Halle Bieber was a big part of Naperville North's success in track and field
It had never been done before in the largest classification within the same calendar school year. After placing third last year, Naperville North vaulted themselves up several notches to first. Returning head coach Dan Iverson in his second year back in the helm, set things up first with a cross country title last fall. The dynamics of a track and field title is different, especially with many moving parts. The Huskies had relays, hurdlers, sprinters, field events, and of course distance runners. Iverson is a mastermind coach and he knew, for example, that he needed to break up his great distance corps if the championship were to reside in Naperville.
The first order of business on championship day happened to be the long jump where Laqwasia Stepney who jumped ships from Cahokia to Belleville West. The junior standout had an outstanding season in the hurdles and particularly in the pit. She upset several favorites en route to winning the title with a personal best 19-4.25. Naperville North picked up four vital points courtesy of senior Saffilla Allie.
Thornwood junior Jasmine Mitchell was a big story in the throws. She was favored to win the shot put which she gladly accepted the gold medal with a toss of 45-10. The surprise was the easy victory over top seed Jalah Morris of Zion-Benton. It was supposed to be a bit closer than the 147'8" to 140'1" outcome.
The major track highlights should not have surprised you-
Once you become accustomed to being a champion it is hard to lose that mindset. Amira Young has that mindset. The Whitney Young senior had won the previous two 100m state titles but you would not have known that. Young is a sweet, soft-spoken young lady who lets her feet do the campaigning. "Once the post-season starts I turn off my social media [platforms]." As the starter's pistol started the 100m, it was Young speeding out of her blocks and not giving the field a chance. It was over in an eyelash. The crowd appeared stunned as she crossed in a wind-legal 11.71. The state leader and speedy junior Ameia Wilson of Danville was a distant second in 11.88. Young would return later and win the 200m in 24.21. Upstart junior Taylor Gilling of Highland Park took second ahead of Wilson 24.37-24.37 (dead heat). Young would continue her winning ways one more time in the 4x400 relay. Young held off a fleet of hard-charging girls to lead her team in 3:52.73. Naperville North turned back Homewood-Flossmoor 3:53.71-3:54.13.
During the indoor season, Hinsdale Central played a little possum despite having a cast of individual middle-distance runners. The Red Devilettes had three girls who ran under 2:20 very early in the season. They finally put all together at the right time and it really wasn't a contest by the time the third leg Grace McCabe received the baton, it was all over. Her longtime teammate from the first title two years ago, Reilly Revord cruised home in a US#3 9:03.41.
Kaylah McCall of Homewood-Flossmoor has come of age very quickly in her second year of high school hurdling. She took advantage of favorite Kayla Walters misstep in the middle of the track. The Bolingbrook junior stumbled badly which allowed McCall to pounce on the opportunity and the win in 14.06.
Dajour Miles of West Aurora had to tread water very lightly because of her sore hamstring. She dropped the 100 and 4x100 relays to concentrate on the 400. After securing the top seed to the final, she got out very fast and strolled home in 54.72. 7 of the 9 finalists broke 57-seconds which spells great things for this event in the near future.
Dekalb did something that many thought impossible. They won the 4x200 relay in very fast fashion without one of its fastest girls Sierra Long. The senior Long ran in the 400 where she took 7th. The Barbs basically BBQ'ed the field with a state-leading and US #22 1:38.59. Homewood-Flossmoor took second in 1:40.51, just ahead of Crete-Monee. The Vikings had earlier smashed the field in the 4x4 in 46.97.
-Hart vs. Michelin-
There is always a set up when it comes to a great show. There were no signs of stress with Katelynne Hart (So., Glenbard West) and Enyaeva Michelin (Sr., Evanston) as they prepared for their penultimate events. Hart was the first to go in the 3200 as she quickly disposed of a very good field. Not a single girl challenged because Hart opened in 5:00 for the first half. She later cooled her jets and won in 10:12.96. Michelin did the same in the 800 with 62.xx opening lap that turned into one of the fastest times in state history 2:08.44- US#2 time and unopposed despite Madison Marasco of Schaumburg running 2:10.14.
The anticipated battle in the 1600m was of epic proportions as soon as the gun went off. The crowd was a little mum as the titles went out in 70 seconds. Later still glued at the hip they crossed the 800m in 2:23. No one wanted to give in at the bell: 3:36. With 200 remaining the crowd was on its collective feet. So who wants this race? Entering the homestretch, it was Hart who shifted in 5th gear and pulled away from Michelin to win in a 3A record 4:47.36. There is nothing to be ashamed of for Michelin as she took second in 4:48.18. She has been the only girl to even attempt to challenge Hart. As the two titans exited the track, they showed mutual admiration for one another.