After five days of action-packed track events, Saturday had big shoes to fill as the final day of competition at the Illinois Meet of Champions, and it did not disappoint. Saturday was exclusively dedicated to racing the mile, featuring three sections each for both girls and boys.
Drizzling and windy, ten girls lined up to form the championship section of the mile. The race posed two questions: who will come out on top of the Ava Parekh (Chicago Latin) vs. Josephine Welin (Oak Park-River Forest) dual? And how many athletes will run sub-5:00? Parekh took out the race fast and stuck with pacer recent Downers Grove South graduate Erin Reidy through a 2:24 halfway split, perfectly on pace for her sub-4:50 goal time. Through the finish, Parekh crossed in a speedy 4:51.56, just a half-second off of her all-time PR. Welin came through in second place, running a new PR of 4:55.33. The third through fifth-place finishers all ran within .3 seconds of each other: Newcomer Allison Ince of Normal IL, 5:00.53, Annie Christie of Carmel IN, 5:00.81, and Lianna Surtz of Aurora Rosary, 5:00.83. Ince is only the third Illinois girl to run a sub-5:00 1600m before high school -- her converted 1600m time is 4:58.79 -- behind Katelynne Hart and Tatum David. Look out for the incoming Normal Community freshman this fall.
The boys again faced rainy and windy conditions, but with a cool temperature prime for racing. All eyes were on rising junior Izaiah Steury from Angola Indiana, who won the 3200m three days prior. Steury wasted no time leading the pack and clung to pacer Clayton Mendez, formerly of Chicago Whitney Young fame through the 2:06 half-mile. The second half of the race, it was all Steury, and he finished first in 4:14.72. Xavier Jemison of Virginia came in second, running 4:17.10, followed by Illinois cross country star Drew Rogers of Herscher in 4:17.68. All three of these times were PRs for the group of incoming juniors, and indicate a successful 2020 cross country season.
Overall, the Illinois Meet of Champions was just the event track fanatics needed to bring a satisfying close to an abnormal season. Every athlete who competed showed grit and determination for improvement in their sport.