The 400m was a pivotal moment for the Homewood--Flossmoor track and field team
Charleston IL- What was supposed to be the New England Patriots type of rout on the field started out as the Buffalo Bills. In this case, many pundits were mumbling the "Homewood Bills" because for the third year in a row it appeared as though the favorite was going to fumble away another championship. Two years ago, it was during the 4x100 relay that the Lady Vikings dropped the stick and lost the team title. Last year, the expectations were just as high but a runner-up finish was the destination. After another deja vu moment in the 4x1 that resulted in a disqualification, it was clear to some of us that we were headed for a tragedy.
The bleeding did not stop right away with O points coming out of the long jump pit, junior Kaylah McCall was pre-ticketed to win the 100HH (she got second- 13.92) and place in the top 5 of the 100m (8th-12.16). The hemorrhaging was finally contained when the Lady Vikings stormed to a sizable lead in the 4x200 and won in a state-best time of 1:40.17. There was a report that senior triple jumper Trinity Daniels was possessed. She saved her best jump of her high school career- it was a 40'7.25" bomb that put her in position to not only score major points but pull off a major upset. The state leader sophomore Riley Ammenhauser of Neuqua Valley did what champions do- dropped a winning mark that sailed 40'11.5" and propel her to the title. Ultimately, Homewood-Flossmoor got it together later with junior Ashanti Denton pulling off a major upset in the 400m over "Cinnamon" Dajour Miles of West Aurora 54.45-55.27.
Head Coach Zontavius Johnson and his staff did a wonderful job in keeping their kids focused and when seemed to unravel, they went to work to restore order. The final results were not a 100 point victory like some claimed it would. No, it was a nail-biting 59.5 points for the Vikings, Thornwood tallied 42, and Glenbard West took the bronze trophy with 39 points.
Katelynne Hart makes history scoring a triple, triple crown-
While everyone was focused on Glenbard West super junior Katelynne Hart going after the all-time state meet marks in the 3200m and 1600m, it was not going to happen when she put herself in line to assist her team in the trophy chase. Hart has been selfless all season long, racing sparingly and hard only when it counted. She has saved her best for national level competition when those races come like New Balance Indoor Nationals and the Arcadia Invite. The state meet is about the team when the opportunity is there.
It was interesting to see Hart go and attempt a feat in very warm temperatures and against a group of hostile runners. Hart appeared to go half throttle in her first race of the day, the 3200m. She hit the first mile in under 5:10 and later shut it down with one lap to go to polish things off in 10:24.33. Some thought Hart exerted too much energy, but not really. The 20+ second victory over Brooke Stromsland (So., Lakes) was actually easy money.
The hardest leg of the journey is the 800m. It takes the proper amount of speed and endurance for one to be mention for a first place candidate. Then one needs a bit of luck because the wrong racing strategy can doom you. Hart was masterful against a field of specialists such as Erin Reidy (Jr., Downers Grove South), Olivia Schmitt (Jr., Lakes), and Marne Sullivan (Sr., New Trier). Hart took the pace out and dared anyone to go with her. Sullivan tried but wilted and rightfully so after leading her team to the 4x800 title several hours prior. Schmitt tried closing in on the front straight but it was too late. Hart got the amazing win in 2:13.11.
The final leg was Hart's wheelhouse race- the 1600m. There was no way she could be defeated now. Just get through four laps successfully and history would be in the book. Hart took off from the group like a rocket as the starter's pistol sounded. It was all over after one lap- it seemed like two separate races going on. Hart may have run her slowest championship time, but it was the most monumental one of all-time at the right moment: 4:52.99- no one else broke 5:00.
The best of the rest-
Let us not forget about Jasmine Mitchell (Sr., Thornwood) and her amazing two-peat in the throws. Mitchell dropped a state-best 145-11 when it counted most, in primetime for her team who needed every point for a team trophy. Earlier in the morning, Mitchell won the shot put by three feet over Miranda Cadwell (Sr., Plainfield South) with a solid 47-2.50.
Kayla Walters (Sr., Bolingbrook) got the one thing that alluded her, a state title and respect. If it wasn't for a kid named Kayla McCall, Walters may have had several. But patience is a virtue and she took home the gold medal in a personal best 13.75w.
The long jumpers took advantage of a very favorable wind to notch some big personal bests. Lyn'Nikka Vance (Sr., Crete-Monee) has been waiting for this moment her entire life. The Vance bloodline is track and field and it ends with success at the state meet. Lyn'Nikka's oldest sister, Wanikka Vance, won the 1998 100m and 200m titles.
Grace Daun (Sr., Wauconda) did not soar past six-feet, but she repeated in the pole vault for the second straight year.
Halle Bieber (Sr., Naperville North) won her third straight 300H title in 43.78. Her legacy will be sealed as one of the best in this event.
Taylor Gilling is incomparable and amazing. The Highland Park senior came out of the lab to put on one of the most amazing shows in IHSA sprint history. Despite crazy wind readings that surpassed +4.0, she clocked the fastest ever time in the 100m- 11.32!!! The crowd and of course Gilling was so emotional. She was not done. Gilling smashed the 200m in the same conditions and dropped a US#2 23.10w. It was one of the most amazing times in state history.