Illinois Class 3A 2012 Girls Track & Field Preview

There are few things in life that are better than vintage aged cheese or certified Grade A steak… except maybe a smorgasbord of track and field for the weekend enthusiast. Last year’s awesome state championship was a nail-biter that literally came down to the final event for several teams vying for one of the three trophies.

The expectations for this season will more than likely follow the same cue as before: a) get through the prelims healthy and sound; b) ride on the back of the hot runner (s); and 3) watch and nail bite through all 18 events- all the way through the 4x400m relay.

Over the past decade or so, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) has made some very sweeping changes with its sports; track & field has been hit noticeably hard with the initial proclamation of the multiplier system assessed to Catholic and private schools. The aftermath also resulted in the sport’s advisory committee to approve the move to three classes in 2009. The initial reactions were mixed- some good delight to the 2A schools and no so for the 3A patrons. If that wasn’t enough the IHSA has added another wrinkle the enrollment mix. It’s somewhat confusing as to how it’s determined who gets moved up in class or moved down… but here is a list of changes:

New 3A (no particular order): Aurora (Metea Valley), Bensonville (Fenton), Belvidere North, Bloomington, Calumet City (T.F. North), Chicago Lake View, Chicago Mather, Chicago Morgan Park, Chicago Payton, Chicago Calumet Perspectives, Crystal Lake Central, E. Moline United, Grayslake North, Lemont, Normal West, Olympia Fields (Rich Central), Peoria Richwoods, Rock Island, Springfield, Yorkville.

-Dream rivalry: Aaliyah Brown vs. Morolake Akinosun-

Aaliyah Brown (Frankfort Lincoln-Way East)-

55m- 6.95 US#9

60m- 7.42 US#9

100m- 11.44 US#6

200m- 23.72 US#12

400m- 55.17

Morolake Akinosun (Aurora Waubonsie Valley)-

55m- 6.90 US#5

100m- 11.42 US#5

200m- 23.44 US#6

400m- 57.44

Throughout the history of Illinois girls sprinting lore, there have been some great sprinters setting the course of history: Alexandria Anderson (Chicago Morgan Park), Shalina Clarke (Evanston), Adia McKinnon (Homewood-Flossmoor), Ronecia Nash (E. St. Louis Sr.), Shakedia Jones (Waukegan), and Dora Spearman (Blue Island Eisenhower).

But rarely has there been a rivalry. Anderson vs. Clarke was all Anderson; Nash soundly defeated everyone in her sight with ease. Jones and McKinnon were untouched in their prime.

Now, one striving to reach or obtain something that only one can possess is the correct definition of a rivalry that fits Brown and Akinosun. These two titanic powers are as big as anything in track and field in the state of Illinois- boys or girls- in terms of one-on-one competitiveness.

Brown has become her team’s franchise athlete by earning three state event titles in leading the Griffins to a second place finish in 2011. In that same short time, Brown has victimized Akinosun on Illinois’ biggest stage- The IHSA State Championship. Brown has never lost to Akinosun in head to head competition outdoors.

Akinosun has become a dominant force in her own right. The University of Illinois signee became the indoor dash queen when she turned back Brown- twice- at the Illinois Prep Top Times Indoor Classic. Both athletes were believed to be at the top of their games then.

Brown and Akinosun put up great outdoor marks but they were not against each other. When Brown was blitzing the state competition, Akinosun went down with an lower leg injury during the early part of the season that kept her full acceleration at bay throughout the state series.

Brown had her share of injuries too. At the time of the Caribbean Scholastic Championship in early June, the then sophomore standout was on top of her game and ready to make a run at the all 100m mark held by Anderson. It wasn’t to be as Brown went down with a severe hamstring that ended her season. Meanwhile, Akinosun was 100% healthy and back in business; she went out and had one of the best summer competitions by a girl stateside- two AAU titles in the 100 and 200 sealed the deal on a rivalry if from afar.

What does the future hold? If both athletes can stay healthy throughout the season, we all may very well see some of the best performances in the history of sprinting among two rivals. Stay tuned 2012.

-2011 Top 10 teams at a glance-

1) E. St. Louis Sr. 46; 2) Frankfort Lincoln-Way East 37; 3) Hoffman Estates 36; 4) Homewood-Flossmoor; 5) Downers Grove South 32; 6) Glen Ellyn Glenbard West 31; 7) Edwardsville 30; 8) Evanston 28; 9) Palatine 23; 10) Belleville West 22.5.

Quick recap: The Flyerettes won their 15th state championship in surprising but rather easy fashion. Legendary coach Nino Fennoy didn’t have a 4x4r but it didn’t matter because his ponies scored big points in the field, short relays, and hurdles. Lincoln-Way East rode the services of a legend in the making sophomore Aaliyah Brown all the way to the penultimate podium trophy step. Brown showed no signs of a sophomore jinx by winning three events and scoring second in another: 100, 200, 4x1r, 4x4r. Evanston was the pre-meet favorite but the Wildkits had several mishaps including a fatal disqualification by Margaret Bamgbose in 300H. The door was now opened for teams like Hoffman Estates and Downers Grove South to march toward earning one of the three team plaques…

Top team previews-

1. E. St. Louis Sr.

Head coach: Nino Fennoy

2011 state final finish: won their record 15th State Championship

Key returners: Rheyana Branch (Sr.), Brandy Griffin (Sr.), Alexis Handy (So.), Joymesia Howard (Sr.), Dynesha Powell (So.), Markita Rush (Jr.), Daria Walker (So.)

Key events: 100, 200, 400, 100H, 300H, 4x1r, 4x2r, 4x4r, DT, SP, HJ

Season outlook: Griffin, Howard, and Rush will lead the team but they are complete athletes and will bring their respective individual talents to the forefront. The key for the Flyerettes in defending their state title will be to have consistent and steady performances in the same events that produce many lucrative results in 2011.

2. Frankfort Lincoln-Way East

Head coach: Caroline Gerritsen

2011 state final finish: 2nd

Key returners: Aaliyah Brown (Jr.), Meghan Marias (So.), Nicole Nepote (Sr.), Dana O’Grady (So.), Maria Perozzi (Sr.).

Key events: 100, 200, 400, 800, 4x1, 4x2, 4x4, PV, HJ

Outlook: if there is any team capable of dethroning the vaulted E. St. Louis Sr. machine it will be Brown. She is the defending state champion in the 100, 200, and 4x2r and will be at least a co-favorite in the short dashes. But there is a solid supporting cast in which to draw from. Nepote will be improved in the middle-distance area and a strong candidate to score a lot of points throughout the season- especially in the 800. Coach Gerritsen will welcome freshman Julia Junkroski to aid in the field event arena. Junkroski has a personal best of 10-0 in the pole vault and 5-0 in the high jump.

3. Chicago Morgan Park-

‘11 State final finish: 2nd – 2A

Head coach: Derrick Calhoun

Key returners: Nyasia Bolden (Sr.), Elexis Fairley (Jr.), Regine Hoover (So.), Ashley Johnson (Sr.), Olivia Price (So.)

Key events: 100, 200, 400, 100H, 300H, 4x1r, 4x2r, 4x4r

Outlook: Derrick Calhoun is one of the coolest and great tactical coaches that Illinois has ever seen. He will once again have a team in position to threaten for a state championship. To get it done, sprint ace Elexis Fairley is going to have to lead in the individual events. Fairly has won medals each year and that trend should continue; she clocked 12.00 and 24.73 in last year’s 2A final. Bolden is another name to watch for as a strong conduit in the three relays. Johnson was third in last year’s 100H; she will be much improved in the 300H this season in an attempt to earn state points.

4. Evanston-

Head coach: Fennie Gunter

’11 State final finish: 8th

Key returners: Margaret Bamgbose (Sr.), Parker English (So.), Jahnell Horton (Sr.)

Key events: 100H, 300H, 400, 800, 4x1r, 4x2r, 4x4r, LJ

Outlook: the Wildkits graduated several major parts necessary to win a state championship. However, it doesn’t mean that the team isn’t capable of redeeming themselves after falling short last year. Bamgbose will return as the state’s premier hurdler. She lost several golden opportunities to score state points by not contesting the 100H in the prelims. But it was in her specialty- the 300H- that disaster struck hard. Bamgbose had been undefeated and going for her first state title. She ran a state leading 43.00 in her preliminary heat. The final result was not to be as she hit the first hurdle and crashed to the ground. The team’s trophy hope was dashed at that point. But the team didn’t fold their tent and go home- after all of the bad fortunately there was sunshine at the end of the rain. Bamgbose lead off the 4x4 relay and the rest is history as the team won in fine fashion. Horton also endured happiness after a tough weekend by running well on that relay. She had the misfortune of being on anchor of the 4x1 and then 10th place in the 800. Everything should be fine when May arrives.

Other key teams to watch for: Belleville West, Belleville East, Edwardsville.

Event-by Event Breakdown-

Sprints: the fans are going to have a wonderful time watching top notch competition statewide…


All-time best: 11.41; Alexandria Anderson (Chicago Morgan Park)-IHSA 2A Final, 2005

State meet record: 11.41; Anderson- 2005

Top returners:

11.42 Morolake Akinosun (Sr.) Aurora (Waubonsie Valley)

11.44 Aaliyah Brown (Jr.) Frankfort (Lincoln-Way East)

11.69 Emily D’Amico (Sr.) Hoffman Estates

11.82 Cessily Jones (Sr.) Plainfield North

11.89 Cerise Porter (Sr.) Villa Park (Willowbrook)

11.94 Savannah Carson (Jr.) Naperville (Neuqua Valley)

12.00 Elexis Fairley (Jr.) Chicago Morgan Park

12.08 Mystic Thompson (So.) Rock Island

12.09 Kimberly Azie (Sr.) Bolingbrook

Outlook: not even the most archived history buff would argue against this being the fastest and deepest Century field assembled on paper. In fact, there are few states even capable of boasting more than few sub-11.00 marks- Class 3A had six. Of course, Brown and Akinosun will duel all season- indoors and outdoors- for sprint queen supremacy. Be sure to keep an eye on D’Amico. She hails from the distance rich Mid-Suburban League and will be looking to be among the top of the sprint crop. Names like Jones, Porter, and Carson will be there to add depth. Fairley and Thompson move up from the 2A ranks where they earned all-state honors. One final name to watch for is incoming freshman Brittny Ellis from Gurnee Warren. She has been bubbling on the youth circuit as far back as the 7th grade. She came to the forefront this summer in Orlando, FL at the ESPN Games when she won all three sprint titles.


All-time best: 52.63; Alexandria Anderson (Chicago Morgan Park)- IHSA 2A Final, 2005

State Meet record: 52.63; Anderson- 2005

Top returners:

54.89 Cameron Pettigrew (Jr.) Chicago Walter Payton

56.25 Jovanni Spears (Sr.) Chicago Calumet Perspectives

56.50 Brenna Detra (Jr.) Peoria Richwoods

56.71 Julia Dambra (Sr.) LaGrange (Lyons Township)

57.22 Jessica Oranika (Sr.) Belleville East

57.39 Brittany Williams (Jr.) St. Charles North

57.44 Morolake Akinosun (Sr.) Aurora (Waubonsie Valley)

57.57 Nyasia Bolden (Sr.) Chicago Morgan Park

Outlook: graduation losses will hurt this event depth-wise as 4 of the top 9 have graduated. The supposed heir apparent Megan Paul (Mundelein Carmel Catholic) has dropped down to Class 2A. However, two Chicago Public League competitors in Pettigrew and Spears move up from 2A. Both of these young ladies had tremendous seasons on the summer circuit clocking major times and medals. Detra will have to choose the flat event or the hurdles- she can’t do both. And there is Aaliyah Brown and Akinosun lurking somewhere in the woods. Brown clocked a swift 55.17 in 2010. Akinosun has run 55.xx on a relay leg. They will more than likely run this for strength purposes and not taken very seriously unless on a relay.


All-time best: 22.96; Alexandria Anderson (Chicago Morgan Park)- Jr. Nats; Carson CA, 2005

State Meet record: 23.32; Anderson- 2005

Top returners:

23.44 Morolake Akinosun (Sr.) Aurora (Waubonsie Valley)

24.00 Aaliyah Brown (Jr.) Frankfort (Lincoln-Way East)

24.08 Cherise Porter (Sr.) Villa Park (Willowbrook)

24.25 Savannah Carson (Jr.) Naperville (Neuqua Valley)

24.26 Cessily Jones (Sr.) Plainfield North

24.61 Emily D’Amico (Sr.) Hoffman Estates

24.73 Elexis Fairley (Jr.) Chicago Morgan Park

24.77 Aniecia Brewster (Jr.) Belleville East

24.95 Brandy Griffin (Sr.) E. St. Louis Sr.

24.99 Mystique Thompson (So.) Rock Island

25.00 Kimberly Azie (Sr.) Bolingbrook

Outlook: once again this could be a pick ‘em between Akinosun and Brown. They split their four meetings last season and that could happen again. But the deep field is more than two girls. Porter showed off some tremendous speed in the Jr. Olympic Nationals in Kansas running 24.08- barely over the legal +2.0 wind reading (+2.3). The point is that another sub-24 sprinter is in the cards. Jones is a disciple of Brown and this is clearly her best event. After regaining her strength after a tough rehab in fall ’10, it was all business on the track. That trend will continue through 2012. Alexis Hyshaw of Naperville North is a name that is known very well among the club circuit folks because of the blazing marks that she has put up. She has yet to put up any high school season marks due to injuries. Hopefully, the bug can stay away and Hyshaw can give her high school fans something great to look forward to.


All-time best: 13.32w/13.51; Shalina Clarke (Evanston)- Jr. Nats & Jr. Olympics, 2006

State Meet record: 13.54; Dawn Harper (E. St. Louis Sr.), 2001

Top returners:

14.47 Joymesia Howard (Sr.) E. St. Louis Sr.

14.51 Ladonna Caston (Sr.) Harvey (Thornton)

14.55 Riley Vann (Sr.) Oswego

14.55 Jessica McCaskill (Sr.) Belleville West

14.58 Claudette Day (So.) Belleville West

14.83 Brenna Detra (Jr.) Peoria Richwoods

14.89 Kristen Dowell (So.) Edwardsville

15.01 Imani Haynes (Jr.) Chicago Heights (Marian Catholic)

15.02 Ashley Johnson (Sr.) Chicago Morgan Park

15.05 Emma Spagnola (So.) West Aurora

Outlook: not as talented as the open event cousin the 100m, the short barrier dash is going to be extremely deep with 7 of 9 state finalists returning and will have as many as a half-dozen girls with a legitimate chance to win the state crown. Howard finished 6th in last year’s state final but she has the best returning mark. She could have placed higher if not for extreme multi-events. It was noted that she sprinted from the high jump pit to the start of her hurdle race. This obviously had a tremendous effect on optimal performance. It doesn’t plan to change anytime soon for the Flyerette. State runner-up Vann will look to move up one spot on the podium and become the champion. McCaskill and Day will be fighting to earn points for their team in the pursuit of a team championship race.


All-time best: 40.24+; Shalina Clarke (Evanston)- Palatine Sectional, 2005

State Meet record: 40.61; Clarke, 2005

Top returners:

42.40 Markita Rush (Jr.) E. St. Louis Sr.

42.73 Margaret Bamgbose (Sr.) Evanston

43.10 Brenna Detra (Jr.) Peoria Richwoods

45.25 Claudette Day (So.) Belleville West

45.43 Ladonna Caston (Sr.) Harvey (Thornton)

45.99 Melissa Madden (Sr.) Barrington

46.02 Ashley Johnson (Sr.) Chicago Morgan Park

46.15 Emma Spagnola (So.) West Aurora

46.19 Annie Martines (Sr.) St. Charles North

Outlook: the return numbers are as lean as it had been in a long time with 46.20 comfortably reaching the top 10. But there is good news though. The defending champ Markita Rush is back as is the top ranked Margaret Bamgbose- who will be out to avenge a Did Not Finish in the state final after crashing violently to the track over hurdle #1. 2A champion Brenna Detra moves up into the mix and should push the mid 42-second range.

Distance: the banter from the cross country season should translate well over to the track side with many girls setting big personal bests in 3-miles.


All-time best: 9:56.96; Kayla Beattie (Woodstock)- IHSA 2A State Final, 2011

State Meet record: 10:17.28; Maria Cicero (Elmhurst York)- 2001

Top returners:

10:40.82i Jill Hardies (Jr.) Hinsdale Central

10:45.51 Ariel Michalek (Sr.) Oswego East

10:46.51i Kaylee Flanagan (Jr.) Roselle (Lake Park)

10:47.58 Jessica Ackerman (Jr.) Winnetka (New Trier)

10:49.54 Haley Goers (Sr.) Hoffman Estates

11:00.60 Emma Fisher (Jr.) Elmhurst (York)

11:00.75 Kelsey Hjorth (Jr.) Oswego

11:01.53i Mallory Abel (Sr.) St. Charles North

11:02.79 Megan O’Brien (Sr.) Lockport

11:03.08 Mikayla Kightlinger (Jr.) Wheaton-Warrenville South

Outlook: the adjoining cross country season usually is an indicator as to how well the distance darlings will perform in track. The fall campaign was a venomous one in terms of performances and no one had a stronger run than Naperville Central ace senior Amanda Fox- who didn’t make the returning 10 marks! It doesn’t matter because she is the best long distance runner and a wonderful post-season run obviously built up her confidence. One would guess that earning All-American honors at the Nike Cross Nationals would do that. Jill Hardies will be returning the mix with a strong spirit after enduring a process of getting healthy after injuries have taken their toll over the past track and field season. Courtney Ackerman (Jr.) Winnetka New Trier should be back in the saddle after missing the entire ’11 outdoor season with a leg injury. Her twin sister will be right next to her every step of the way. Don’t forget about the defending state champion and most consistent one over the past season in Michalek. She used a tactical race in holding off a furiously finishing Jessica Ackerman to win her first state track title. Brooke Wolfe (Prospect) has a personal best of 10:46 from 2010, but she was also sidelined for the entire outdoor campaign because of injuries. Flanagan produced a great indoor season last year in nabbing 2nd place in the IPTT. But the times didn’t drop outdoors despite finishing 5th in the state meet. Megan Lemersal (Park Ridge Maine South) could emerge as a top individual and produce some big times. She dabbled with the 800 and 1600 during the track seasons. Other names to keep an eye on: Hjorth, Fisher, and Goers. She is one of the best runners to ever come out the mighty MSL.


All-time best: 2:07.39+; Shelly McBride (Crete-Monee)- IHSA 2A State Final, 1984

State meet record: 2:07.39+; McBride- 1984

Top returners:

2:11.08 Lindsey Rakosnik (Sr.) Lombard (Glenbard East)

2:12.90 Jahnell Horton (Sr.) Evanston

2:12.97 Courtney Clayton (Jr.) Rockton Hononegah

2:13.59 Michelle Frigo (Sr.) Elmhurst (York)

2:14.58 McKenna Kiple (Jr.) Wheaton-Warrenville South

2:15.15 Rebecca Stearns (Sr.) Downers Grove South

2:16.14 Kim Seger (Jr.) Belvidere North

2:16.36 Shianne Baggett (Jr.) Chicago Whitney Young

2:16.68 Hope Schmelzle (Jr.) Wheaton-Warrenville South

Outlook: the last time an Illinois big class girl broke 2:10 was in 2008 when Bloomington’s star middle-distance runner Ashley Verplank accomplished the feat. This season there could be three. Whether or not Lindsey Rakosnik or Horton put their full effort in it here, this event is going to be a tough one. Clayton showed promise as a sophomore when she completely surprised everyone and made the final and placed second. Horton was actually leading the final with less than 100m to go and finished a heartbreaking 10th. Frigo doubled back from the 4x8r to nab 3rd- showing tremendous strength and fortitude.


All-time best: 4:43.65; Kayla Beattie (Woodstock)- IHSA 2A State Final, 2011

State Meet record: 4:49.34+; Shelly McBride (Crete-Monee), 1985

Top returners:

4:58.43 Haley Goers (Sr.) Hoffman Estates

4:59.01 Ariel Michalek (Sr.) Oswego East

5:00.42 Jill Hardies (Jr.) Hinsdale Central

5:01.10 Jessica Ackerman (Jr.) Winnetka (New Trier)

5:01.11 Stef Sanders (Sr.) Lockport

5:03.64 Gabriella Hesslau (Jr.) Downers Grove North

5:05.50 Emily Brelsfoard (Jr.) Normal West

5:07.16 Tess Wasowicz (Jr.) Palatine

5:07.49 Kaylee Flanagan (Jr.) Roselle (Lake Park)

5:08.52 Emma Fisher (Jr.) Elmhurst (York)

Outlook: even if the chart masters do not add Rakosnik’s tremendous 4:38.20 1500m winning USATF Jr. Olympic mark from last summer, the crop of talent is bursting at the seams. There will be more than six girls breaking 5:00 this season. Goers has the top returner tag, but the one to watch will be freshman sensation Mimi Smith from Winnetka New Trier. She set the IESA mark last year in the 8th running a great 5:05; it’s time that would have placed 6th among the high schoolers. Sanders was 3rd in last year’s final and still should be considered a threat if she can stay healthy. Back in 2010, Courtney Ackerman ran 4:57 and placed 6th in the state final. Her sister Jessica isn’t too far behind with at 5:01. Both will be under 5:00 this year.

Relays: the fan favorite and some schools signature event (s) year after year.

Top potential returners:


All-time best: 9:03.19+; Barrington; St. Charles North Sectional, 2008

State Meet record: 9:04.14; Barrington, 2008

9:11.27 Wheaton-Warrenville South; will be heavy favorites until further notice

9:13.75 Palatine; shooting for another top 4 finish for the state’s top mid-distance program

9:17.69 Elmhurst York; will replace Downers Grove North as the league’s top 4x8 squad

9:18.99 Mt. Prospect (Prospect); will battle Palatine for league and stat supremacy

9:23.73 Glen Ellyn Glenbard West; quartet will be stronger with experience and maturity

9:25.32 Winnetka New Trier; made final without superstar twins Ackermans

9:25.92 LaGrange Lyons Twp; endured a down year but state made the final

9:28.25 Wilmette Loyola Academy; return three legs

9:30.42 Chicago Lane Tech; all four legs return

Outlook: the defending champions Downers North was ruled out for repeating for a title because of several big losses including starlet Jillian Kothanek, who has decided not to run this season. However, Wheaton South will lead the pack and will have the horses to chase down the 9:00 mark.


All-time best: 46.23; E. St. Louis Sr.- IHSA 2A final, 2008

State Meet record: 46.23; E. St. Louis Sr., 2008

46.83 Frankfort Lincoln-Way East

47.37 Evanston

47.52 E. St. Louis Sr.

47.69 Chicago Morgan Park

47.80 Bolingbrook

47.91 Homewood-Flossmoor

48.17 Willowbrook

48.58 Rock Island

Outlook: the always exciting and action packed one-lap thriller will be at the forefront. Lincoln-Way East will be the heavy favorite as all four legs return featuring the outstanding Aaliyah Brown on anchor. The Griffens quartet could be pushing under 46.5 this season. Evanston loses two legs but that means absolutely nothing for a team who can reload. E. St. Louis returns all four legs from last year’s 3rd place state squad; the Flyerettes will be counting big points in their title defense. Morgan Park enters from 2A and will be a threat in an event they have always competed well in. Bolingbrook should be a faster team with returning depth led by Kimberly Azie.


All-time best: 1:37.87; Evanston- Bulldog Classic; Louisville KY, 2004

State Meet record: 1:37.97; Evanston- 2003

1:38.33 Evanston

1:39.28 E. St. Louis Sr.

1:40.26 Belleville East

1:41.29 Hinsdale Central

1:41.48 Bolingbrook

1:41.59 Glen Ellyn (Glenbard West)

1:41.69 Chicago Morgan Park

Outlook: defending champion Evanston will have to replace two legs if they hope to stay on top of the food chain. E. St. Louis on the other hand will have no issues because they return all four legs that gave the heavily favored Wildkits all they wanted in the final. The all-time could be threatened at some point during the season. 2A champs Morgan Park will be on the scene and ready to show off. Belleville West will be strong with the addition of Asia Cochran who transferred from rival Belleville East. East will remain strong despite the loss. Glenbard West will have to replace Bridget Flanagan; Bolingbrook and Hinsdale Central will be running extremely hard on the track too.


All-time best: 3:45.14+; E. St. Louis Lincoln- 2A State final, 1984

State Meet record: 3:45.14+; E. St. Louis Lincoln, 1984

3:48.71 Evanston

3:51.48 Frankfort (Lincoln-Way East)

3:53.49 Glen Ellyn (Glenbard West)

3:54.65 Edwardsville

3:55.36 Chicago Morgan Park

3:55.88 Belleville East

3:55.97 Palatine

3:56.55 Chicago Whitney Young

3:57.85 E. St. Louis Sr.

Outlook: the grand finale event continues to get better and this year will be no different as a number of schools return mass arsenal. Lincoln-Way East brings back their entire squad that finished second. You can bet that Aaliyah Brown will be on it. Glenbard West returns 3 runners from a 3:53 squad. Of course, the southern part of the state will be strong with Edwardsville, Belleville East, and E. St. Louis Sr. Don’t forget about the state champion Evanston. They return 3 pieces and surely will scoop up a solid 4th leg roaming the school hallways.

Field events: events will be top notched from jumps to throws.

Discus Throw-

All-time best: 167-4; Kelsey Card (Carlinville)- IHSA 1A State Final, 2010

State Meet record: 167-4; Card, 2010

161-1 Emmonnie Henderson (Jr.) Edwardsville

134-8 Mariah Hoke (Sr.) Quincy

130-1 Morgan Keller (Jr.) Rolling Meadows

129-8 Brittany Bush (Sr.) Moline

126-6 Shayna Clark (Sr.) Roselle (Lake Park)

125-0 Autumn Miller (Sr.) Machesney Park Harlem

124-8 Melissa Dunham (Jr.) Fox Lake Grant

117-9 Kayla Koenig (Sr.) Normal Community

117-2 Desirae Ranberg (Sr.) Wheaton-Warrenville South

Outlook: expect 2012 to be a good year in the Discus, but also keep in mind that it will be all about Emmonie Henderson- that is once basketball season is over. The state title is a virtual lock so going for the all-time best has to be the paramount goal and then on to national scene where a few girls are in the way. Henderson has yet to test those waters. Perhaps, this will be the year. Also, look for Hoke to be in the mix. She placed 7th in the state meet last season- one spot below Keller. It should be a solid year where depth rises to the top.

Shot Put-

All-time best: 51-0.75; Daniella “Dani” Bunch (Mahomet-Seymour)- Cornbelt Conf. meet, 2008

State Meet record: 49-11.5; Kelsey Card (Carlinville)- 2011

47-9 Emmonnie Henderson (Jr.) Edwardsville

43-11 Morgan Keller (Jr.) Rolling Meadows

42-8 Autumn Miller (Sr.) Machesney Park Harlem

42.6 Haleigh Theuerkauf (Sr.) Batavia

41-11 J’Lynn Ayers (Sr.) Danville

41-2 Katie Lawesen (Sr.) Bartlett

40-1 Melissa Dunham (Jr.) Fox Lake Grant

39-7 MaKayla Hubbard (Jr.) LaGrange (Lyons Twp.)

Outlook: Henderson will lead 5 returning girls who eclipsed the 40-foot mark in 2011. It was a record setting year for the event in general and Henderson got into the act as soon as her basketball season concluded in early March. The mammoth 47-9 effort happens to be the 5th best performance in Illinois history and it happened in the state championship. Now, the big time performer will look to smash into the 50-foot range. There have only been two girls to ever do that: Dani Bunch (Mahomet-Seymour) and Kelsey Card (Carlinville).

Pole Vault-

All-time best: 13-5; Emily Grove (Pontiac)- AAU qualifier, 2011

State Meet record: 13-3; Sarah Landau (Geneva)- 2004

12-3 Carolina Carmichael (Sr.) Lake Forest

12-0 Brittany Hull (Jr.) Normal Community

12-0 Riley Vann (Sr.) Oswego

11-0 Erin Kluck (Sr.) Geneseo

11-0 Krista Newseda (Sr.) Lockport

11-0 Megan Klee (Sr.) Tinley Park Andrew

11-0 Lexi Dahl (Sr.) Crystal Lake Central

11-0 Emily Schwartz (Sr.) Wheaton-Warrenville Central

Outlook: a trio of 12-footers will be headliners in an otherwise anonymous returning field. Carmichael was state runner-up behind one of the events best ever vault specialists Taylor Kirby of Normal West is now competing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Carmichael has signed with the University of Memphis and now has the peace of mind to go out and perform meet after meet. Hull will lead the central Illinois charge where year after year top performances hail from the Flying Dragon Club. Watch out for the multi-talented Vann. She is a future heptathlete in the making.

High Jump-

All-time best: 6-1.25; Denise Daebelliehn (Moline)- USA age group nats; Dayton OH, 1980

State Meet record: 5-11; Melinda Morris (Buffalo Tri-City), 1980

5-8 Lauren White (Jr.) Edwardsville

5-8 Joymesia Howard (Sr.) E. St. Louis Sr.

5-6 Kelsey Shannon (So.) Belleville East

5-6 Claudette Day (So.) Belleville West

5-6 Jaclyn Arema (Sr.) Plainfield North

5-6 Elissa Bitterman (Sr.) Lemont

5-5 Omo Tseumah (Jr.) Huntley

5-5 Rashidah Williams (Sr.) Blue Island Eisenhower

5-5 Kailey James (Jr.) Carol Stream Glenbard North

5-5 Kasey Gassensmith (Sr.) Wheaton-Warrenville South

5-5 Tyshai Freeman (Jr.) Roselle (Lake Park)

5-5 Haley Becker (Jr.) Libertyville

Outlook: a ton of mid-range talented jumpers return but no outstanding frontrunner as in year’s past to point out. Arema has the distinction of being the state runner up last year, but she didn’t have the profile of White and Howard- both of whom have 5-8 personal best. White is looking to improve on her 13th place finish from a year ago.

Long Jump-

All-time best: 20-9.5; Jackie Joyner (E. St. Louis Lincoln)- AAU Nats; Lincoln NB- 1980

State Meet record: 20-9; Alexandria Anderson (Chicago Morgan Park)- 2005 prelims

19-6.25 Aliyah Harmon (Jr.) Olympia Fields Rich Central

18-7 Patrice Jones (So.) Rockton Hononegah

18-2.25 Emma Spagnola (So.) West Aurora

18-1.25 Nia Joiner (Sr.) Lombard (Glenbard East)

18-0.25 Claudette Day (So.) Belleville East

18-0 Tyshai Freeman Roselle (Lake Park)

17-11.75 Uzo Okoro (Sr.) Hinsdale South

17-11 Rahsidah Williams (Sr.) Blue Island Eisenhower

17-10 Kelly O’Connor (Sr.) Wheaton North

17-10 Brenna Detra (Jr.) Peoria Richwoods

Outlook: lots of talent and balance flowing here anchored by Harmon who already jumped 18-7 in early 2012 at Texas A&M. Harmon was one of the best jumpers in 2A last year. Savannah Carson from Naperville Neuqua Valley is also a person of interest after entering the high school scene. She has skied 18-7.5 thus far and should eclipse the 19-foot barrier again.

Triple Jump-

All-time best: 42-2.75; Deanna Simmons (Decatur MacArthur)- USATF Regionals, 1996

State Meet Record: 41-5; Simmons, 1996

37-10.5 Allie Virgilo (Sr.) Algonquin Jacobs

37-7.75 Annette Hodges (Sr.) Belvidere North

37-6 Anne Yahiro (Sr.) Lisle Benet Academy

37-5.75 Uzo Okoro (Sr.) Hinsdale South

37-3 Kate Kondry (Jr.) Naperville Neuqua Valley

37-2.25 Naomi Fuller (Sr.) Harvey Thornton

37-1 Meg Jump (Jr.) Palatine

Outlook: the departure of All-American talent Abie Ehimwenman (Homewood-Flossmoor) and Tori Franklin (Downers Grove South) will be felt tremendously- both jump queens have continued their rivalry in the Big 10 Conference at Ohio State University and Michigan State University respectively. The little known Virgilo placed 3rd last year in the state championship; she will be vying for visibility at the expense of her competition. But watch out for some familiar yet but new names to the 3A arena. Aliyah Harmon has been mentioned along with Savannah Carson in the long jump. They both can frog leap with the best of them. Harmon won the Texas A & M Indoor Classic with a performance well over 38-feet. She is in outdoor performance mode right now. Okoro is a multiple state performer who will be along with Yahiro dueling for the top of the pack.

contact: anthony.jones@espn.com