifetime best in 10.46.3. She was followed by Gordon’s 10:46.9 effort. Luczak and Wolfe also broke 11:00 with 10:48.4 and 10:58.5 marks respectively.

Afterwards, Fox calmly obliged media requests regarding her race. “Yeah, I missed out on the [Illinois Prep] Top Times because I was out of town”, she said in reference to her late indoor season AWOL status. “But I was never hurt or anything like that- my training has been going well.” It was pretty obvious that Fox is fit. The bigger question is can she complete the double and win the 3200 crown in May’s state championship. “My goal right now is to make state in the 1600 and 3200… we will see how things go from there.”

The best of the rest

Crete-Monee speedster Tayler Whittler gave the faithful what was to come with two eye opening prelim runs: 100 (11.8) and 200 (25.3). Both marks gave her the top seeds for the finals. Whittler did not disappoint as she finished what she started- narrowly holding off Anita Saffa of West Aurora in the Century 12.4-12.5. Whittler finished off her evening with little resistance in taking the 200 easily in 25.6. Again it was Saffa in the runner-up spot in 26.2.

LaDonna Caston of Harvey Thorton surprisingly wasn’t in the championship heat of the 300H. But it didn’t matter for the 100H all-state ace as she crushed the field in the penultimate heat with a solid time of 45.8. It appeared as though her time might hold up. But it didn’t. Champaign Central senior Samone Thompson is no stranger to the long hurdles. She placed fourth in last year’s state championship. So, it wasn’t a surprise to see her whip over the hurdles and clear of another solid athlete like West Aurora’s Emma Spagnola. Thompson cleared the final three hurdles against a stiff breeze to take the title in 44.9.

The 1600 wasn’t as nearly as thrilling as the 3200 but nonetheless it was a good race. Wasowicz opted out of her mainstay event the 800 to test herself against a solid field. Early on it appeared as if she was a little gassed from running a great leg in the 4x8. Wasowicz and Wolfe stalked through two laps in 74.4 and 2:35.0 before Downers Grove North’s Gabbie Hesslau moved ahead on the bell lap. Hesslau hit the gas hard on the backstretch with a sizable gap of several seconds. However, Wasowicz didn’t panic; she made her move with about 150 to go and blazed the home straight uncontested to win in 5:06.4. Hesslau held for second ahead of Wolfe 5:09.0-5:11.8.

There were several ties up and down the high jump ledger but it didn’t involve freshman Emma Haugen of Lyons Twp. She won the event in a personal best 5-4.

The final event of the day was of course the exciting show stopping 4x400 relay. The leadoff leg was held first by Lane Tech’s Jackie Bynes in 60.6. Several others were closely shadowing as the second leg got underway. Lane Tech got to the pole first but was overtaken by several teams including Lyons Twp. and Palatine. Lane Tech would get the lead back with Carina Coss’ 59.6 tote. But it would be Lyons Twp. and Crete-Monee running 1-2 before the Lions’ anchor Sarah Kreikemeier holding on for the narrow victory in 4:05.1-4:05.5. Lane placed third in 4:06.3, Palatine took fourth in 4:06.5, and Glenbard West rounded out the top five running 4:07.7.

Lyons Twp won the team title with 101.5 points, West Aurora 99, Prospect 75, Palatine 68, Glenbard West 66.
Aaliyah Brown ArcadiaJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSAaliyah Brown of Lincoln Way East repeats as the short sprint champion at Arcadia

It was indeed an evening to remember for the hearty dozen athletes who competed in the prestigious Arcadia Invitational in California. The boys and girls of Illinois proved themselves and the competition that they were worthy of competing on track and field biggest regular season stage.

Brown stakes her name as Illinois sprint queen

Over the past five years no name has been more synonymous in the Illinois girls sprinting world than Aaliyah Brown- that includes the spoils of victory and the agony of defeat.

The goals of California were pretty defined by coach and father Angelo Brown: “win both the 100 and 200.” That’s as about as a direct answer as one can give. But in reality, it’s what the athlete says and feels that’s more important. Aaliyah, according to her father, had been working extremely hard to re-obtain her mettle. “She said she feels ready! We will just have to see… if anything we will see where we are,” offered by Mr. Brown about an hour before the Invitational 100.

As Brown settled into her blocks, she appeared to be poised and relaxed. After the starting gun went off, there was no doubt of the outcome for Brown, but by how much? The margin of victory was incredible over her best friend and competitor Cessily Jones of Plainfield North 11.48-11.71. Brown’s amazing start enabled her pull away from a strong field and repeat as the Arcadia 100 dash queen. Only Shayla Sanders of Boyd Anderson (Lauderdale Lakes, FL) has a faster legal clocking.

Brown’s celebration was short lived because she needed to prep for the Invitational 200 that would be coming up in less than two hours.

The half-lap affair has always been more of a challenge for Brown but she is beginning to handle the longer race better. The question for many pundits: “would she be able to hold her max speed off the curve with a bad leg?” Mr. Brown previously stated that everything is fine in his camp.

Brown got out well but she was in a dog fight from the beginning with several competitors. As the race entered the last 60 meters or so, it appeared as though Arianna Washington of Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.) was going to steal the victory. However, Brown had other plans. The defending champion reached down deep and right before the line, she dipped perfectly- and a few tense moments later the scoreboard read: 23.96 Brown, 23.97 Washington. The sweep was complete as well a feeling of redemption and joy for the ‘Brown Franchise.’

Little successfully completes triple play

Shamier Little (Chicago Lindblom) is as playful and fun to be around as any average teenager is. However, when she laces up her spikes and steps on to the track it is a completely different story. The state of Illinois has witnessed her wrath on numerous occasions over the past several years. Now, it’s the national stage that Little would begin her quest for stardom.

The first event of the evening for Little would be the Invitational 100H. This event has arguably been her best event. It didn’t take long for Little to find out how good the competition would be. She placed a respectable 4th but was a considerable distance from winner Traci Hicks of Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.), won in a US#2 legal 13.63.

Little easily put behind her first 100H loss in over a year to step in the blocks for the 400. Her lifetime best of 53.83 was from last summer’s AAU Nationals. So far this season, she had only produced a 57.10.

That would change in less than a minute.

Little got out well but it was difficult to tell what her in race status was until after the first 200. Ms. Little was in great position entering the homestretch and up on the competition by a considerable distance. It was anticlimactic feeling as she destroyed a solid field by nearly two seconds. A happy but exhausted Little had little time to rejoice. “I gotta go and get ready for the 300H,” she quickly stated.

The final stanza of the day would obviously be the most interesting one because Little has stated on record that she may attempt the 400/300H double at the state championship next month. What better venue to test the mettle than at Arcadia?

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be for Little as she got behind the tremendous field from the start. But she didn’t quit, she didn’t have much gas in the tank after a grueling 400 win just 25 minutes prior. However, she was still able to prove that she is a gamer and finish strong and place 3rd in 42.95. The mark was a big personal best for the event and a nice consolation prize of US#11 to go home to Chicago with. “I was scared to get out too fast [because] I didn't wanna run out of gas, [but] I turned it on at the curve,” she said in reference to finishing strong after the initial sluggish start.

Fast 3200 finishes abound for the boys

Clevenger ArcadiaJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSMike Clevenger lead 3 Illini under 9:00 at Arcadia
The boys meet fortunes were just as fruitful as the ladies on all fronts- albeit from a distance running perspective.

From the onset, the prospects of a fast race that would yield some great marks didn’t look good. The pre-meet favorite Futsum Zeinasellassie decided shortly after the race got underway that he didn’t want to lead or do any of the arduous pace chores after only taking the initial circuit in 64.5.

Cameron Miller of Stockton (CA) took over but the entire field of 28 or so runners were still bunched together through 2:17 and 3:25 laps. Meanwhile, the Illinois contingent of Leland Later (New Trier), Michael Clevenger (Decatur MacArthur), Jack Keelan (Chicago St. Ignatius), and Tyler Yunk (Belvidere North) were content will sitting in the middle of the pack.

Race announcer David Mitchell began to urge the crowd to encourage the field to get moving. After coming through the mile in 4:33, things finally began to pick up. Zeinasellassie and Bernie Montoya of Cibola (AZ) pushed the pace furiously. Montoya bolted on the bell lap and actually surged away from the Indiana legend Zeinasellassie. But it would be for not as Zeinasellassie proved that he had more in the tank and blazed easily past Montoya on the final straight to win in 8:47.75.

The Illinois crew followed suit as good pursuers are supposed to. It was Clevenger that first came home with his teeth tightly clenched in 5th at 8:54.12. Later held off Keelan 8:55.61-8:55.86 to respectively take 11th and 12th- Yunk was the good caboose in 9:03.09.

In using Later as the spokesman, he assessed his feelings on the historical night: “I had no issue staying free from collisions, but the slow pace really surprised me in the first mile. It didn't feel like a 4:35, but everyone knew it was slow. When the pace dropped hard that 5th or 6th lap, I wasn't really expecting it, and maybe let too much room separate me and the pack. But I was totally zoned out for most of the race, and just being a part of that huge mass of talented runners urged me on more than anything.”

The rest of the best

Graylake Central senior Luke Zygmunt opened up the evening session with a solid performance in the seeded Mile by placing second in 4:14.90. It is a new personal best and IL#1 mark for the Butler University bound runner.

Zygmunt’s teammate Will Brewster placed 7th in the Invitational Mile running 4:15.77 and just ahead of Belvidere North’s Garrett Lee (4:17.75). Brewster stayed behind the pace that wasn’t overly fast in the beginning but it got hot once New Balance Indoor national champion Brad Nye of Davis (UT) took over and won in 4:08.80.

Will Crocker of Belvidere North took over the Illinois 800 ranks with a sensational 1:52.66 to place 7th in the Invitational section.

Junior Chad Weaver of Providence Catholic competed in the pole vault and cleared 14-0.75 to take 16th place.

Illinois stars aim to shine bright in Arcadia Invitational

April, 6, 2012
Aaliyah BrownJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSAaliyah Brown (left) captured 100 and 200 titles at Arcadia in 2011.

It could be a weekend to remember for a dozen of Illinois’ top track and field athletes who are slated to compete in the prestigious Arcadia Invitational in California this weekend.

The meet is touted as home to 24 national records as well as the largest high school-only co-ed track and field meet in the country. The meet, held at Arcadia High School, 13 miles northeast of Los Angeles, will be hosting some of the top talent in the country. Illinois will be exceptionally well-represented in the sprints, hurdles and distance events with three girls and nine boys officially entered.


Aaliyah Brown (Jr.) Lincoln-Way East (Frankfort), 100 and 200.
Cessily Jones (Sr.) Plainfield North, 100 and 200.
Shamier Little (Sr.) Lindblom College Prep (Chicago), 100H, 300H and 400.

Though Brown is the defending 100 (11.59) and 200 (24.13) champion, she has something to prove after an indoor season ended by injury -- while nemesis Morolake Akinosun captured state and national headlines with her epic 55/200 double at the Illinois Prep Top Times meet.

Brown had produced three of the fastest marks in the country in the 55, 60, and 200 up until she was sidelined with lower leg problems. This is her first major meet back. The path to victory, at least in the 100, became a little clearer after Jasmine Todd of sprint power Chandler, AZ suffered a recent injury, but the competition will still be very tough.

Jones has become one of the state’s premier sprinters after handing Brown her only loss in the 200 indoors and nearly upsetting Akinosun at the IPTT. Jones will be gunning for her first major title in either the 100 or 200 on Saturday evening and it may very well come at the expense of Brown.

Little is going to have her hands full as she takes on three events -- 100H, 400, and 300H -- all within an hour! Little is more focused on her technique and own performance than the competition, but she'll face last year's World Youth champ in UCLA-bound Trinity Wilson of St. Mary’s College (Berkerley Ca). Wilson has a legal best of 13.15 compared to Little’s 14.02 wind-aided mark.

Beyond that, the assumption here is that she will go all out in the long hurdles race -- where her PR 57.83 in the longer 400H stacks up very well against the field -- and then run with heart in the flat race. It will be very interesting to see the outcome of this triple attempt.



Chad Weaver (Jr.) New Lenox Providence Catholic, pole vault.
Michael Clevenger (Sr.) Decatur MacArthur, 3200.
Leland Later (Sr.) Winnetka New Trier, 3200.
Jack Keelan (Jr.) Chicago St. Ignatius, 3200.
Tyler Yunk (Jr.) Belvidere North, 3200.
Will Crocker (Sr.) Belvidere North, 800.
Luke Zygmunt (Sr.) Grayslake Central, mile (seeded).
Will Brewster (Sr.) Grayslake Central, mile.
Garrett Lee (Jr.) (Belvidere North), mile.

The contingent of top boys from Illinois going to Arcadia is at an all-time high. Weaver, contesting the pole vault, is the first field event athlete from the state to compete at Arcadia. Weaver has improved this year to a 15-3.25 best. His major highlights include winning the indoor conference title in an IL#2 mark and taking the IPTT 2A crown.

The distance events will be the featured stories for many fans back home. The 3200 will see some of the top talent in the country with Clevenger, Later, Keelan, and Yunk doing battle. Clevenger enjoyed a great indoor season with 9:19.72 3200 and 4:16.35 1600 marks. He has passed every test to date with flying colors, but competing in the Arcadia race will be his biggest test.

The University of California-Berkeley bound Later will put his 9:16 personal best to the test. But he does have a plan in mind: “I don't necessarily have a time or place goal, but rather to just be competitive and stay near the front for as much of the race as I can. I feel that if I'm in good position at the mile, I'll be able to work my way to a good place, and a good time will follow.”

But Later also added this: “I know that the field is exceptionally large, at 36, so I think keeping clear and not getting boxed in or tripped up in the first few laps will be essential. But I also want to balance that against not having to run extra distance in the outside lanes. So it will be interesting, and I will have to make an assessment once the race starts.”

With Keelan and Yunk also in the field, it seems like a state championship race contested out-of-state. Keelan was held out of the IPTT late last month so he could focus his energy on the biggest regular season meet of his career. He stated that he doesn’t particularly have a goal time in mind, but just wants to run very fast. That shouldn’t be a problem considering he has run 4:17 for 1600. This should give Keelan a glimpse of his overall potential.

Yunk has been one of the top distance talents in the state for quite a few years. He also won the IPTT 3A 3200 title with ease several weeks ago. He now has an opportunity to step up even more and run the race of his life. Can he surpass the magical 9:00 barrier? It is a possibility if he can get out well and stay out of traffic.

The mile will see Lee and Brewster put their 4:14.37 and 4:14.92 1600 season bests to the ultimate test. Lee, who finished 2nd at IPTT by an eyelash to Oak Park-River Forest’s Malachy Schrobilgen, will be ready to take on a field that should see several times under 4:10. The junior standout should be able to approach the 4:10 barrier if he can stay clear of being boxed in early. Brewster will have to use the same approach if he expects to run the race of his life to date.

Zygmunt's season bests of 4:17.34 and 1:56.49 should go a long way in being near the top of the charts in the seeded mile.

The 800 will see Crocker and his 1:54.87 personal best entered against a field that includes two sub-1:50 performers and several others in the low 1:50s. He hopes to come home with a huge IL#1 time.
The list of superstar athletes that will be unleashed this Saturday is long -- even without injured sprint star Aaliyah Brown -- but pay attention to these specific athletes who have made major noise during the undercover season:

Morolake Akinosun (Sr., Aurora Waubonsie Valley) -- The University of Illinois-bound standout has put up Wonder Woman-type numbers in the short sprints. She is on pace to smash her IPTT 55 (6.90) and 200 (24.37) meet records and finished the campaign undefeated.

Lindsey Rakosnik (Sr., Lombard Glenbard East) -- She will be joining Akinosun down I-57 this fall for college, but in the meantime this phenomenal middle-distance runner has been busy putting up solid numbers on the oval. By the time the weekend is over at the Shirk, the fandom could witness a bit of history in either the 800 or the 1600.

Brittny Ellis (Fr., Gurnee Warren) could be a simmering story in the making. She has been bubbling under the high school surface for over three years now. The freshman sensation spent recent years slaying the youth track competition coast-to-coast. She will be stationed in Bloomington this weekend and we all will see if that can continue.

Of course, it would be remiss if the field events weren’t captured. Three ladies have stolen the hearts of the fans that follow them closely: 1) Brittany Hull (Jr., Normal Community) -- Already US#1 in the PV at 13-0.25, she keeps soaring for more and will assuredly go after the all-time best this weekend; 2) Emmonie Henderson (Jr., Edwardsville) is the 3A record holder in the SP and DT and has already thrown over 44-feet, less than a week removed from playing in the state basketball title game; 3) Savannah Carson (Jr., Naperville Neuqua Valley) -- She has been bringing back visions of Alex “the Great” after several top level 19-foot long jumps. Carson’s top 10 status among her national peers is just the start of what should be a wonderful weekend.

Event-by-Event profile

Class record: Morolake Akinosun (Aurora Waubonsie Valley) 6.90, 2011
Who to watch for: Akinosun, Alexis Hyshaw (So., Naperville North), Cessily Jones (Sr., Plainfield North), Anita Saffa (Jr., West Aurora), Savannah Carson, Kimberly Azie (Sr., Bolingbrook)
Outlook: What was supposed to be billed as the Illinois race of all-time, indoors or out, took a big hit with the loss to injury of Frankfort Lincoln-Way East junior Aaliyah Brown. It appears as though her sore hamstring hasn’t improved enough to take on a cast that will still include six girls ranked nationally -- five of them in the top 20. Akinosun was the early favorite, regardless. She will now have to turn her attention towards Hyshaw and Jones. In looking at the entrants, it is very impressive with 15 girls posting times under 7.40! It is possible that some of them will not make the two-heat final despite being among the best in the nation.
Tony J’s picks: 1) Akinosun; 2) Hyshaw; 3) Jones

Class record: Adia McKinnon (Homewood-Flossmoor) 55.09, 2000
Who to watch for: Cameron Pettigrew (Jr., Chicago Payton), Simone Carr (So., Carol Stream Glenbard North), Brittny Ellis (Fr., Gurnee Warren), Britney Williams (Jr., St. Charles East), Jaylaan Slaughter (Sr., Dekalb)
Outlook: A lightly raced Pettigrew is coming on strong at the right time after defeating the multi-talented Shamier Little of Chicago Lindblom at the CPS Championship. Pettigrew will now try and inflict more pain on a tough field. The cheerful Ellis may show the least amount of concern, though. But she is going to need a big personal best in order to beat Pettigrew.
Tony J’s picks: 1) Pettigrew, 2) Ellis, 3) Carr

Class record: Morolake Akinosun 24.37, 2011
Who to watch for: Akinosun, Jones, Ellis, Maya Neal (Fr., Naperville Neuqua Valley), Hyshaw, Carson
Outlook: Akinosun is once again at the head of the class without Brown in the field. The senior standout sports a sizzling 24.60 season best that is sure to dazzle those in attendance. Jones comes in with an impressive resume, too. She handed Brown her only defeat at the Proviso East Invite earlier in the month. The 24.81 clocking speaks well enough on its own. Watch out for the newcomer Neal. She is a very multi-faceted athlete similar to the legendary Shakeia Pinnick -- ranking tall in four events -- destined to be an absolute superstar.

Class record: Shalina Clark (Evanston) 7.96, 2006
Who to watch for: Riley Vann (Sr., Oswego), Jayla Stewart (Fr., Homewood-Flossmoor), Madlen Karnatz (Jr., Chicago St. Ignatius), Imani Haynes (Jr., Chicago Heights Marian Catholic), Claire Keiger (Sr., Chicago Whitney Young), Maya Neal
Outlook: It could be up to the veteran Vann vs. the freshmen Stewart and Neal. The difference in time isn’t far off. Vann’s season best is 8.41 to Stewart at 8.44. Neal has run 8.58 -- but usually performing as a hepthathlete in meets. Haynes has all the talent in the world, but hasn’t as yet snuck into the elite category like she is capable of. Maybe she will drop a serious jewel this weekend and show her competitors the real deal.
Tony J’s picks: 1) Vann, 2) Stewart, 3) Neal


Class record: Maria Cicero (Elmhurst York) 10:17.85, 2001
Who to watch out for: Kaylee Flanagan (Jr., Roselle Lake Park), Ariel Michalek (Sr., Oswego East), Madeline Perez (So., Glen Ellyn Glenbard West), Emily Leonard (So., Park Ridge Maine South), Lisa Luczak (Fr., Glen Ellyn Glenbard West).
Outlook: This event is so deep that one could mistake it for the outdoor state championship or cross country title match. Flanagan will lead the charge out of the gate with her typical fast pace. Keep in mind that she has run under 10:40 twice -- both solo ventures (10:36.40 PR). Michalek will be there with Flanagan and, if they work together, the fans could see a time somewhere in the 10:20s.
Tony J’s picks: 1) Flanagan, 2) Michalek, 3) Leonard

Class record: McKinzie Schulz (Lisle Benet Academy) 2:12.36, 2009
Who to watch out for: Dhia Dean (Sr., Chicago Kenwood), Emma Reifel (Jr., Glen Ellyn Glenbard West), Jahnell Horton (Sr., Evanston), Lindsey Rakosnik, Kaylee Schmitz (Sr., O’Fallon), Shianne Baggett (Jr., Chicago Whitney Young)
Outlook: What initially looked like a possibly dud actually will be a bombshell. Rakosnik is the state’s best half-miler, regardless of the limited amount of racing here. She has superior speed and vastly improved aerobic system, thanks to cross country. The meet record is in serious danger if the opening pace is fast. It will need to go 62-63 to have a chance. Horton has excellent leg speed virtue of running on many Wildkat sprint relays. Don’t be surprised if the entire field is at the outdoor standard of 2:19.74 or better.
Tony J’s picks: 1) Rakosnik, 2) Horton, 3) Schmitz

Class record: Tera Moody (St. Charles) 4:54.0h, 1998
Who to watch for: Lindsey Rakosnik, Kaylee Flanagan, Ariel Michalek, Haley Goers (Sr., Hoffman Estates), Brooke Wolfe (Jr., Prospect), Lisa Luczak (Fr., Glen Ellyn Glenbard West), Megan Lemersal (Jr., Park Ridge Maine South)
Outlook: Once again, a superb field contains many big distance names that romped during the XC season. The question will be if Rakosnik and Flanagan have anything left in the tank after getting worked over in their earlier races. Goers could emerge the winner here if she isn’t spent from 4x8 relay duties. No matter what the race holds, it seems like Rakosnik will be there in the end.
Tony J’s picks: 1) Rakosnik, 2) Lemersal, 3) Wolfe


Class record: Schaumburg 9:20.59, 2011
Teams to watch: Glenbard West, Mt. Prospect (Prospect), Roselle Lake Park, Downers Grove North, Downers Grove South, Yorkville.
Outlook: Illinois is historically deep in this even,t but IPTT has never really drawn a field as strong as this one. It will be interesting to see how fast the opening pace will go out. Glenbard West potentially could have two or three sub-2:20 legs to push the chasers. A quality guestimate could see a time in the 9:15 range. Finally, welcome Yorkville to the 3A ranks. The Lady Foxes have dominated in the 2A division for a few years and will have something to say to their new neighbors.
Tony J’s picks: 1) Glenbard West, 2) Prospect, 3) Yorkville

Class record: Evanston 1:40.68, 2006
Teams to watch: Bolingbrook, Plainfield North, Homewood-Flossmoor
Outlook: Certainly the meet record is completely off-limits, but a good and competitive effort by the top teams could see some great times. Plainfield North will be seeking the top spot with Cessily Jones leading off. The Tigers must get the stick around the track safely. Homewood-Flossmoor has a nice mix of youth and maturity and will be near the top. Lincoln-Way East will have to enjoy its reserves pushing forward without Brown.
Tony J’s picks: Plainfield North, 2) Bolingbrook, 3) Homewood-Flossmoor

Class record: Chicago Morgan Park 3:53.68, 2006
Teams to watch: Lincoln-Way East, Whitney Young, Downers Grove South, Plainfield North
Outlook: While the record is probably out of reach, expect a competitive race with a few teams getting a few ticks under 4:00 to satisfy themselves and the fans.
Tony J’s picks: 1) Downers Grove South, 2) Whitney Young, 3) Lincoln-Way East

Field events

Long jump
Class record: Jasmine Jackson (Hillside Proviso West) 19-3.75, 1997
Who to watch out for: Savannah Carson, Maya Neal, Emma Spagnola (So., West Aurora), Tyshau Freeman (Roselle Lake Park)
Outlook: Carson has brought this event to the forefront during the indoor season with some wonderful performances. How about her US#8 19-8 leap in a USATF meet back in early March that put the entire jumping community on notice? Let’s hope her recent leg strain is remote, and that the rest this week leading up to the date with Jackson’s ancient record is the remedy.

Triple jump
Class record: Lyshaya Stokes (South Holland Thornwood) 40-2, 1999
Who to watch: Uzo Okoro (Sr., Darien Hinsdale South), Mariah Harris (Sr., Chicago St. Ignatius), Kyla Price (Oswego East)
Outlook: The TJ will feature a more even playing field with the consistent Okoro leading the way. Harris is a newcomer who has stepped up this season.
Tony J’s picks: 1) Okoro, 2) Harris, 3) Price

Shot put
Class record: Dani Bunch (Mahomet-Seymour) 47-2, 2008
Who to watch: Emmonnie Henderson, Banki Oginni (So., Hoffman Estates), Haleigh Theuerkauf (Sr., Batavia), Katie Dovenmuehle (Belvidere North)
Outlook: Henderson returns as a two-time winner and is one of the best to ever throw the metal ball in Illinois. She returned from her team’s basketball state championship and heaved a US#12/IL#1 44-5.75. She now has the state to herself after the graduation of the legendary Kelsey Card (Carlinville)
Tony J’s picks: 1) Henderson, 2) Oginni, 3) Theuerkauf

High jump
Class record: Nora Weber (Canton) 5-10, 1993
Who to watch: Stephanie Ulrich (Sr., Palatine Fremd), Kailey James (Glenbard North), Bridget Bodee (Hinsdale South), Jacklyn Aremka (Plainfield North)
Outlook: a lean HJ field should perk up once a fleet of 5-5 jumpers take on each other. Ulrich is the one to watch. James and Arema are ready to step up.
Tony J’s picks: Ulrich, James, Aremka

Pole vault
Class record: Taylor Kirby (Normal West) 12-8, 2011
Who to watch: Brittany Hull, Carly Schmidt (Lake Forest), Carolina Carmichael (Sr., Lake Forest), Riley Vann (Oswego), Lexi Dahl (Crystal Lake South), Maya Golliday (Lake Park), Brooke Catherine (Normal Community)
Outlook: The top 6 pole vaulters will be in attendance on Saturday including the US#1 Hull at a sensational 13-0.25 mark. The all-time record of 12-8 will be seriously tested. Watch for Carmichael, Schmidt, and several others to do extremely well.
Tony J’s picks: Hull, Carmichael, Vann

Class record
: Lake Kwaza (Sycamore) 7.05, 2011
Outlook: The expected leading entrants will include the event’s only three-time winner in Lake Kwaza (Sr.,Sycamore), Ebony McClendon (So., Chicago Brooks), and Charday Crawford (Jr., Springfield Southeast). Kwaza has the top mark of 7.07.
Tony’s pick: Kwaza

Class record
: Lake Kwaza (Sycamore) 25.39, 2010
Outlook: It could be a role reversal in the one lap derby with Crawford leading the way over standouts Shamier Little (Jr., Chicago Lindblom) and Kwaza. All three ladies have marks under 26.00.
Tony’s pick: Little

Class record: Amber Farrell (Aurora Illinois Math and Science) 57.82, 2010
Outlook: Perhaps the most exciting meet of the evening with Megan Paul (Sr. Mundelein Carmel Catholic) leading the way with an outstanding 56.07 time. Little isn’t terribly far back in 57.11. Kwaza is also entered in the field and should provide a valiant effort.
Tony’s pick: Paul

Class record: Ayana Scott (Springfield Lanphier) 8.32, 2010
Outlook: Little will be the heavy favorite in her dominant undercover race. She blazed an IL#1 8.19 at the recent CPS Indoor Championship. Also watch for Sarah Goodale (Carbondale), Kaci Storm (Geneseo), Logan Tillmon (Rockford East).
Tony’s pick: Little

Class record: Kayla Beattie (Woodstock) 10:15.06, 2011
Outlook: While the record-holder's sister will be part of the fray -- Maura Beattie (So., Woodstock) -- it will be the Katie Adams (Jr., Marengo) show until further notice. This is no disrespect to Sarah Curci (Jr., Chicago U High) or Kristen Busch (Sr., Freeburg), but Adams has enjoyed the finest indoor season of them all to date as her 11:05 suggests.
Tony’s pick: Adams

Class record: Emma Preston (E. Peoria) & Dhia Dean (Chicago Kenwood) 2:16.01, 2011
Outlook: Caitlin Busch and her twin sister Kristen are among the top contenders, with Caitlin pitting her 2:18 seed mark against Cassie Kruse (Sr., Hampshire), one of the state’s best 4x800 anchors. Michelle Dobbs (Jr., Rochelle) will also be a factor in the final tally. How could we forget the great Kelsey Cramsey (Sr., Effingham)? She is the outdoor runner-up with a personal best of 2:13 on her resume.
Tony’s pick: Cramsey

Class record: Kayla Beattie (Woodstock) 4:51.06
Outlook: Adams and Kristen Busch will lock horns in the 1600 for the final distance race of the day. Busch clocked 5:06 two weeks ago at the Charleston Invite to lead the entries. Meanwhile, Adams ran 4:50 for 1500 in a sanctioned USATF meet. Her time converts to 5:09 for 1600. Also watch for a second Busch to get in on the action. That would be Kristen’s twin sister Caitlin. She has run 5:17 this winter.
Tony’s pick: Kristen Busch

Field events:

Long jump
Class record: Kawanna Brooks (Kenwood) 18-3.5, 2009
If the name Brittani Griesbaum doesn’t ring a bell, don’t feel awkward. She is a freshman from Lakes HS up in the far northwest Chicago suburb of Lake County. She also has the top jump mark of 18-0.25 and well ahead of mainstays like Ellen Renk (Sr., LaSalle-Peru) and Lexy Duncan (So., Dixon).

Triple jump
Class record: Alexandria Harden (Springfield Southeast) 37-11.5, 2011
Outlook: Renk will be back leading the way in her prize event. Her 36-5.25 mark is best among all entrants. Jill Jachino (Sr., Taylorville) will look to thwart Renk’s bid to win her first IPTT championship.

Shot put
Class record: Dani Bunch (Mahome-Seymour) 46-11.5, 2009
Outlook: There are only 7 entrants but it doesn’t mean the competition is light. Lena Giger (So., Highland) has lead the boards all season to date at 42-7. There is no need to stop now. Kourtnee Hall (Sr., Jersey) will look to put an end to Giger’s winning ways. Gabi Jacobs (So., Normal U) is the third entrant with a seed mark over 40 feet.

High jump
Class record: Ceterina Simmons (Belvidere North) 5-6, 2011
Outlook: Abi Sowash (Jr., Triad) should be the favorite after winning the prestigious Gene Armer title a week ago. She will be looking for more accolades on Saturday.

Pole vault
Class record: Emily Grove (Pontiac) & Emily Clay (Normal University) 12-6.75, 2011
Outlook: Sarah Bell (Jr. Bloomington Central Catholic) is among the nation’s best (12-8 best) and will garner just as much attention as her great friend Brittany Hull (Class AAA). Jessica Melchi (Jr., Mahomet-Seymour) and Jessi Dryden (Sr. Carbondale) will move into the spotlight as well, and will look for personal bests.

There will be no clear cut favorite in the 4x800 as five schools have a shot to win it. Look out for Petersburg-Porta, Carmel Catholic, Mattoon, and several others to battle hard. It will come down to who has the top anchor leg… the 4x200 is always a dangerous event to predict success in because of the high flying suspense and recklessness involved. If Springfield Southeast can stay out of harm’s way, they should be the runaway winners… lock Springfield SE up for the 4x400 as well if they choose to stack the event on the last play of the game.

IPTT Classic: A new era is ready to emerge in Class A girls meet

March, 23, 2012
This year’s edition of the Illinois Prep Top Times Class A girls meet should be a dandy. The fields are not excessively large in terms of numbers, but instead they are strong in quality. Included in the fray will be the moment of truth that every coach and athlete must face in seeking a resolution.

Here is preview of what’s to come this Friday evening at the Shirk Center on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington:


Class record
: Tominique Boatright (Aurora Central Catholic) 7.26, 2002
Key names to watch: Danielle Crawley (So., Sherrard), DeJanae Terry (Sr., South Holland Seton Academy), Paige Neuhauser (Sr., Sullivan),Cara Cortese (Byron), Amelia Glueck (So., Tremont).
Outlook: This should be a good one with Crawley and Terry dueling. Both young ladies are locked and loaded with seasonal bests of 7.30 and 7.31. Terry could have the confidence factor on her side as she is the defending champion. Neuhauser is listed as having the top seed mark of 7.08- a mark that is up for debate but the fact that she competed well during the 2011 outdoor season is not. Watch for her and Glueck to surprise the favorites if they slip up.

Class record
: Tominique Boatright 25.70, 2001
Key names to watch: Crawley, Terry, Rachel Ballard (Sr., St. Joe-Ogden), Alexis Ensiminger (Jr., West Central).
Outlook: Crawley should be at her best when it comes to the one lap affair; her seed time of 26.00 is more than three-tenths of a second faster than anyone else in the field. However, once again, it will be Terry standing the way as the defending champion and assuredly will fight to keep her crown.

Class record
: Gena Rawlings (Stanford-Olympia) 57.03, 2001
Key names to watch: Angel Gaesser (Sr., Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley), Mykel Adams (Jr., South Holland Seton Academy), Jessica Jump (Jr., Edwardsville Metro-East Lutheran), Rayanne Wright (Jr., Iroquois West).
Outlook: Wright is the defending champion and she is back to defend despite not having the best seasonal mark. That distinction belongs to Gaesser, who is known for her middle-distance prowess, but she can long sprint too. It will all depend how much is left in the tank after running the 800.

Class record
: Chandra Golden (Normal University) 8.37, 2005
Key names to watch: Madison Renfro (Sr., Central A & M), Kaitlyn Corzine (Jr., Central A & M), Jordyn Nettleton (Sr., GCMC), Devin Hasson (So., Rockridge).
Outlook: Renfro is the class leader at 8.65 and will be the heavy favorite in this one. She also placed 2nd in the outdoor state championship in ’11 (100H). Her teammate Corzine could make it a 1-2 sweep with the second-fastest mark coming in.


Class record
: Stephanie Brown (Tri-Valley) 2:13.23; 2008
Key names to watch: Sydni Meunier (Sr., GCMS) and Angel Gaesser (Sr., GCMS), Maddison Zimmer (Jr., Delavan).
Outlook: It would be a huge upset if the winner came from anywhere besides Gibson City-Melvin Sibley High School. The senior wonder duo of Meunier and Gaesser got their indoor season off to a late start, but over the past two weeks they have put up some of the fastest marks in the state regardless of classification: 2:17.27 and 2:17.91, respectively.

Class record
: Katelyn Bastert (Carthage) 4:54.83; 2007
Key names to watch: Syndi Meunier, Chelsea Blaase (Sr., St. Joe Ogden), Ellen Devereux (Sr., Decatur St. Teresa), Ivy Handley (Jr., Decatur St. Teresa), Kaley Ummel (Sr., Lexington)
Outlook: One of the deeper fields of the meet, but Meunier will return from running the 800 and will be the favorite despite having Blaase (Sr., St. Joe Ogden) in the field. Meunier has run 4:59.73 so far this season. Devereux and Blaase have run under 5:10 before and should be ready to produce big seasons. Ummel should be well rested and fresh after passing on the 800.

Class record
: Katelyn Bastert 10:50.58; 2007
Key names to watch: Chelsea Blaase, Kristen Garwood (Sr., Springfield Lutheran), Regan Weidner (Fr., Bureau Valley).
Outlook: Blaase should dominate here. She won the cross country title in the fall and has put up a solid 11:09 two weeks ago.


Class record
: South Holland Seton Academy 1:48.70; 2007
Key teams: Seton Academy, Eureka, Illini West, Athens.
Outlook: Seton Academy is the heavy favorite to win and break the record based on their season best of 1:47.9. Unless they fall victim to stick problems, they should rule.

Class record
: Dwight 4:09.55; 2007
Key teams: GCMS, Seton Academy, St. Joe-Ogden
Outlook: Expect a fast effort from GCMS if Sydni Meunier and Angel Gaesser add this event to their slate. They burned a fast 4:11 at the Gene Armer Invite a week ago.

Class record
: Eureka 9:46.7h; 2006
Key teams: Decatur (St. Teresa), St. Joe-Ogden, Byron
Outlook: St. Teresa is the only team to get under 10:00, but that should change with the likes of St. Joe Ogden and Byron in the field.


Long jump
Class record
: Ryann Hendricks (Palos Hills Chicago Christian) 18-4.75; 2005
Key names to watch: Rachel Ballard, Amelia Glueck, Haley Calvert (Sr., Bushnell-Prairie City)
Outlook: Ballard and Glueck are the top two leapers returning from a year ago when they achieved the same 17-0 marks at IPTT. So far this season, Ballard has produced a class best of 18-1 and Glueck 17-9. They will undoubtedly battle all the way to the very last jump.

Triple jump
Class record
: Leah Orley (Benton) 38-0.75; 2008
Key names to watch: Haley Calvert, Ciara Marlow (Sr., Monmouth-Roseville), Kandie Bloch (Jr., Argenta-Oreana)
Outlook: Calvert is the one to watch in this event with a top class mark of 34-4.

Shot put
Class record
: Kelsey Card (Carlinville) 47-2; 2010
Key names to watch: Whitney Walker (Sr., Illini Bluffs), Megan Lauzon (Rushville-Industry), Janie Howse (Sr., Central A & M).
Outlook: The shot put ranks will take a totally different look after the four year domination by the great (now graduated) Kelsey Card. Walker will now have a chance to shine as she becomes the favorite. Lauzon has a season best of 40-3.5, good for IL#2 in the Class A ranks. She will be in the mix, too.

High jump
Class record
: Megan Reese (Eureka) 5-9; 2001
Key names to watch: Kandie Bloch, Karissa Roman (Fr., Kewanee-Weathersfield), Valerie Akers (Lawrenceville)
Outlook: Bloch jumped a swift 5-8 for tops in the several weeks ago to position herself as one of the best jumpers in the state. Roman is second with a 5-5 mark.

Pole Vault
Class record: Sarah Bell (Bloomington Central Catholic) 11-0.5; 2011
Key names to watch: Alyssa Applebee (Sr., Seneca), Ashley Thomas (Sr., Rushville-Industry), Zoe Gossmeyer (So., Tremont)
by Tony Jones- anthony.jones@espn.com

What was supposed to be an individual highlight show turned out to be a boys and girls team slugfest. Sort of...

Bloom Township (Chicago Heights) won their second consecutive Gene Armer Boys Invitational title with 77 points. The Trojans scrapped and clawed for points in various events throughout the early portion of the meet before finally pulling away from Triad- winning by 25 pts.

Bloom only won three events (400, 1600, and 4x4r) but still showed tremendous depth; the Trojans scored in 12 of 15 events.

Springfield Southeast showed they are closer to reloading than rebuilding after losing a fleet of talent girls through graduation. Despite a strong charge by Whitney Young (Chicago) over the final four events, the Spartans held on for a 47-43 victory. Team leaders Charday Crawford and Elizabeth Canaday pooled their resources with some emerging talent to secure the victory. Crawford won the 55 dash and Canaday placed 4th in the 400. They also won the 4x200r in 1:46.16 and finished things off well in the 4x400r with a solid mark of 4:10.11- good for 3rd.

Boys’ highlights-

The open sprints featured three winners: Julian Hylton (Frankfort Lincoln-Way North), Brandon Penrod (Triad), and Kaleb Williams (Bloom Twp) won the 55, 200, and 400 dashes respectively.

Hylton is a relative unknown to the IHSA track and field scene but not to track itself. The three-sport star had previously excelled in summer track under the guidance of coach Damani Shakoor and his Stealth Bombers Track Club. He went a long way on Saturday in cementing his way into the minds of his 3A foes when the state tournament arrives in May. Hylton blazed 6.48 in the 55 final and upset the favored Penrod very easily 6.48-6.58.

Penrod has enjoyed a very good indoor campaign in that he has scorched the competition on numerous occasions. The 200 final was close because of a talented field but Penrod was in control the entire way. He burst hard out of the blocks and held form through the back stretch and off of the final turn. Williams and company were stuck in chase mold for the entire way.

Williams may have surprised a few non-believers after his seed time of 49.82 popped out in the meet program. However, self-assurance that he could actually achieve the mark right now was never in doubt according to his coach Andy Schmitt. Williams ran 49.20 during last outdoor season which led to some pretty solid indoor marks prior to Gene Armer. The end result was an IL#1 49.78 performance that knocked the socks off of the competition and establish him the early favorite in next week’s IPTT Championship.

The 3200 had its own share of drama in the distance arena. Fans watched a tight pack of 5 runners slug through the first eight laps in 4:54 with Chicago Lane Tech’s Marcelo Burbano, Normal Community’s Ryan O’Leary, and Zach Kingsbury of Palos Heights Shepard leading. O’Leary and Burbano sneakily tried to pull away at the 2k mark but it was O’Leary who would suffer the consequences of the expedited pace and fall back.

Kingsbury stepped up and ran shoulder to shoulder with Burbano for the next three laps. Finally, on the bell lap Burbano turned on the jets and finished things off with a 62-second final 400. Perhaps, he could have run much faster if it were not for being so conservative in the early portion of the meet.
Seniors Rashad Hulbert of Crete-Monee and Josh Robinson from Danville were expecting a tight tilt in the 55HH, but instead the affair turned into a rout for Hulbert. Hulbert, who was the state’s top barrier specialist prior to the meet, remained in that position after a 7.64-7.90 romp. Robinson fought well but Hulbert’s technique and hurdle gliding was too much to overcome.

The boys’ pole vault was very thrilling. The solidly matched field saw four vaulters cleared 14-0 to the crowd’s delight. The next course of action for Joel Swanberg (New Lenox Lincoln-Way Central), Cirron Clark (Danville), Tyler Ginger (Stanford-Olympia), and Mark Panno (Pontiac) was to go to 14-6. Clark was the first to go and he clipped the bar on the way down to his demise. Ginger's fate was similar to Clark’s in that he had the clearance but the body touch prevented him from moving on. Swanberg didn’t fare any better than his three close competitors; he won the competition on less misses.

Girls’ highlights-

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley shouldn’t be faulted for being a two superstar team. Angel Gaesser and Sydni Meunier are two athletes that you don’t want to face solo. The Gene Armer meet usually means the season welcoming party for Gaesser and Meunier. Gasser was the first to compete in an open event. She took charge of the 800 championship just after two laps despite Whitney Young’s Shianne Baggett dogging her. Gaesser pulled away in the final 100 to win in 2:19.21.

Meunier took a more tactical approach to her victory in the 1600. The Notre Dame signee played follow the leader for the first four laps in 2:33- before turning up the heat in the second half of the race. Meunier took charge entering the 3rd 400 and opened up a sizable gap on Bloomington Central Catholic’s Alex Van Hoof, who previously led. Meunier passed through the 1200 in 3:48.5 and appeared to be shooting for sub- 5:00. She was able to reach the bell lap around 4:25 and clearly within reach of a goal that few girls in Illinois have ever achieved indoors. The final result was a stunning 4:59.73- a mark that is #2 all-time for meet purposes and IL#3/US#22 listings.

Brittany Hull (Normal Community) and Sarah Bell (Bloomington Central Catholic) are more than great friends. They are great competitors and that was very evident at the Armory in the pole vault. Hull is the US#1 ranked vaulter and Bell has the US#9 tag to her name. So, it was fitting that the winning effort would come down to the very end. Hull and Bell both cleared 12-0 to tie the meet record from 2005. The height was moved up to 12-6. Hull made the height on her second attempt but Bell missed on all three of her attempts. Hull asked for the height to be moved up to 13-3.25. It was unsure why that height since she already has the nation’s best mark and presumably the state’s all-time record indoors. Perhaps Hull was going for the overall all-time best (not sure what it is for Illinois since the event is still relatively new). Hull had the most of her three attempts despite having a sore quad. She hit the pole flush on the first effort. The second attempt featured a run up delay that took nearly two minutes to finally complete. That attempt was probably the best one as Hull got skyward over most of the bar but hit it solidly coming down. The final effort was slightly off from #2 but still worth the watch. Afterwards, Hull didn’t appear overjoyed: “I wanted to try this height… despite having a sore quad.” She indicated that she will shut down most of her training for the week leading up to IPTT. “Hopefully, I will be alright next weekend,” she said.
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.