Lincoln-Way East Girls Smash Way To Another 3A State Title

Lincoln-Way East celebrate another state title (Dwayne Antoine-Pierre photo credit)


“I can show you better than I can tell you,” were the choice words spoken by assistant head coach Angelo Brown of the Frankfort (Lincoln-Way East) last week after his team wrecked havoc on the competition at the Homewood-Flossmoor State Sectional.

Indeed it was the defending state champion Griffins who went on smash their way to a second consecutive state title inside the famed O’Brien Stadium on the campus of Eastern Illinois University. Lincoln-Way East tallied 72 points to easily outdistance them-selves from West Aurora who scored 39 points. St. Charles East earned the third place trophy with 38 points ahead of Evanston’s 30. Minooka, Belleville West, Aurora (Metea Valley), and Edwardsville tied for fifth place (25 pts.).

The best of the best dueled in the 200m which included Desrosiers, English, Thomas, Hyshaw, and more (Sabrina Mendoza image)

The first two events on the track set the tone for a great day-

The roar of the large and energetic crowd greeted the twelve 4x800m relays as they charged out of the staging tent also known as the “chicken cage.” There were no signs of nervously as it got quiet as a thief in the night right before the starter Mr. Carl Miller blasted his pistol off.

Two surprise teams in O’Fallon and St. Charles East got the early jump on the field as Tami Cardenas (Jr.) and Torree Scull (Jr.) did not show any fear in being frontrunners in a deep and dangerous field that featured Palatine, Wilmette (Loyola Academy), and Downers Grove North.

Cardenas and Scull continued to battle one another with a fast opening 400m in 63.7 and 64.0- then continued to work one another until the first transaction in 2:17.1 a piece. The young ladies put their teams in a comfortable position for the second legs to negotiate away from the scrum.

St. Charles East’s Anastasia Honea (So.) appeared to be comfortable in the lead midway through her leg. O’Fallon’s Samantha Lapp (Sr.) started to fade late on her second lap back to the chase pack. But Honea closed out her carry with a solid leg in 2:17.xx.

St. Charles East used Corrin Adams (Sr.) to hold the lead but Palatine (Fremd) moved into second place on the strength of Lauren Ciardiello (Jr.) powerful move. Palatine also moved up into third place. The third stanza closed with St. Charles East holding a slim lead and a 2:20 tote by Adams.

It was a three girl race with St. Charles East, Palatine, and Loyola in the clear as the anchors took control. The Saints had their best runner Jordan Shead (Sr.) out in front. Shead was a test dummy for the St. Charles East coaching staff during the latter portion of the season. She passed the exam when she was able to run 2:14 on two occasions. Shead is one of the state’s premier long sprinters was set up in a perfect spot to run the race of her life. She fought a hard charge by sophomore Kelly O’Brien of Palatine and then Sarah Kelley (Sr.) of Loyola Academy. O’Brien could not overtake Shead. Kelley took a crack at trying to get the lead as the race entered the final 100m.But it would be for not as Shead’s speed and strength won out with a 2:13.0 carry that led the Saints to their first crown in a big state best 9:08.03. Loyola Academy placed second in a school record and one of the fastest ever efforts at 9:08.77. Palatine finished third in a season best 9:10.85. The rest of the fine scoring field went Downers North 9:14.16, Lockport 9:16.47, Lyons Township 9:16.75, O’Fallon 9:17.90, Fremd 9:21.10, and Naperville Central 9:23.23. All 12 teams got under 9:30 including Chicago Lane Tech who took the rear position for the second year in a row with a very respectable 9:27.68. This was one of the fastest overall races in state meet history.

The 4x100 was next up on the track and everyone knew the 3A finale was going to be just as exciting as its predecessor if not better. In the Friday preliminary round, Lincoln-Way East came within an eyelash of the state meet record (46.23) with a red hot 46.24. No one in the building expected such a fast effort from a team that lost its superstar meal ticket Aaliyah Brown to graduation and now starring for Texas A&M University.

Lincoln-Way East quickly dashed from their block position under the direction of Meghan Marias (Sr.) who quickly broke stagger and the race for second place was up for grabs. Asia Brown (So.) hit the back straight-away with no problem and got to freshman Ololade Ayoola with no issue. Ayoola burned the turn clear of any pressure and in a perfect position for a rookie. But Ololade does not compete like a newcomer.  She run to the team leader and co-ace Alexis Hyshaw (Sr.) and placed the baton into her name with smooth precision. Hyshaw burned the homestretch like someone who had an outstanding warrant. In other words, she was on the run and the stadium clock and finish line was the destination to pay dirt. It took just a few moments and then flashed, “Frankfort (Lincoln-Way East) 46.04.” The Lady Griffins quartet set an all-time record and new state meet record. Coach Brown had indicated during the pre-season that this bunch would be better than last year’s legendary squad because they all had to work harder because “The Franchise” would not be bail them out. Somewhere on a couch on the campus of Texas A&M University Aaliyah B had to be jumping up and down for her former teammates.

Madeline Perez gets one last hurrah for herself and the faithful fans-

Madeline Perez of Glen Ellyn Glenbard West had endured a tough senior year many girls would not have recovered from. It all started during last summer’s training for cross country that something mysterious happened.  Perez was stopped cold during the majority of the fall when her training was interrupted by an unexpected injury that at first did not seem serious. However, caution and uncertainty turned into missed time and then her fitness level dropped well below her standards. Perez was able to return for the state cross country final and place third. No one else in the state of Illinois would have been able to do what Maddie Perez did. No one from a mental aspect or physical and that is a fact.

Perez set a goal for Saturday to compete to her best ability just like the iron-willed always have done. So it was no surprise to see her go right to front and lead. The first two circuits were not very fast and that was perfectly fine on a day that was very hot with temperatures in the lower 80s and high humidity.

After hitting the first 800m in 2:37 Perez was joined by teammate sophomore Lindsay Graham. They were 1-2 through the first mile in approximately 5:14 and continued to support one another for the next several laps. Perez began to open up a gap on Graham with 800m to go. Graham had to be more concerned with Mimi Smith (Jr., New Trier) and Mary Blankemeier (Fr., Oak Park-River Forest) who were mounting a charge to overtake her.

Graham was able to hold off Smith to finish second in 10:40.73. The cross country champ Smith ran 10:41.17.  But the story of the day was Ms. Madeline Perez and her charge to victory. Perez hit the tape in 10:34.60 and with a feeling of sweet personal redemption.

Action Jackson from the state meet-

100HH: West Aurora senior Emma Spagnola did not repeat in the long jump (3rd)  but that did not seem to bother the state’s leader one bit. Spagnola was expecting to face a strong challenge from Jayla Stewart (Jr., Homewood-Flossmoor) and perhaps Jasmine Berry (Sr., Belleville West). The University of Minnesota recruit Spagnola quickly fought off the minor threat by hurdle #5 and pulled away from a panicking Stewart to easily win in 14.10 (+0.1). Although her time was slower than Friday’s prelim, Spagnola was just happy to get 10 points for her team. “We are trying to for a state championship trophy today,” she said. Stewart finished second in 14.61. Berry took the bronze medal a fraction of a stride behind Stewart in 14.68.

100: Meghan Marias and Alexis Hyshaw were still on cloud nine after leading their team to the 4x1 record run. This race would simply be to score maximum points and they did just that by snatching 19 points. Marias stormed home down the home straight with a dead serious stare toward the finish line. It was likewise for Hyshaw as the pair clocked a comfy 11.87 and 11.93 (+0.3). Parker English (Sr., Evanston) took an amazing third place running 12.00 without starting blocks. She held off the long jump extraordinaire Janile Rogers (Sr., Minooka) by a fraction (12.01).

Lauren Van Vlierbergen asserted herself with a dangerous opening pace that the field could not match (Sabrina Mendoza photo)

800: The top seed from the prelims was Alex Martel (Sr., Chicago Lane Tech) and she was ready to improve on her 2:11.93 school and league record mark. The fact that she did not have to run on the team’s 4x8 was an obvious boost that many other runners in the field avoided. But the state’s premier middle-distance runner Lauren Van Vlierbergen (Jr., Algonquin Jacobs) was in the field.

Van Vlierbergen got out well in 30.1 for the opening 200 and then 61.9 at the bell. Martel was trying to stay close (62.4), but the look from the press booth indicated that LVV was all business and not going to relinquish what she earned through the regular season- the best half-miler in the state of Illinois. LVV opened up a bigger gap at 500 and then with 200 to go as she got into the clear day light. Martel on the other hand was fading a bit from the hard pace and Michaela Hackbarth (So., Downers Grove South) caught her on the homestretch. It was all LVV in 2:10.14- a new personal best and IL#1. Hackbarth also got a personal best and school record 2:13.00. Martel took the bronze in 2:13.10. 11 of the 12 finalists broke 2:17 making this one of the fastest finals in IHSA history.

4x200: It was an absolute toy playing affair for the Lincoln-Way East coaching staff admittedly gambled on the personnel for this relay. The only regulars were Asia Brown and Marias. Sophomore Alexis Pierre-Antoine has had an injury plagued season that limited her to only a handful of races. She was given the trust in leading off the high powered affair. Could the Griffins at least equal the 1:39.27 they put up in the prelim? Pierre-Antoine held her ground on the lead leg. Brown kept working hard on her carry but Rock Island moved well with LaCresha Linton (Sr.). The pivotal third leg proved too strong for the field as Lincoln-Way East senior Sydney Barrera opened up for anchor Marias. It was essentially over as the onlookers scoreboard watched. The time flashed 1:39.71 for the Griffins who were well ahead of the Rocs 1:40.75. Bloom Township out of Chicago Heights took third in 1:40.92.

400: The race of the day was the one-lap dash. Parker English came into the event as both the favorite and underdog if there was such a thing. The University of Notre Dame bound Parker was all busy in Friday's prelim when she rocked a US#7 53.80. But Briyahna Desrosiers (Sr., Chicago North Lawndale Prep) and two-time defending champion Brittny Ellis (Jr., Gurnee Warren) could easily win the title. As the gun sounded the fans were already out of their seats and stood the entire time. The first blood was essentially drawn by all three competitors as the race was fast and it was impossible to tell the leader at 200. Desrosiers made a move to take over the lead with 150 left. English held strong with Ellis just off the cuff. English then moved in front with Desrosiers challenging on the home stretch- Ellis faded to the background. This would be a two-girl race and the loud crowd showed their appreciation. English had no more than a meter on Desrosiers and she was able to come away with the victory 53.88-53.92. Ellis finished third in a personal best 54.30.

Emma Spagnola reigned supreme from the prelims to the finals (Abe Jones photo)

300H: Emma Spanola improved on her leading effort with a US#22 42.45 to easily defeat the 800/300H specialist Morgan Schulz (Jr., Cary-Grove) who ran 43.28. Jasmine Berry took third in 43.94.

1600: Madeline Perez got her big win in the 3200 earlier in the day and Lauren Van Vlierbergen had to be toasted from a maximum effort in winning the 800. So Anne Zaher (So., Hinsdale Central) had to be the favorite right? Zaher finished second in her Friday prelim to Perez who charged home to victory in the final meters to get the top spot. But an early tactical pace of 75.4 and 2:33.7 set by Perez made for a finishing kick affair.  Zaher moved to the front on the bell at 3:49.0 with Kelly O'Brien, Ayako Higuchi (Jr., Palatine Fremd), and Torree Scull in tow.  Zaher held her ground all the way to the finish as O'Brien could not pick up Zaher's strong finishing kick. Zaher took the final in 5:00.08 to O'Brien's 5:00.50. Higuchi took third in 5:00.98. Perez got her second all-state medal of the day and finished her high school career off on a positive note in 8th place.

200: The final battle between Parker and Desrosiers would happen here. Brittany Thomas (Sr., Chicago Heights Bloom), Alexis Hyshaw, and Meghan Marias were added to the party. English made quick work of the race in 24.23 (-1.1) to win the day's sprint sweepstakes. Desrosiers took second (24.47), and Thomas (24.83) was third. Hyshaw and Marias finished fourth and fifth to put the final coffin nails on their team title.

Jordan Shead finishes off what she started from the 4x8 anchor to the 4x4 powering finish over Lincoln-Way East (Sabrina Mendoza photo)

4x400: Lincoln-Way East wanted to win this race badly and St. Charles East wanted to defend their title. West Aurora had the top time out of the prelims and looking to be the spoilers. The race sea sawed between these top three teams but St. Charles East and LWE would fight for the title. After Ololade Ayoola produced a monster third leg, it would all come down to the queen who won the 4x800 for the Lady Saints: Jordan Shead. Shead stepped up once again as one of the state championship's premier stars. Shead did not panic with team in the deficit. Instead she went right to work and tracked down Asia Brown on the backstretch. The homestetch crowd was buzzing as St. Charles East clearly had eyes on keeping a title that the Griffins wanted so badly. Brown locked up and looked wobbly which was enough to doom her and her team. Shead showed no mercy and turned the heat up even more on the youngin'. It was over in a flash as the Lady Saints repeated with a sizzling 3:49.33 (57.2, 57.1, 59.7, 55.4). Lincoln-Way East got the consolation prize in 3:50.16 (59.4, 60.0, 55.3, 57.3). West Aurora took third in 3:52.32.

Long Jump: Janile Rogers quest to take down the Mt. Everest of all meet records (Alexandria "Alex The Great" Anderson-Chicago Morgan Park) - 20'9" was not even possible. No disrespect to Rogers but Anderson is the greatest athlete boys or girls in IHSA track and field history. Rogers did get a quality win (18'10.75") and detroned the defending champion Emma Spagnola who finished third. Brittani Griesbaum (Jr., Lake Villa Lakes) moved up to the 3A ranks from 2A and made her presence felt with a second place finish (18'9.50"). Griesbaum was fifth coming into the finals.

Pole Vault: Brooke Catherine (Jr., Normal Community) earned her personal best at the right time because it netted a state championship with a 12'9" effort that was more than good enough to beat Julia Junkroski (Jr., Frankfort Lincoln-Way East) 12'3".

High Jump: In three years Emma Haugen (Jr., LaGrange Lyons Township) has quietly gone 1st, 2nd, 1st in the state championships. It's a bit ironic that others such as state leader Kelsey Shannon (Sr., Belleville West), Ololade Ayoola, and Julia Junkroski had more fan fare. Haugen beat Jacklyn Setina (Sr., Lincolnshire Stevenson) on less misses at 5'7".

Shot Put: The dominance of former great champion Emmonnie Henderson of Edwardsville was sorely missed this season. The season best was only 45'7.50" by Banke Oginni (Sr., Hoffman Estates). The unknown freshman Courtney Morgan of Aurora (Metea Valley) made up for the lack of star talent with future promise. She won with a toss of 45'3.50" from the prelims. Morgan avenged her only true defeat of the year that was handed out by Oginni at the Illinois Top Times meet during the indoor season.

Triple Jump: LaJarvia Brown (So., Alton) moved up from 12th a year ago to first with an eye popping 40'3.50" that was just over the wind legal allowable (+2.1). But it didn't matter for Brown who finished the season undefeated and one of the nation's best regardless of conditions. She should be a more high profile athlete next year if she can get into bigger competitions before the state series.

Discus Throw: Erin Reese (Sr., Prospect) got her first title with a 146'1" toss that featured a close competition among two other competitors in Courtney Morgan and Holly Julifs (Jr., Metea Valley). Julifs is the state leader at US#15 154'0"and was the favorite coming in but had to settle for second on her team and third overall.