Fans can be forgiven if before the girls Class AAA portion of the 23rd Annual Illinois Prep Top Times Classic, they were thinking more about the stars on the sidelines than the stars set to compete. After all, super sprint queen Aaliyah Brown (Frankfort Lincoln-Way East) wasn’t going to compete due to a sore hamstring, and the state’s top long jumper Savannah Carson (Naperville Neuqua Valley) was out with a lower body injury.
But by the time the evening was done in the Shirk Center, the focus was firmly on the accomplishments of who was there rather than what could have been or might have been. The result was one of the better meets in state indoor history -- Morolake Akinosun and Lindsay Rakosnik made sure of that.
In the space of about 30 seconds of actual running, the Aurora Waubonsie Valley senior Akinosun left an imprint that will be forever remembered by those in attendance. First came not one, but two revisions of all-time 55 meter dash best in Illinois state history as Akinosun rocketed to a 6.81 prelim, then a momentous 6.76 in the final. The latter mark is the best in the nation this year and #10 in U.S. annuls. Then in the 200, she responded to the challenge and set another state best with a 23.91 -- another state all-time mark and the fifth-best in the country this winter (and the best on a flat, regulation oval).
Rakosnik's feat took several minutes longer, but was impressive enough that the Glenbard East senior was awarded Athlete of the Meet honors along with Akinosun. She first captured a very close 800 with a 2:12.38, then returned to pull away from the field in the 1600 with a 4:56.86. Both are the top times in Illinois this winter.
Akinosun: Best ever
With her pair of history-making performances, Akinosun left no doubt who the winter's outstanding performer was in the Land of Lincoln. There are not enough superlatives to describe how amazing of a sprinter she is, or how engaging her personality is toward her competitors and the media. Those two entities are going to serve her well moving forward for the rest of her senior season and on to the University of Illinois.
The battles between Akinosun and Brown were hyped up coming into the IPTT weekend and Brown can only hope she can return outdoors to meet the challenge. But Saturday was all Morolake.
The 55 prelim field that was assembled was still considered one of the best of all-time in the Illinois sprints, indoors in or out. Akinosun watched from the background as the first heat ran a solid 7.28. But what was going to happen next no one could have predicted. She blasted her 6.81 that tied the nation's best mark by New Balance Nationals Indoor 60 champ Jennifer Madu, who coincidentally split two 60m races against Brown back in January. Akinosun’s run hushed the crowd and left everyone wondering what she could do for an encore. Meanwhile, Oklahoma signee Cessily Jones (Plainfield North) and Bolingbrook’s Kim Azie had qualified with 6.98 performances, both top ten in meet history.
However, no prepster in the nation was going to touch Akinosun in the final. She blasted out of the blocks so fast that the race was over before the halfway mark. The time on the scoreboard read a chilling 6.76! Immediately several reporters turned to timing operator Marchan Adkins to confirm the unbelievable mark. He indeed put up his thumb and the official times on the Daktronics scoreboard.
Akinosun immediately jumped for joy in the arms of her coaches and teammates. The media enveloped her as well as did the smiles and congratulatory applause of the very appreciative crowd. Ironically, Akinosun said she didn’t have a perfect week leading up to the IPTT. “I guess it was good I took one day off,” she said afterwards. “My leg was trembling and shaking on Thursday. Maybe it was weather related. I don’t know. ... It’s always like my fourth step out of the blocks when I feel [any hamstring issue].”
Akinosun would come back to polish off the competition in the 200 and put a stamp on her indoor legacy that will more than likely not be topped for a long time to come.
The super serious demeanor of Cessily Jones lurked in the distance just beyond the start line prior to the 200 start. If there was anyone who could spoil Akinosun’s run at immortality, it would be her. The race got out well and both girls were glued together around the opening turn like a GPS tracking device. Jones could not make a move on Akinosun, but she didn’t lose any ground. It was off the final turn that Akinosun would go into another gear and finish things off. The closing arguments were done and the verdict read: 23.91, good for another fieldhouse and meet record. Jones graciously accepted the runner-up finish in 24.40, #3 in history. However, the day was to be Akinosun’s as she sewed up the co-athlete of the meet award.
Rakosnik makes a statement, too
Rakosnik didn’t exactly come from a humble beginning. She finished second in the state in the 400 as a sophomore. But it was the longing to be a middle-distance runner that was truly in her heart. Rakosnik moved up to the 800 last year and won the title in the spring state championship; she also won the USATF Junior Olympic 1500 YW title in the summer.
The 2011 cross country season saw more growth for Rakosnik as she vastly improved her aerobic capacity to eventually take on possibly running the mile/1600 during the track season. The fruits of the harrier season yielded a seventh-place finish in the state championship. It was running with the state’s best cross country runners that cemented a possible 800/1600 double for the future. The Illinois signee took on the 800 at IPTT as her first challenge.
Rakosnik took the lead right away with Jahnell Horton (Evanston) and Dhia Dean (Chicago Kenwood) shadowing her for the first two circuits at 64.3. Rakosnik refused to give in as the race passed the 600 in 1:38.8. Horton could have made a move to lead shortly thereafter, but she didn’t take advantage of the opportunity. Dean was the next to challenge for the win. It was on the homestretch and in lane three that she gained a closing momentum and, for a brief moment, she appeared to be the winner. But no, Rakosnik veered over toward Dean and the two collided and the win went to Rakosnik in 2:12.38. It was just two-tenths short of McKinzie Schulz’s (Benet Academy) AAA record. Rakosnik didn’t have time to talk as she had to prepare for the 1600 later.
In the eight-lap race, Rakosnik sped out quickly in 69.0 and 2:24.9 for the first two 400 splits. She continued to lead at the 1200 mark in 3:42.7, with Haley Goers moving into second a considerable distance back. Rakosnik only had the clock to beat for time and for the state overall lead. The finishing mark was 4:56.86 and good for IL#1 that Class A winner Sydni Meunier (GCMS) only kept as a loaner for one day. Thus, Rakosnik shared the athlete of the meet along with future teammate and roommate Akinosun.
Best of the rest
• Kaylee Flanagan (Roselle Lake Park) has to be tired of being compared with her big sister Lindsay. It started almost immediately two years ago when Kaylee was a freshman and has intensified every year since then. The younger prodigy has taken it all in stride with a braces smile and great attitude. Because in reality, she knows it’s part of the deal until she steps out of Lindsay’s shadow. In the 3,200, Kaylee burst immediately into the lead after the gun. The first half of the race felt like a Kayla Beattie (Woodstock) record run with early splits of 2:29.7 800, 3:46.7 1,200 and 5:06 1,600. Flanagan had a big lead at that point and unintentionally ran on auto pilot with a few 80-second 400s. The net result was a stinging 10:29.02 win and good for IL#3 all-time and current US#4 for 3200.
All 14 finishers broke 11:45, a feat that has never been accomplished before at IPTT. In addition, there were six girls who broke the elusive 11:00 barrier and 13 of 14 runners hit the meet qualifying time of 11:30. The outdoor season should be a spectacular one to watch for long distance fans.
• The girls 4x200 relay field was small, but the outcome was big. Several naysayers in attendance spouted that Bolingbrook’s 1:42.96 state best came virtue of luck. The supposed top team was to be Plainfield North, but they had exchange issues at the Downers Grove South Relays. With everything on the line, Plainfield North got off to a great start with Cessily Jones’ lead leg, but the advantage was quickly lost. The Raiders used their final weapons in Kim Azie and Kym Taylor running the penultimate and anchor legs. It was no contest as Bolingbrook got in the clear on the third leg and won in 1:41.55.
• It was mentioned in the preview that any meet record should not be considered soft. However, the 4x800 all-time record was seemingly impenetrable over the past 15 years. Not even the great Schaumburg team of ’10 or the ’11 indoor quartet could break 9:20. That would change on Saturday. Glen Ellyn Glenbard West entered their great team for the second season in a row to do battle. The Lady Hilltoppers previously enjoyed a seasonal best of 9:23, but weren't content. The lead leg Emma Reifel got right to work and produced a chilling 2:16.4 split. Downers Grove South got through with a strong 2:17.6 carry by Rebecca Stearn, as did Prospect’s leading girl at 2:17.8. Still, it was Glenbard West running strong despite the chasers tightening the clamps down on Maddie Nagle. Nagle was able to hold on and keep the ball rolling.
The Hilltoppers' third leg Katie Born was moving hard, but not out of the woods yet. Prospect’s Brooke Wolfe chased hard and caught up to the leader and actually made a move to take over the lead. Wolfe ran well but faded back toward the end of her daring leg but still ran 2:19.2. Downers South and crosstown rival North moved up in position as did Hoffman Estates on the strength of Haley Goers awesome 2:17.1 run. Goers shunned the opportunity to run in the 3200 to help her team compete for a relay title. But it was all Glenbard West on the anchor with fast freshman Julia Sakach as they finally swatted the pests away to win in a meet record of 9:18.77. The mark was good for the IL#1 and US#18. This will be a team to be reckoned with during the state series in two months.
• Brittny Ellis (Gurnee Warren) has been well known in the middle-school ranks as it’s been reported numerous times over the past few years. She has finally entered the big leagues of IHSA track and field. It was without a beat that she imprinted her name along the greats who have won a 400 title at such an early age. Ellis went out in a smooth fashion and beat the state’s previous leader, Cameron Pettigrew, of Chicago Peyton with ease in 55.72. It is just the beginning for Ellis and a career that we all will be talking about for years to come.