2A Girls State Recap: #1 Normal University Finishes On Top

Zoe Carter and Natalie Bierbaum did their part in leading their team, Normal University to the team title (Griffin Forberg photo)



Despite being atop the rankings for most of the season, Normal University head coach Randy Anderson appeared nervous throughout the weekend. The Illinois Top Times meet director has coached at the collegiate level and brings extensive experience to the high school realm. "I've watched the rankings throughout the season, and I almost called you to tell you to hide us," he said with a hint of humor and perhaps seriousness.

The Pioneers scored a whopping 63.5 points. Chicago South Shore International Prep scored 46, and Tinley Park edged Cahokia by a point with 36.

A record-breaking 4x800 relay opens the finals-

In Friday's prelim round, Erin Hinsdale (Fr., Wheaton St. Francis) smiled after qualifying in the 800m. "I'm having so much fun with my teammates and happy to be here," she said. The 4x800 final was one of the surprise highlights of the day as Hinsdale and her mates put together an incredible four legs; the bosstress popped off a 2:15.15 split that took down the previous record and established a new one in 9:12.80.

Fast sprints were plentiful-

The state's top 100H hurdler all season was Jordan Hamb (So., Chicago South Shore International). She was undefeated when she came in and won the prestigious Texas Relays title among her feats. She had been the only one to break 14 seconds (all conditions). Despite a favorable wind of +0.8, Hamb could only run 14.27, but she earned her first state title. Jamison Love (Jr., Mascoutah) took second in 14.54.

Kayda Austin (Sr., Cahokia) was the defending 100 and 200-meter champion. She knew she had her work cut out for herself after some strong performances by her competitors. One such competitor was Ranaisha Howard-Dunigan (Sr., Limestone), who produced the fastest prelim 100 (11.84) and second fastest 200 (24.47) and was ready for Saturday's showdown. Austin immediately proved that she was the queen of the short dash, tearing up the track in 11.69. It's the third-fastest time in the state. Austin churned out the best sprint performance in 2A, the 200 in 23.72 (IL#2).

The 400 will be as strong next year as six of the top nine placers were juniors or younger. Madalyn Marx (So., Mahomet-Seymour) had been relatively quiet since the indoor season. After cruising in her prelim win, it was assumed that a victory would be imminent for Marx. As the final got underway, it was a fierce battle between Leah Smith (Jr., Chicago South Shore) and Syriah Boyd (Sr., Galesburg). Marx was not even in the conversation. On the home stretch, Boyd faded, and Smith moved into the pole position, but hold on! With less than 50 meters remaining, Marx streaked into the frame and, with a final attempt, lunged forward at the finish line and snatched the victory from the jaws of defeat 56.11-56.18.

Perhaps we will see a dominant force in the 300H in 2025, but for now, it's the emerging Gabby Graham (Jr., Tinley Park) asserting herself) in various events. After leading her team to a runner-up finish in the 4x100 relay, she took third in the 100H (14.58), but her dominant performance in the final race turned heads. Graham churned the fourth fastest merged time of the day, yet a victory in 43.56.

The East side swept the sprint relays-

No program has been more dominant in relays than E. St. Louis Lincoln and E. St. Louis Senior at the IHSA State Championship. Since the programs' consolidation in 1996, ESL Senior has kept the tradition going. So it's no surprise to see the Flyerettes in front of their competition whenever the opportunity presents itself.

The first event of the day for ESL was the 4x100 in 47.76, the fastest time in the classification and a mark that missed the school's top 10 list.

The 4x200 would be next, and the outcome would be just as potent for the Flyerettes. They dominated their rival Cahokia by over two seconds in 1:40.23. It was also the seventh fastest time in a merge.

The Flyerettes would one more time be in the driver's seat; this one was the 4x400 relay. The program who owns the all time record (3:45.9), cruised home to a win in 3:52.97- IL#2.

Olivia Marshall dominated the field events arena-

The state's top thrower did not shy away from her excellent year in the shot put and discus throw. Soon to be Indiana State University Sycamore, Olivia Marshall (Sr., Geneseo) won the SP with another effort over 42 feet, tossing a 43'4.25" on the second throw of the second day. It was nearly three feet better than her nearest competitor. 

The discus throw was an event that Marshall wanted to improve on, and she did. She was the classification leader coming into the state meet, and without question, she dominated the competition by over 13 feet, tossing the plate 139'5."