Illinois Girls 3A State Preview: Returning state champs may not be favorites

It’s amazing how different the pre-season outlook compares to what may happen inside O’Brien Stadium on the campus of Eastern Illinois University this weekend.

It was four months ago that the returning state champion East St. Louis looked to be the heavy favorite. However, the Flyerettes could not put it all together at the Normal West Sectional. Now, it appears as though there will be a new champion to crown early Saturday evening.

Belleville West, Evanston, Frankfort Lincoln-Way East, and Wheaton-Warrenville South appear to be at the top of the class. These squads have the most key qualifiers in position to score quick points in the finals.

There are several teams on the outside that could earn a trophy if things fall their way: Bolingbrook, Edwardsville, Naperville Neuqua Valley, and Plainfield North

Event-by-event breakdown



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

State Meet record: 11.41; Anderson- 2005

Top 5 sectional performers:

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

11.75 Cessily Jones (Sr.) Plainfield (North)

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

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

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

Outlook: If Brown (current US#2 at 100) and Akinosun (US#1 at 55 indoors, Illinois Prep Top Times champ) are at their best, and can overcome leg injury issues they've battled this year, this could be one of the top matchups of the meet. Hopefully, the warmer weather over the past two weeks will keep the top stars loose and able to make it through the finals. The field is potentially the best ever assembled with Jones added in. She has quietly had a solid outdoor campaign, but she will gunning for much more than second place when she touches down in Charleston. On top of that, she's been healthy all season. That could play into her favor. Porter has made her intentions very clear that she wants top honors in the event. Not listed among the top five qualifiers is Mystique Thompson (So., Rock Island). She ran a blistering 12.01 during the regular season. All ten girls who were projected as the top returners advanced to Charleston.


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

State Meet record: 52.63; Anderson- 2005

Top 5 sectional performers:

55.99 Brittny Ellis (Fr.) Gurnee (Warren)

56.26 Courtney Clayton (Jr.) Rockton (Hononegah)

56.47 Brenna Detra (Jr.) Peoria (Richwoods)

56.65 Parker English (So.) Evanston (Twp.)

56.77 Jordan Shead (So.) St. Charles (East)

Outlook: This event will be strong with the influx of new blood and classification additions. Ellis is one of the nation’s best freshman sprinters; she has met all expectations thrown upon her. There are many out there who feel the deep sprint fields led by Brown and Akinosun will keep the pressure off of Ellis. Clayton will take a crack at the rare 800/400 double. English could give her team the boost it needs in the title chase if she can make the final and score big points. Detra passed up an opportunity to score well in the 300H to run the quarter-mile.


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

State Meet record: 23.32; Anderson- 2005

Top 5 sectional performers:

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

24.49 Cessily Jones (Sr.) Plainfield (North)

24.51 Margaret Bamgbose (Sr.) Evanston (Twp.)

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

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

Outlook: The half-lapper is not as strong as the century but it will be strong led by the US#13 Brown. Brown easily cruised in her sectional qualifier and should be the favorite. This is Jones’ best event and she a major threat to Brown, having topped her during the indoor season once, and Akinosun, the IPTT Champion and meet record holder. Bamgbose enters for team points for the Wildkits while also being a great long hurdler. Bolingbrook’s senior standout Kim Azie will put pressure on the already crowded field. She has run 24.99 twice this season. Don’t forget about 400 favorite Brittny Ellis. She is entered, too.


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 5 sectional performers:

14.21 LaDonna Caston (Sr.) Harvey (Thornton)

14.41 Jessica McCaskill (Sr.) Belleville (East)

14.45 Alexus Jimson-Miller (Jr.) Danville (H.S.)

14.51 Margaret Bamgbose (Sr.) Evanston (Twp.)

14.52 Emma Spagnola (So.) Aurora (West)

Outlook: Caston is the top seed from regionals and brings in 12.2 flat 100 speed. She has second best mark overall in 3A behind a surprising Jimson-Miller. Riley Vann (Sr., Oswego) is the top state meet returner after finishing second last year. However, she has spent more time in the field, pole vaulting. Bamgbose is entered in the short hurdles, but it’s not certain that she will compete as the team’s overall needs may trump individual ones.


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

State Meet record: 40.61; Clarke, 2005

Top 5 sectional performances:

42.18 Margaret Bamgbose (Sr.) Evanston (Twp.)

43.71 Kristen Dowell (So.) Edwardsville (H.S.)

43.86 Emma Spagnola (So.) Aurora (West)

44.48 Kathie Wollney (Sr.) Cary (C.-Grove)

44.62 Markita Rush (Jr.) East St. Louis (Sr.)

Outlook: Many will say that Bamgbose was the best long hurdler in the entire state last year. That theory never came to fruition as she tripped over the first hurdle in the final and did not finish the race. Rush went on to take the spoils and led her team to the state title. Once again, Bamgbose is one of the nation’s best long hurdlers with added flat speed gained over the past year. If it is a clean race, it will be Bamgbose in a breeze. `



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 5 sectional performances:

10:25.98 Kaylee Flanagan (Jr.) Roselle (Lake Park)

10:37.55 Ariel Michalek (Sr.) Oswego (East)

10:39.05 Courtney Ackerman (Jr.) Winnetka (New Trier)

10:45.76 Jessica Ackerman (Jr.) Winnetka (New Trier)

10:46.28 Sami Staples (Fr.) Crystal Lake (Central)

Outlook: Flanagan knows only one way to race. It is coming out of the gate fast and daring anyone to compete with her. It's not a formula that the other top contenders utilize. It wasn’t until late in the cross country season last fall that she was worn day from the perpetual breakneck racing. So has she learned anything from coming up short to Amanda Fox (Sr., Naperville Central) and Michalek? Well, she isn’t going to attempt the 1600/3200 double in possible searing heat. That may be the smartest decision she and her coaches will make if all the eggs are put in the 3200 basket. Courtney and Jessica Ackerman traded off the runners up spot in each of the last two seasons, Courtney in 2010, and Jessica in 2011. Both sisters took the runner up spot by less than a second. Expect them to be in it the last 200 meters. It may take a kick of sun 30 for 200 meters to win it.As far as the field itself, it is very deep - perhaps the deepest ever on paper. There are 20 runners who have run 11:00 or better. Could it be as good as the 2010 field in which all 36 runners broke 12:00? Or when 13 runners eclipsed the 11:00 mark? Only time will tell.


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

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

Top 5 sectional performances:

2:12.78 Lindsey Rakosnik (Sr.), Lombard (Glenbard East)

2:12.94 Courtney Clayton (Jr.), Rockton (Hononegah)

2:13.79 Kaylee Schmitz (Sr.), O'Fallon (H.S.)

2:14.03 Jahnell Horton (Sr.), Evanston (Twp.)

2:14.55 Lauren Poplawski (Jr.), Mt. Prospect (Prospect)

Outlook: The event is waiting for a breakout performance and Rakosnik appears to be the athlete ready to bust out and get in the sub-2:10 range. Clayton will be doubling like most of the top entrants, but she has the 400 to negotiate during the two-day journey. Horton will be an important piece to her team’s title fortune. She led a big portion of the race last May before fading to 11th. Dhia Dean (Sr., Chicago Kenwood) likes fast paced races; she may be the runner to push the pace and alter her opponents' strategic plans.


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 5 sectional performances:

4:57.79 Lindsey Rakosnik (Sr.), Lombard (Glenbard East)

4:59.00 Hope Schmelzle (Jr.), Wheaton (W. Warrenville South)

4:59.98 Brooke Wolfe (Jr.), Mt. Prospect (Prospect)

5:01.17 Madeline Perez (So.), Glen Ellyn (Glenbard West)

5:01.31 Courtney Ackerman (Jr.), Winnetka (New Trier)

Outlook: The thing that makes the 1600 the perfect event for Rakosnik is her speed, endurance, and strength. The University of Illinois signee was a former all-state 400 sprinter, as well as one of the best cross country runners in the state, and she is the defending 800 champion. Ackerman could possibly take Rakosnik if she can run on the offensive and make her uncomfortable. But few girls have done that. Rakosnik is undefeated on the track in races that matter since 2010.



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

State Meet record: 9:04.14; Barrington, 2008

Top 5 sectional performances:

9:06.25 Wheaton (W. Warrenville South)

9:13.67 Glen Ellyn (Glenbard West)

9:18.87 Mt. Prospect (Prospect)

9:21.63 Downers Grove (North)

9:22.70 Yorkville

Outlook: The fields may be so competitive here that the prelims may be faster than the final. Last year, it took 9:29.4 to make the final; this year, it may take 9:25 or 9:26. Powerhouse Glenbard West was beaten by Wheaton-Warrenville South in the sectional, but the winning coach Rob Harvey tried to keep things in perspective: “They will be better than what you saw… [Glenbard West] has another leg they didn’t show.” He may be right because Glenbard West coach Paul Haas used his normal leadoff leg Katie Born in the 3200. Born qualified but may not make the championship heat. He will need to decide in a hurry to re-insert her or move on to his other five runners in a tight rotation. We could see the first 9:00 time in state history if everything unfolds well. MSL rivals Palatine and Mt. Prospect (Prospect) will be in the mix and ready to challenge for a top five spot. Yorkville makes their debut run in 3A after dominating the 2A classification. O’Fallon will lead the southern Illinois charge. Watch for LaGrange (Lyons Twp.) to move up among the leaders. Also, Downers Grove North and South, along with Winnetka (New Trier), have a few surprises up their sleeves.


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

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

Top 5 sectional performances:

47.14 Flossmoor (Homewood-F.)

47.28 Frankfort (Lincoln-Way East)

47.48 Rock Island (H.S.)

47.64 Bolingbrook

47.99 Naperville (Neuqua Valley)

Outlook: It’s pretty good stuff when all of the top sectional performers are under 48.00. Homewood-Flossmoor has had pretty good success in this event, but has never won a relay title. This may be the year. However, there are some pretty solid units standing in the way. Defending champion Lincoln-Way East is back and they have Aaliyah Brown as the trump card. Bolingbrook will be strong if they run their four best legs. Evanston and Belleville East didn’t produce top five marks in their sectional meet, but they are very dangerous teams.


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

State Meet record: 1:37.97; Evanston- 2003

Top 5 sectional performances:

1:41.36 Belleville (East)

1:41.61 Rock Island (H.S.)

1:42.48 Belleville (West)

1:42.87 O'Fallon (H.S.)

1:42.90 Romeoville (H.S.)

Outlook: Evanston had the state’s best time of 1:42.06 during the season, but at the sectional round they ran a team that barely did enough to get into the prelim round. They may decide to run a secondary team and concentrate on other events. Belleville East and Rock Island appear as the teams to beat until further notice.


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

Top 5 sectional performances:

3:55.70 Belleville (West)

3:55.85 Evanston (Twp.)

3:56.47 East St. Louis (Sr.)

3:57.61 St. Charles (East)

3:57.87 Elmhurst (York)

Outlook: Evanston is the state’s best team in this event and should have no trouble making the final. It will depend how the team battle is going as to whether they decide to put together a super team - like the one ran 3:49 in a winning effort at the Kansas Relays. If they slip up, a fleet of schools will be ready to pounce. Lincoln-Way East will have Aaliyah Brown waiting should they need to deploy her. In the meantime, watch for Belleville West to assert themselves into the leadership role. Also, look for a now-depleted E. St. Louis team to run for pride and upset a few teams.

Field events

Discus Throw-

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

State Meet record: 167-4; Card, 2010

Top 5 sectional performances:

156-7 Emmonnie Henderson (Jr.), Edwardsville (H.S.)

140-4 Morgan Keller (Jr.), Rolling Meadows

139-2 Melissa Dunham (Jr.), Fox Lake (Grant)

135-4 Shayna Clark (Sr.), Roselle (Lake Park)

131-3 Desirae Ranberg (Sr.), Wheaton (W. Warrenville South)

Outlook: Henderson takes on the challenge of being Illinois’ next great thrower after Card’s graduation. But she is already a two-time winner and has the US#4/IL#1 best of 160-5. This may be the best field in terms of high marks and depth: 14 girls have exceeded the state standard. Keller has improved mightily over the past year. Dunham comes from a throws-rich program and it could be her turn to follow predecessors Bailey Wagner and Tori Ziegler.

Shot Put

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

Top 5 sectional performances:

47-2.5 Emmonnie Henderson (Jr.), Edwardsville (H.S.)

44-6 Banke Oginni (So.), Hoffman Estates (H.S.)

41-10 Morgan Keller (Jr.), Rolling Meadows

41-8 Shayna Clark (Sr.), Roselle (Lake Park)

40-7 Melissa Dunham (Jr.), Fox Lake (Grant)

Outlook: Henderson is once again the one to beat as she is within two inches of her personal best state winner from a year ago. Oginni and Keller are conference foes who appear ready to take their battle to a bigger stage. Add in Clark, Dunham, and Sam Voegtle (Sr., Belleville West) for good measure.

Pole Vault

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

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

Top 5 sectional performances:

12-3 Carolina Carmichael (Sr.), Lake Forest (H.S.)

12-0 Riley Vann (Sr.), Oswego (H.S.)

11-9 Brittany Hull (Jr.), Normal (Community)

11-9 McKenzee Kroeschell (Jr.), Oak Park (O.P.-River Forest)

11-9 Carly Schmidt (Jr.), Lake Forest (H.S.)

Outlook: Hull was on a tremendous roll when she earned the co-US#1 mark of 13-0.25 during the latter stages of the indoor season. But ever since finishing second at IPTT, she hasn’t had the same success outdoors. Hull has yet to clear 12-0 this spring. Now would the perfect time to get back on track. Hull’s peers have stolen her spotlight. Carmichael is one athlete sitting in the catbird seat. She and teammate Schmidt share the state’s top outdoor jump of 12-6. Vann has the distinction of being top-ranked in the 100H, and will see Charmichael there as well.

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

Top 5 sectional performances:

5-7 Kelsey Shannon (So.), Belleville (West)

5-5 Jaclyn Aremka (Sr.), Plainfield (North)

5-5 Deborrah Blackburn (So.), Edwardsville (H.S.)

5-5 Darcy Cadman (Sr.), Lisle (Benet Academy)

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

Outlook: Aremka has done everything that her coaches have asked, including running on various relays and open running events, but the high jump is her signature event. After placing third at state last year, it was pretty evident that the goal would be to step up and shoot for a state title. Aremka has the US#2 mark of 5-10. If she duplicates that feat this weekend, she will win hands down.

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

Top 5 sectional performances:

18-8.25 Aliyah Harmon (Jr.), Olympia Fields (Rich Central)

18-5.5 Jasmine Brown (Jr.), DeKalb

18-5 Savannah Carson (Jr.), Naperville (Neuqua Valley)

18-1.75 Micayla Collins (Jr.), East St. Louis (Sr.)

18-0 Claudette Day (So.), Belleville (West)

Outlook: Carson is back to her winning ways after recovering from a back injury that hampered her indoor season. She jumped a state-leading 19-5.5 nwi outdoors. Day is the state’s other jumper to surpass the 19-0 mark. Harmon has been quiet since jumping mid-18s during January. She may be coming around at the right time. Parker English (So.,Evanston) is one of the state’s most talented athletes, but has been inconsistent in the jump arena. If she can get it together, she will be a threat to place in the top three or so.

Triple Jump

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

State Meet Record: 41-5; Simmons, 1996

Top 5 sectional performances:

39-11.5 Chardae Greenlee (Jr.), Calumet City (Thornton Fractional North)

39-1.25 Allie Virgilio (Sr.), Algonquin (Jacobs)

38-7.75 Aliyah Harmon (Jr.), Olympia Fields (Rich Central)

37-7.5 Chaz Duson (Sr.), Olympia Fields (Rich Central)

37-4.25 Hannah Davison (Fr.), Geneva

Outlook: There are several notables to watch out for, like Anne Yahiro (Sr., Lisle Benet Academy), Uzo Okoro (Sr., Darien Hinsdale South), Harmon, and Virgilio. The aforementioned are returning all-state leapers, but for the list-leading Greenlee, competing in Charleston will be her first trip to state. Hopefully, the nerves will subside quickly; all she has to worry about is jumping 40-feet.