Class 3A Illinois Top Times Recap: only the strong survives



If you entered the Shirk Center around 1pm on Saturday, you could cut the competitive tension with a knife. It's because the 3A crowd blends with the 2A competition that's past its peak in terms of the schedule. No are or were no physical altercations to speak up, but rather the notion that the best and most thorough action is about to take place.


The action on the track kicked off with the prelims of the 60H and Inara Ukawuba (So., Naperville Neuqua Valley) led the qualifiers in 9.03. She would return later in the final and cruise to victory in a personal best IL#4 8.96. 

Enter the hype of Katelyn Lehnen who starred on the junior high circuit. Many pundits predicted that she would make an immediate impact as a true freshman. And they were right. Coming from Chatham-Glenwood HS, Lenhen won her 60m prelim in 7.69. It was the top mark and it eased her nerves (if there were any present).

How would the final shakeout with Rachel Robinson (Sr., Chicago Whitney Young) and Lindsey Miller (Sr., Chicago Simeon) lurking? It was a fast dash down the middle of the track with Lehnen holding a tight lead over Robinson and Miller. The scoreboard flashed Lehnen 7.62, Robinson 7.65, Miller 7.68. The diminutive Lehnen was elated and full of smiles. It appears that a new era of big-time sprinting has arrived. Oh yeah, she popped off the second-fastest time to end the indoor season.

It was Prospect's time to enter the track. The state's top middle-distance program had already dropped the #1 4x800 relay earlier in the season. The Knights would still be the favorite despite pulling out one of its top runners Audrey Ginsberg (Sr.) who was slated to run the 1600m. In her place would be Bridget Derengowski (So). The newcomer was set up in the third spot with 2:19.8 and 2:20.1 legs. Derengowski was about to hold on to the seven-second lead for Lily Ginsberg (So) who put things away with a 2:16 closer and 9:22.37 overall.

Bella Domier (So., Grayslake Central) and Catie McCabe (Jr., Hinsdale Central) fought hard from the second quarter-mile but it was Domier who edged ahead for the win in 2:16.21-2:16.47.

Alexandria Edison (Sr., Homewood-Flossmoor) came into the championship on a hot streak in terms of the 400m. Edison was staked to an early lead through the first 200 in 26.97. Rylee Lydon (Jr., Prairie Ridge) won the high jump earlier was on the track for the first time. But it was Edison who held on for the win 57.56-57.64.

Not many people pegged Caroline Schoen (Jr., Homewood-Flossmoor) in their pool to win the 1600m. The standout distance runner had been in the lab training much of the winter while some of the other heavyweights were making headlines. Brooke Johnston (Jr., Lake Zurich) herself was off the grid for a big portion of the indoor season. 

Evanston won both sprint relays. The first one was the 4x200 in 1:44.36. The Wildkits held off a late charge by Whitney Young who placed second in 1:44.82. The Wildkits closed the door in the 4x400 by becoming the first time under 4:00 at 3:56.32.

The Johnson sisters did something never achieved in our sport. They are the first siblings to leap over 40-feet in the triple jump. They did it in the same meet which is incredible and amazing! Dominique Johnson (Fr) and big sister Alex Johnson (Jr) went 1-2 leaping 40-9.25 and 40-7 respectively. Dominique connected on her first attempted and deferred the rest of the meet. Alex took four of six attempts- three of them over 40-feet. Dominique is the top freshman triple jumper in the country and #10 overall. Her sister rates #15 in the country... Alex won the long jump later with 19-4.25.

Recent performer of the week Tessani Foster (Sr., Plainfield Central) came as the state leader in the pole vault. She did not have her best day but was able to grind out a win despite sharing 12-1.50 mark with Jaiden Knoop (So., Lincoln-Way East). Foster won on fewer misses.


The workhorse Jalen Johnson (Sr., Aurora Metea Valley) started his journey with the 60H prelims. He copped the second-fastest time in 8.32 behind Gabe Czako (Sr., Lockport) who ran a state-best 8.14. Johnson quickly walked back to the starting line to prepare for the 60m. He ran the fastest prelim in 6.98 which set him up to have a great day.

The 60H final went to Czako in 8.10- dropping to another state-leading time and proving he is the guy to beat in May in the 110HH. Johnson was no slouch though, producing the second-fastest mark in 8.12. 

In the 60m final, it was Johnson who admonished the field with a PB 6.93- the fifth-fastest time in the state to close out the indoor campaign and possibly putting a few people who were absent on notice.

In Johnson's final event, he won the 200m with the second-fastest time in the state (22.29). Again, Johnson is a workhorse who did not compete in the 400m in which he is one of the best in the state.

Four teams battled in the 4x800 for the title with Oswego, Deerfield, Downers Grove South, and Plainfield North. Oswego shifted from sixth to first in 8:03.28 on the final exchange. Anchor Balin Doud (Sr) clocked 1:56.29 for the victors.

Just one on the season for Brett Wasick (Sr., Bolingbrook) in the 800m. He is getting better as the season rolls along. The confidence will grow outside at faster paces. In this one, Wasick managed the 1:56.21 victory off of a very tactical 59.7 opening first half.

Plainfield North's 4x200 only trailed after the first leg en route to a big win in 1:31.65- good for IL#6.

Konrad Sacha (Sr., South Elgin) said he wants to break into the 48-second range this season. His 50.32 win could have been under 50-seconds if not for the premature celebration.

The 3A 1600m version looked like the Big 10 Indoor Championship because the pace was so sluggish. Tim Neumann (Sr., Downers Grove South) controlled things to his liking with 65, 2:13, 3:17 checkpoints. Ryan Watts (Sr., Edwardsville) took over on the penultimate lap and roared home in 4:19.02.

The final race of the day was a good one. Plainfield North got out well and controlled the tempo by leading at each exchange. However, it was just 100m to that Kenwood anchor Landan Gillespie (Jr) that made the final push to reel in the 'Cats Kwame Amoo-Otoo (So). It would be nor not as the Tigers held on for the win 3:29.57-3:29.71.

The state-leading pole vaulter Charles Cruse (Sr., Normal Community) entered 14-4.25 and cleared on his first attempt. Tim Gale (Sr., Schaumburg) put up a good fight but bowed out after clearing 15-1. Cruse on the other hand vaulted a new PB 16-1.

The state's top two shot putters Kyle Clabough (Sr., Yorkville) and Alex Sohn (Jr., Normal Community) got together and had a good duel. Clabough led every round and although he did not reach the 65-foot mark, he won with a solid 61-1.6.75. Sohn threw 59-7.75.