Class 3A Girls State Championship Preview: Win, Place, Show

Last year's 4x8 relay was among the best events on the trials and finals docket (Sabrina Mendoza photo)

Charleston IL

The two-time defending state champion Frankfort Lincoln-Way East had a few hiccups during a trying 2015 season. They hired a new head coach Brian Evans. But he was not the problem. There was emerging and teams receiving predetermined hype but not living up to it when it counted. They were not the problem. There were pre-approved trips to pristine places like the Texas Relays and Arcadia Invitational. That wasn't the problem.

When you look closely from within it is when you see the issue.

Lincoln-Way East's issue this season was themselves. There hasn't been a team in the past several years who could beat them when it counted. It seems that injuries coupled by not performing up to the elite level they have been accustomed to is the villain. The Homewood-Flossmoor Sectional was the coming out party and the dividends that the Griffins cashed in proved its worth. The message sent out to the hosts as well as Barrington and everyone else was "the state championship is going to have to go through us."

Track events-

110H: Jayla Stewart (Sr., Homewood-Flossmoor) is the best short hurdler in the state. Point blank... wait till she gets a legal clocking on all of her great performances to come this weekend. The nearest competitor is nearly a second behind. Take your pick on who that is.

100m: Is Asia Brown (Sr., Lincoln-Way East) is the next coming of her big sister Aaliyah Brown better known as the "The Franchise?" The answer is no. Even after running 11.86 the answer is she is now a bonafide sprinter on the 3A level. Brittny Ellis (Sr., Gurnee Warren) still has to be the favorite.

400m: Brittny Ellis comes into state with the top sectional mark of 54.87. The emerging Kierra Griggs (Jr., Chicago Bloom Twp.) is on her way but she may be a little star struck this weekend. That's ok because 2016 will be her year. Ashleigh Wilson (Sr., Minooka) is running well now.

200m: Brittny Ellis is back one more time to close out her IHSA career. It would be nice to see a sub 24.00 for the fans.

300H: This race is up for grabs now that Morgan Schulz (Sr., Cary-Grove) and Maya Neal (Sr., Neuqua Valley) are out for the year with injuries. An unknown senior Miya Dorsey from Belleville East has flown under the radar to run the state's fastest classification time of 43.21.


3200m: No Lindsay Graham? No problem. There were nine girls who broke 11:00 led by Judy Pendergast (Jr., Naperville North) has produced a very good 10:34.55. She is the sectional leader as well as the #1 time in Illinois.... will Mimi Smith (Sr., New Trier) stand up one last time before heading off to Wake Forest University? The long time mainstay did not finish the cross country season the way she wanted. The odds say she will perform much better this weekend.

800m: This is perhaps the most intriguing event on the docket. We will have the defending champion Lauren VanVlierbergen (Sr., Jacobs) looking to repeat among some doubters. No one has actually said LVV would lose the two-lapper but rather a budding national figure should be running some blazing times by now. No Illinois school girl has broken 2:10 in over two seasons. This should be a staple for a state that is rich in middle-distance talent. Michaela Hackbarth (Jr., Downers Grove South) may be that girl to go under 2:10. She has Illinois' top time of 2:11.27. How about Emma Moravec (So., Downers Grove North)? She will probably have to double back from the relay again after running 2:12.66. Strong! Renee Letz (Sr., Sandburg) ran a lifetime best 2:13.70 at the same Downers Grove North Sectional as Hackbarth and Moravec and finished third. Wow!

1600m: The "mile" is deep with Kelly O'Brien (Jr., Palatine), LVV, Meagan Biddle (Jr., Hoffman Estates), Torree Scull (Sr., St. Charles East), Ayako Higuchi (Sr., Fremd), Gabby Jaurez (Sr., Streamwood). The list goes on and on. This could be a special weekend for this event. Sometimes kids of such great caliber don't race to their potential because of fear. Hopefully, we can get a rogue runner to set a fast pace and see a sub- 4:50 or two.


4x800: Palatine 9:11.96, Fremd 9:13.62. They are cross town rivals and clearly ahead of the field- the best will be settled in Saturday's final. Naperville North has become more than just a long distance machine. The Lady Huskies have the third place time of 9:20.00. They appear ready to run FAST this weekend. Downers Grove North could strike a viper if they can stay close for their ace Moravec.

4x100: Six teams broke 48.00 in less than optimal weather conditions around the state. There could be a few more go under the strategic mark this weekend. Lincoln-Way is a team that owns this event. The Griffins are the all-time leaders and will be incredibly hard to beat when loaded. Asia Brown's new found top end sprint speed will assure her team no less than second place on a broken transition.

4x200: Dark horse teams usually shine here. Oak Park-River Forest is that team. Norma Abdur-Rafia is the go to anchor. The Huskies could actually win this race. Of course Lincoln-Way East could never be counted out nor should Bloomington be overlooked. Homewood-Floosmoor, O'Fallon, and Chicago McAuley are good squads.

4x400: The defending state champion St. Charles East lost a boat load of talent last year but yet here they are again in the driver's seat. The Saints lead all state entrants at 3:54.06. The showstopper is going to be strong with OPRF, Bloom Twp, and Downers South. Ahh, there is one team missing. Lincoln Way East. They had the top time indoors and produced the top time outside to date. At the sectional round, they left off two regulars and still ran 3:56. There you go.


Long Jump: Briana Driver (Sr., Chicago Mother McAuley) skied 20-1 legal tender in April and has been a consistent 19-footer all season.

Triple Jump: LaJarvia Brown (Jr., Alton)- Last year's state champion was a virtual unknown. This time the 41-foot plus performer will dominate.

Pole Vault: Brooke Catherine (Sr., Normal Community) has been low-key since jumping 13-3 indoors. Don't expect her to give less than her best

High Jump: Alooya Ololade (Jr., Lincoln-Way East) is not only a great sprinter but she has hops. She could also be a state champion;

Shot Put: Courtney Morgan (So., Metea Valley) is ready to defend her title

Discus Throw: Michaela Smith (Jr., Lake Park)- watch for her to win