Rebecca Waite and Milledgeville had a very solid day during Thursday's preliminary
There is no state championship like the Illinois prologue. It may be the only state meet that has a high stakes preliminary round built on top of the main frame. The smallest classification in the state has a distinct advantage of starting their march toward greatness on Thursday and having an open day of rest before the final on Saturday. Regardless of the circumstances, it makes for great track and field chatter.
It was an all-around solid day filled with interesting storylines. Top individuals stood out the most on the big stage. Rebecca Waite (Milledgeville), Daelin Switzer (Decatur St. Teresa), and Kenli Nettles (Arthur) stood tall and above the rest for their teams. Waite and Switzer were among many that easily qualified for the high jump final by leaping just 5-1. But it was Switzer showed off her all-around skills with some dazzling performances on the track. Switzer won her heats in the 100H (15.24), 300H (44.93), and 200 (25.76). Waite qualified in the 400 (59.75), 200 (26.23), and 4x100 (50.17). Nettles did her thing too in the TJ (34-9.25), 100H (15.08), and 300H (45.70).
Senior Arielle Summitt of Urbana University used a bit of the four years of experience to good use in two events. The two-time defending state champion ran a season-best 2:14.65 in the 800. How she did it was an understatement. Summitt was battling a talented freshman Marianne Mihas of Chicago Latin with 200 to go when the overly ambitious youngster tried to pass on the inside. Summitt used a veteran move and closed off the inside lane forcing Mihas to hit the track rail and tumble. By the time she recovered the chance of qualifying was over. The 1600 was a sit and kick race that Summitt did not mind. She opened up her stride on the final lap and won in an easy 5:14.32.
A smiling Kiara Pauli laughs her way to four event finals
The public sentiment was that Dunlap was the team to beat. Actually, the Eagles are the team to watch. The Peoria area squad has an opportunity to etch themselves among some of the all-time great teams in IHSA state championship history. Led by star junior Kiara Pauli, it was fast marks and serious business on qualifying day. Pauli anchored the 4x1, 4x2 and advanced in the 100 and 200. The 4x8, 4x4, several field events, and distance runners locked down the track. Don't be surprised if this team scores over 150 points on Saturday. Dunlap has qualified for the finals in all four relays- three of them are chart toppers especially the 4x2 in a state heater 1:39.92.
The anticipated long jump competition was sort of like a dud. Alexandria Anderson's (Chicago Morgan Park) all-time long jump record did not get touched. The so-called greatest invention in the world failed. The new laser measuring device DID NOT function properly for superstar Imani Carothers (Chicago Brooks) and Erika Furbeck (Geneseo) in the long jump. Apparently, one of the recording devices overheated and could not read the athlete's distances. Furbeck still leaped a legal wind 19-11.25. Carothers sits in second but focused elsewhere on the track. The 100H, in particular, was a good statement burning the track in 13.75. Carothers returned less than five minutes to qualify in the 100m. To top off the morning she leaped 40-0.75.
Newcomer Jessica Franklin of Mahomet-Seymour has never run track and field before. The unsigned senior was previously homeschooled and then dabbled around with different sports. Now she is the state leader in the 300H. Franklin does not use blocks because she had only been running for six weeks but 43.55 sounds really nice heading into the final.
Enyaeva Michelin put on a mini-clinic for her team and the fans
When it comes to the biggest classification of track and field, the athletes never fail to impress. The relays was a great table setter for those in attendance. 4x8 list leader Hinsdale Central was one of four teams under 9:20 running 9:16.11. The Devilettes did not run top performer Reilly Revord. The senior will most definitely be on the final squad on Saturday. Upstart Downers Grove South ran 9:12 this season and they will be a team looking to prevent Hinsdale Central from winning their second title in three seasons.
Homewood-Flossmoor qualified three relays to the finals. The most impressive performance was the 4x1 that blazed the competition with a state-leading 46.79. Head Coach Zontavious Johnson stated prior to the race: "if these girls get a clean exchange at 2/3 we are going to break 47." The exchange was flawless and go the spoils.
Ameia Wilson of Danville is the workhorse of track and field. She spent the afternoon going from one place to the next. When she was attempting to get her long jumps in amid the laser measuring issue, the heats of the 100 was going on. Wilson admitted that a meet official assisted her in getting over to the track in time. She paid it forward by winning her heats in the 100 and 200. Rival Amira Young of Whitney Young has the fastest time in 11.80.
A big sigh of relief coming in was Dajour Miles. The West Aurora junior was dealing with an ailing hamstring that she slightly hurt at sectionals. After divine intervention followed by therapy, it was time to test it out. Miles scrapped the 100 and 4x1 to stay mentally and physically in tune with the 400. Cinnamon got through the first 200 fine and put away the field with a chart-topping 54.75.
The future of the triple jumper could be Neuqua Valley freshman Riley Ammenhauser. Out of nowhere, she leaped 40-6 during the sectional round. This is the best that a first-year runner has done in the United States. To prove that the mark was not a fluke, Ammenhauser showed the veterans that she is here to stay with a list leading 40-0.25. It is highly doubtful that she will be topped in this affair.
The 1600 title bout between the titans Katelynne Hart (Glenbard West) and Enyaeva Michelin (Evanston) is coming very soon. Michelin used the 800 as a warm up when she quickly ditched her peers with an opening 64-second first lap. The winning time of 2:11.33 may be good enough to take home the cake on Saturday if she duplicates the feat. Don't count on Michelin to play it safe in the final. She did not relax as much as her coaches may have liked when got into a minor clash with Naperville North senior Sarah Schmitt. They would go step for step through three laps until Michelin turn on the turbo booster and pulled away in 4:50.46. Michelin put the icing on her day with a 57.7 anchor in the 4x4 to advance her team to the final.