Many have tabulated the two-time defending state team champion Byron as the favorite to win their third in a row. But one well known coach (who wishes to remain anonymous) has said there are as many as four teams capable of knocking off Byron and supplanting themselves among the top three trophy chasers. Eureka, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, Moweaqua (Central A & M), and South Holland Seton Academy are the premier names being touted. But as the coach has said: “these teams still have to compete [for their trophies]… nothing is guaranteed.” Well said.
Here is a quick look at the key team’s chances:
Head Coach: Scott McMullen
2011 State Final Finish: State Champion, 54 points
Key qualifying events: HJ, 4x1, 4x2, 4x4, 4x8, 100, 200, 100H
Key individuals: Brooke Holloway (Jr.), Jael Christensen (Jr.), Cara Cortese (Sr.), Elyse Adkins (Jr.),
Team outlook: not as deep as the previous two state championship outfits, but the Tigers will pack a strong punch using a diversely talented team from the field to the track. Christensen, Cortese, and Adkins will carry a bulk of the load now that former star Paige Knodle has taken her talents to Northern Iowa University. For Cortese, she will be focused with redemption flowing through her veins after false-starting in last year’s 100 final. If she can get through Thursday’s prelim as well as the other events on the docket, then it should be a sweet ride for the Tigers.
Head Coach: Don Samford
2011 State Final Finish: Third, 44 pts.
Key qualifying events: TJ, 4x1, 4x4, 4x8, 100, 400,
Key individuals: Kalla Gold (Sr.), Shelby Kupferschmid (Sr.), Taylor Krile.
Team outlook: there are some minuses from the Tremont Sectional for the Hornets like a dropped baton in the 4x200 relay that led to the top seeded quartet not qualifying. How about several key members not running up their usual standards due to the flu. No matter because Gold is the main element the team will depend on for the open and relay events; she is a two-time defending champion in the 400 and favored to nab her third title. If winning the state crown comes down to the show-stopping 4x400 relay, it would most certainly be in Gold’s hands to bring home a championship.
Head Coach: Erica Kostoff
2011 State Final Finish: Tenth, 28 pts.
Key qualifying events: TJ, 4x1, 4x4, 800, 1600, 300H
Key individuals: Sydni Meunier (Sr.), Angel Gaesser (Sr.), Jordyn Nettleton (Sr.), LaToya Baillie (Jr.)
Team outlook: in order for the Falcons to excel and have a chance to hoist a trophy, the small but talented contingent must hit hard on all cylinders. Gaesser is a strong candidate to make the finals in the triple jump and it would be a bonus if she could score in the middle of the pack. But her bread and butter will be the 800 where she is ranked second in the state to her teammate Meunier. Meunier could be a triple winner if she can capitalize in her favorite event the 1600, and assist along with Gaesser in the 4x400 relay.
Moweaqua (Central A&M)-
Head Coach: Todd Rork
2011 State Final Finish: Eighth, 29 pts.
Key qualifying events: DT, SP, 4x1, 4x4, 4x8, 100, 100H, 300H
Key individuals: Janie Howse (Sr.), Genny Rose Stringer (So.), Madison Renfro (Sr.), Taylor Adcock (Jr.), Kaitlyn Corzine (Jr.)
Team outlook: the Raiders will start the assault with Howse and Stringer. They return as the state’s most dangerous throwing duo with Howse earning runner-up honors in the discus and Stringer placing fourth. However, this squad is much deeper than in recent years as depth on the track should aid the team’s surge toward a team trophy. Renfro is the returning runner-up in the short hurdles and the current state leader. Add in Adcock and Corzine on relay duty and it could be a great weekend for the Raiders.
South Holland (Seton Academy)-
Head Coach: Damani Shakoor
2011 State Final Finish: Eleventh, 21 pts.
Key qualifying events: 4x1, 4x2, 4x4, 100, 200,400
Key individuals: DeJanae Terry (Sr.), Mykel Adams (Jr.), Jasmine Gardner (Sr.), Hunter Guy (Sr.)
Team outlook: this is a team with an opportunity to do some damage with Grade A sprints and relays. It is also a team that cannot slip up in a sport where sprints are the name of the game. Terry returns as one of the best sprinters in the field and will perform solidly in four events. Look for her to move up one spot on the podium and take the Century. She will anchor the 4x1 and 4x2 relays along with unfinished matters in the 400 in which she took second last May. But as with all teams chasing a team title, the supporting cast must do their job. Adams, Gardner, and Guy will have a long and busy week getting their tasks accomplished.
Distance running preview:
University of Notre Dame bound Sydni Meunier will be looking to cement her legacy on the EIU blue track this weekend in the 1600, 800 and 4x400 in which it is quite conceivable that she could trot home with three gold medals. Meunier is among the state leaders in all of Illinois with smoking 4:55.19 (IL#1) and 2:15.40 (IL#9) marks.
Chelsea Blaase (Sr., St. Joe-Ogden) will be seeking her first distance triple crown. She won the cross country title last fall followed by the Illinois Prep Top Times indoor 3200 title. The final item would be the outdoor 3200 where she is entered as the top seed. Blaase, who has signed with the University of Tennessee, hasn’t touched her indoor marks of 11:01.81 and 5:05.07. Somehow the weather statewide, which hasn’t been that great during the spring thus leading to slower than expected times from many, is expected to be in the low to mid-eighties for state. That could either mean the age of fast times or slow and tactical paces leading to a fast lap finish.
Meunier’s teammate Angel Gaesser could be ready to strike first in the 800 after winning the indoor crown and finishing second in the main forum last spring. Gaesser has a life time best of 2:15.53 from last year. She has come within a second of that this season, and it will be prudent for her to be at least in the ball park of her career bests to challenge Meunier and Ellen Toennies (Sr., Breese Mater Dei). Toennies has busted out with a sensational spring and enters the state championship as a threat to the Muenier/Gasser balance; she has the second best sectional seeds in the 800 and 1600.
There are several different names listed on top of the sprint charts. The key athletes to watch for are Amelia Glueck (So., Tremont), DeJanae Terry, Cara Cortese, Kalla Gold, Molly Smith (Jr., Cambridge), and Madison Renfro.
Field events overview:
Alyssa Applebee (Sr., Seneca) is entered in several events going into the prelims, but most notably is the pole vault where she is the defending state champion. Applebee should be able to leap past any resistance once Saturday’s final begins. The only thing standing in her way may only be the meet record of 12-9 she set a year ago.
Kelsey Card- the greatest thrower in IHSA history- has finally graduated and moved on to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her exodus will obviously produce a huge void in terms of extreme excitement and performances, but a solid shot putter in Whitney Walker (Sr., Glasford Illini Bluffs) has seized the most of her opportunity. First, she captured the IPTT title ahead of the state’s top returner Olivia Herzog (Sr., Sullivan-Okaw Valley Coop). Second is obtaining the top state meet seed alongside the IL#2 mark. Walker will be tough to beat.
Janie Howse is entered in the shot put field but her bread and better will be the discus throw favorite in a deep field featuring teammate Genny Rose Stringer, Herzog, and Walker. Ms. Howse is the state’s top returner with the season’s best mark but she can be beaten if an off day occurs. The aforementioned young ladies will be there ready to pounce should the unexpected occur.