2A Girls State Preview: An Imminent Clash Of The Titans

Chicago Southshore ace Jordan Hamb has been battle-tested throughout the 2024 track and field campaign

WATCH LIVE: The IHSA Girls State Championships

Date: May 17-18, 2024

Location: Eastern Illinois University; O'Brien Stadium

Time Schedule: HERE

Normal University and South Shore vy for the Title-

Normal University has held loosely onto the top position in the power rankings with a slight edge over Chicago South Shore International College Prep. The Pioneers' qualifiers to state were plenty, but the bulk of their scoring comes from distance duo Zoe Carter (Jr.) and Natalie Bierbaum (So.) and sprint star Reese Mitchell (Sr.). Carter and Bierbaum have points in mind in the 3200m and 1600m, and Reese Mitchell is a title contender in the 100 and a cornerstone of the contending 4x100 and 4x200 squads. The other relays, high jump, and high hurdles can be other scoring areas for Normal U.

South Shore's attack is led by Jordan Hamb (So.), who has received a lot of help this year from talented teammates. Hamb is the all-conditions state leader in the 100h, running 13.84 with a 5.8m/s wind in March at the prestigious Texas Relays. She will also contest the 200, 4x100 relay, and the Triple Jump, where she and teammate Kylee Gardner (Jr.) are co-state leaders as the only girls over 11.7m (Hamb cleared 40 feet at the Chicago Public League meet). The Tars' relay eggs are in the 4x1 basket, where Hamb and Gardner are joined by emerging teammate Leah Smith (Jr.). Smith will make her status known in the open 400, as her 56.99 may be good enough to win the event. She can also score in the 200. 

The race between these two figures is tight and can come down to the wire as Normal U may have to come up with big points in the 1600 and 4x400 to catch South Shore and offset their 200 points late in the meet. 

However, stranger things have happened than the projected field catching these two teams. Despite losing Keymora Hayes to injury, Cahokia is firmly in the trophy mix. Known powers like East St. Louis, Lincoln, Morton, and Tolono Unity appear on our final top-10 Power Rankings but don't take your eyes off upstart Tinley Park, Southland College Prep, and Galesburg. 

Heitzig walks from 300h Finish line to 1600 Starting Line.

It is not unusual for a basketball and volleyball player to race the hurdles in the spring. However, you've entered unicorn status when that basketball and volleyball player is also the defending state record holder in the 800 and the cross-country state champion. Defying conventional wisdom, Becca Heitzig (Sr., Lincoln) carries an 800, 300 hurdles, 1600, and 4x400 event load. The Iowa State commit dabbled in the hurdles last year at the Junior Olympics but has made it a full-time effort in 2024. Her 46.36 hurdles mark from the conference is 2A #7, and she is the eighth seed at the state meet. 

In a vacuum, Heitzig is the prohibitive favorite in the 800 and 1600. She is a two-time defending champ in the 800 and has a 4:50 1600 season best in a year that no one else in the field has broken 5:00. The all-state medal chase in the 300h makes this task all the tougher, especially considering that she will run in lane 6 of the final 300 hurdles prelim, which is immediately before the 1600. She handled this transition nicely at sectionals, but what will you see on the blue track? Her lightning-fast recovery period on Friday will last from about 12:34 to 12:40 pm.

Olivia Marshall Set to Display Throws Dominance

Despite not being challenged much by competition this season in Western Illinois, Olivia Marshall (Sr., Geneseo) has crushed the rest of the state in the throws leaderboards. As the 2A state leader in the Discus by nearly 12 feet and the all-classes leader in the shot by more than 3 feet, this Maple Leaf may be putting on the best multi-event show in the field events of the whole weekend. Marshall doesn't have a Shot Put mark under 42' this year and has surpassed 45' four times. Her lone loss of the season was a third-place finish at home in the discus, which is her weaker event, but she has an unblemished resume otherwise. 

Carmyn Huston (Sr., Monmouth-Roseville) would be shot put favorite in any other classification, but instead, she has the task of chasing down Marshall. Huston has been pushing 13.00m (42-8) this year and may make that happen on Saturday. 

Kayda Austin Double Title Defense-

Kayda Austin (Sr., Cahokia) was one of the significant names that arose from the 2023 state meet, coming away with titles in the 100 and the 200 in 11.85 and 24.23. Starting with Top Times, Austin has looked to be in good form in her senior season. There is plenty of competition to make the title defense difficult, though. Limestone's Ranaisha Howard-Dunigan (Sr.) had a substantial sectional meet and is the top seed in the 100 and the 200. Galesburg's Syriah Boyd (Sr.) has had a massive breakout season this year across all sprint events and, as a result, carries a heavy event load. Boyd is buried in nonpreferred lanes with slower seed times, but don't ignore her as a legitimate threat to stopping Austin's Title Defense. 

Cross Country Rematch in 3200

Becca Heitzig was the 2A cross-country winner in 2023 but won't be racing the 3200. Instead, the third through fifth-place finishers from an extremely fast front-end race will all battle it out in what promises to be a fast 3200. The field's fastest time outdoors this season is 10:35, which was Sunny Sundara Weber's (So., Sandwich) 3200 split at Distance Night in Palatine. She also owns a 10:31 personal best, which makes her the top returner in the event as last year's runner-up to Tatum David's state meet record run. Weber barely held off Bierbaum in the fall, running 16:40 to Bierbaum's 16:41. Bierbaum and teammate Carter are the other sub-10:50 runners, and with all three profiling as aggressive, hard runners from the gun, this race will be a fascinating battle of attrition with major implications on the team title chase.

2A State Record Title Watch-

Red: None

Yellow: 800, 4x400

Heitzig holds the 800 class record, and is fully capable of running under this time but will have a couple of events soon afterward that may affect her tactics in the 800. East St. Louis and Sacred Heart-Griffin run under 4:00 this year and are set for a fantastic final matchup. Rich South's 3:52.64 record is probably safe for at least another year, but never underestimate how close competition can push a couple of teams in the 4x400.