The list of superstar athletes that will be unleashed this Saturday is long -- even without injured sprint star Aaliyah Brown -- but pay attention to these specific athletes who have made major noise during the undercover season:
Morolake Akinosun (Sr., Aurora Waubonsie Valley) -- The University of Illinois-bound standout has put up Wonder Woman-type numbers in the short sprints. She is on pace to smash her IPTT 55 (6.90) and 200 (24.37) meet records and finished the campaign undefeated.
Lindsey Rakosnik (Sr., Lombard Glenbard East) -- She will be joining Akinosun down I-57 this fall for college, but in the meantime this phenomenal middle-distance runner has been busy putting up solid numbers on the oval. By the time the weekend is over at the Shirk, the fandom could witness a bit of history in either the 800 or the 1600.
Brittny Ellis (Fr., Gurnee Warren) could be a simmering story in the making. She has been bubbling under the high school surface for over three years now. The freshman sensation spent recent years slaying the youth track competition coast-to-coast. She will be stationed in Bloomington this weekend and we all will see if that can continue.
Of course, it would be remiss if the field events weren’t captured. Three ladies have stolen the hearts of the fans that follow them closely: 1) Brittany Hull (Jr., Normal Community) -- Already US#1 in the PV at 13-0.25, she keeps soaring for more and will assuredly go after the all-time best this weekend; 2) Emmonie Henderson (Jr., Edwardsville) is the 3A record holder in the SP and DT and has already thrown over 44-feet, less than a week removed from playing in the state basketball title game; 3) Savannah Carson (Jr., Naperville Neuqua Valley) -- She has been bringing back visions of Alex “the Great” after several top level 19-foot long jumps. Carson’s top 10 status among her national peers is just the start of what should be a wonderful weekend.
Class record: Morolake Akinosun (Aurora Waubonsie Valley) 6.90, 2011
Who to watch for: Akinosun, Alexis Hyshaw (So., Naperville North), Cessily Jones (Sr., Plainfield North), Anita Saffa (Jr., West Aurora), Savannah Carson, Kimberly Azie (Sr., Bolingbrook)
Outlook: What was supposed to be billed as the Illinois race of all-time, indoors or out, took a big hit with the loss to injury of Frankfort Lincoln-Way East junior Aaliyah Brown. It appears as though her sore hamstring hasn’t improved enough to take on a cast that will still include six girls ranked nationally -- five of them in the top 20. Akinosun was the early favorite, regardless. She will now have to turn her attention towards Hyshaw and Jones. In looking at the entrants, it is very impressive with 15 girls posting times under 7.40! It is possible that some of them will not make the two-heat final despite being among the best in the nation.
Tony J’s picks: 1) Akinosun; 2) Hyshaw; 3) Jones
Class record: Adia McKinnon (Homewood-Flossmoor) 55.09, 2000
Who to watch for: Cameron Pettigrew (Jr., Chicago Payton), Simone Carr (So., Carol Stream Glenbard North), Brittny Ellis (Fr., Gurnee Warren), Britney Williams (Jr., St. Charles East), Jaylaan Slaughter (Sr., Dekalb)
Outlook: A lightly raced Pettigrew is coming on strong at the right time after defeating the multi-talented Shamier Little of Chicago Lindblom at the CPS Championship. Pettigrew will now try and inflict more pain on a tough field. The cheerful Ellis may show the least amount of concern, though. But she is going to need a big personal best in order to beat Pettigrew.
Tony J’s picks: 1) Pettigrew, 2) Ellis, 3) Carr
Class record: Morolake Akinosun 24.37, 2011
Who to watch for: Akinosun, Jones, Ellis, Maya Neal (Fr., Naperville Neuqua Valley), Hyshaw, Carson
Outlook: Akinosun is once again at the head of the class without Brown in the field. The senior standout sports a sizzling 24.60 season best that is sure to dazzle those in attendance. Jones comes in with an impressive resume, too. She handed Brown her only defeat at the Proviso East Invite earlier in the month. The 24.81 clocking speaks well enough on its own. Watch out for the newcomer Neal. She is a very multi-faceted athlete similar to the legendary Shakeia Pinnick -- ranking tall in four events -- destined to be an absolute superstar.
Class record: Shalina Clark (Evanston) 7.96, 2006
Who to watch for: Riley Vann (Sr., Oswego), Jayla Stewart (Fr., Homewood-Flossmoor), Madlen Karnatz (Jr., Chicago St. Ignatius), Imani Haynes (Jr., Chicago Heights Marian Catholic), Claire Keiger (Sr., Chicago Whitney Young), Maya Neal
Outlook: It could be up to the veteran Vann vs. the freshmen Stewart and Neal. The difference in time isn’t far off. Vann’s season best is 8.41 to Stewart at 8.44. Neal has run 8.58 -- but usually performing as a hepthathlete in meets. Haynes has all the talent in the world, but hasn’t as yet snuck into the elite category like she is capable of. Maybe she will drop a serious jewel this weekend and show her competitors the real deal.
Tony J’s picks: 1) Vann, 2) Stewart, 3) Neal
Class record: Maria Cicero (Elmhurst York) 10:17.85, 2001
Who to watch out for: Kaylee Flanagan (Jr., Roselle Lake Park), Ariel Michalek (Sr., Oswego East), Madeline Perez (So., Glen Ellyn Glenbard West), Emily Leonard (So., Park Ridge Maine South), Lisa Luczak (Fr., Glen Ellyn Glenbard West).
Outlook: This event is so deep that one could mistake it for the outdoor state championship or cross country title match. Flanagan will lead the charge out of the gate with her typical fast pace. Keep in mind that she has run under 10:40 twice -- both solo ventures (10:36.40 PR). Michalek will be there with Flanagan and, if they work together, the fans could see a time somewhere in the 10:20s.
Tony J’s picks: 1) Flanagan, 2) Michalek, 3) Leonard
Class record: McKinzie Schulz (Lisle Benet Academy) 2:12.36, 2009
Who to watch out for: Dhia Dean (Sr., Chicago Kenwood), Emma Reifel (Jr., Glen Ellyn Glenbard West), Jahnell Horton (Sr., Evanston), Lindsey Rakosnik, Kaylee Schmitz (Sr., O’Fallon), Shianne Baggett (Jr., Chicago Whitney Young)
Outlook: What initially looked like a possibly dud actually will be a bombshell. Rakosnik is the state’s best half-miler, regardless of the limited amount of racing here. She has superior speed and vastly improved aerobic system, thanks to cross country. The meet record is in serious danger if the opening pace is fast. It will need to go 62-63 to have a chance. Horton has excellent leg speed virtue of running on many Wildkat sprint relays. Don’t be surprised if the entire field is at the outdoor standard of 2:19.74 or better.
Tony J’s picks: 1) Rakosnik, 2) Horton, 3) Schmitz
Class record: Tera Moody (St. Charles) 4:54.0h, 1998
Who to watch for: Lindsey Rakosnik, Kaylee Flanagan, Ariel Michalek, Haley Goers (Sr., Hoffman Estates), Brooke Wolfe (Jr., Prospect), Lisa Luczak (Fr., Glen Ellyn Glenbard West), Megan Lemersal (Jr., Park Ridge Maine South)
Outlook: Once again, a superb field contains many big distance names that romped during the XC season. The question will be if Rakosnik and Flanagan have anything left in the tank after getting worked over in their earlier races. Goers could emerge the winner here if she isn’t spent from 4x8 relay duties. No matter what the race holds, it seems like Rakosnik will be there in the end.
Tony J’s picks: 1) Rakosnik, 2) Lemersal, 3) Wolfe
Class record: Schaumburg 9:20.59, 2011
Teams to watch: Glenbard West, Mt. Prospect (Prospect), Roselle Lake Park, Downers Grove North, Downers Grove South, Yorkville.
Outlook: Illinois is historically deep in this even,t but IPTT has never really drawn a field as strong as this one. It will be interesting to see how fast the opening pace will go out. Glenbard West potentially could have two or three sub-2:20 legs to push the chasers. A quality guestimate could see a time in the 9:15 range. Finally, welcome Yorkville to the 3A ranks. The Lady Foxes have dominated in the 2A division for a few years and will have something to say to their new neighbors.
Tony J’s picks: 1) Glenbard West, 2) Prospect, 3) Yorkville
Class record: Evanston 1:40.68, 2006
Teams to watch: Bolingbrook, Plainfield North, Homewood-Flossmoor
Outlook: Certainly the meet record is completely off-limits, but a good and competitive effort by the top teams could see some great times. Plainfield North will be seeking the top spot with Cessily Jones leading off. The Tigers must get the stick around the track safely. Homewood-Flossmoor has a nice mix of youth and maturity and will be near the top. Lincoln-Way East will have to enjoy its reserves pushing forward without Brown.
Tony J’s picks: Plainfield North, 2) Bolingbrook, 3) Homewood-Flossmoor
Class record: Chicago Morgan Park 3:53.68, 2006
Teams to watch: Lincoln-Way East, Whitney Young, Downers Grove South, Plainfield North
Outlook: While the record is probably out of reach, expect a competitive race with a few teams getting a few ticks under 4:00 to satisfy themselves and the fans.
Tony J’s picks: 1) Downers Grove South, 2) Whitney Young, 3) Lincoln-Way East
Class record: Jasmine Jackson (Hillside Proviso West) 19-3.75, 1997
Who to watch out for: Savannah Carson, Maya Neal, Emma Spagnola (So., West Aurora), Tyshau Freeman (Roselle Lake Park)
Outlook: Carson has brought this event to the forefront during the indoor season with some wonderful performances. How about her US#8 19-8 leap in a USATF meet back in early March that put the entire jumping community on notice? Let’s hope her recent leg strain is remote, and that the rest this week leading up to the date with Jackson’s ancient record is the remedy.
Class record: Lyshaya Stokes (South Holland Thornwood) 40-2, 1999
Who to watch: Uzo Okoro (Sr., Darien Hinsdale South), Mariah Harris (Sr., Chicago St. Ignatius), Kyla Price (Oswego East)
Outlook: The TJ will feature a more even playing field with the consistent Okoro leading the way. Harris is a newcomer who has stepped up this season.
Tony J’s picks: 1) Okoro, 2) Harris, 3) Price
Class record: Dani Bunch (Mahomet-Seymour) 47-2, 2008
Who to watch: Emmonnie Henderson, Banki Oginni (So., Hoffman Estates), Haleigh Theuerkauf (Sr., Batavia), Katie Dovenmuehle (Belvidere North)
Outlook: Henderson returns as a two-time winner and is one of the best to ever throw the metal ball in Illinois. She returned from her team’s basketball state championship and heaved a US#12/IL#1 44-5.75. She now has the state to herself after the graduation of the legendary Kelsey Card (Carlinville)
Tony J’s picks: 1) Henderson, 2) Oginni, 3) Theuerkauf
Class record: Nora Weber (Canton) 5-10, 1993
Who to watch: Stephanie Ulrich (Sr., Palatine Fremd), Kailey James (Glenbard North), Bridget Bodee (Hinsdale South), Jacklyn Aremka (Plainfield North)
Outlook: a lean HJ field should perk up once a fleet of 5-5 jumpers take on each other. Ulrich is the one to watch. James and Arema are ready to step up.
Tony J’s picks: Ulrich, James, Aremka
Class record: Taylor Kirby (Normal West) 12-8, 2011
Who to watch: Brittany Hull, Carly Schmidt (Lake Forest), Carolina Carmichael (Sr., Lake Forest), Riley Vann (Oswego), Lexi Dahl (Crystal Lake South), Maya Golliday (Lake Park), Brooke Catherine (Normal Community)
Outlook: The top 6 pole vaulters will be in attendance on Saturday including the US#1 Hull at a sensational 13-0.25 mark. The all-time record of 12-8 will be seriously tested. Watch for Carmichael, Schmidt, and several others to do extremely well.
Tony J’s picks: Hull, Carmichael, Vann