Jones, Brown, Little shine bright in Lady Pirate Invitational

by Tony Jones- anthony.jones@espn.com

The 2nd Annual Lady Pirate Invitational more than held its own and lived up to the pre-meet hype- thanks to the individuals who were spotted days before the meet even occurred.

The tale of three girls-

Aaliyah Brown (Frankfort Lincoln-Way East), Shamier Little (Chicago Lindblom), and Cessily Jones (Plainfield North) each one event but the magnitude held a separate meaning- by the end of a long day each athlete would have a story tell… even when it didn’t contain words.

The morning started rather slow with several field events on the docket coupled by frosh-soph and varsity hurdle and 55 dash prelims. Although Brown, Jones, and Little won their respective heats, the action remained a bit stagnant when meet officials decided to force multiple heats of the varsity 3200. It could have been staged in one heat with 17 girls or at the very least split evenly before the prelims started.

Shamier Little: things finally got serious after the national anthem with the 55HH. Little and Chicago Heights (Marian Catholic) 60HH leader Imani Haynes were ready to settle who would be the indoor dash queen to date. It wasn’t much of a battle as it would turn out. Little and Haynes were virtually even for the first three hurdles before Little accelerated away from her and the rest of the field. The final verdict was 8.26- a new state best. Ms. Little appeared to want more as she continued to sprint well past the finish line and around part of the first turn of the track. She finally slowed down enough to offer her assessment of a fine performance: “all I wanted to do was to stay low coming out of the blocks and attack each [hurdle].” The second fastest time actually came from a freshman, Jayla Stewart, who won the frosh heat in 8.51. She will be a name to watch as the indoor season comes to a peak in several weeks.

Little came back during the middle of the meet to compete in the 400. The field wasn’t stellar and she very quickly opened up an insurmountable lead on the field by 150m in. The smooth striding gazellean Little hit the halfway mark so alone it appeared as if she was conducting a solo time trial. Her competitors Jacky Bynes (Chicago Lane Tech) and Rebecca Stearns (Downers Grove South) fought hard but were no match for the dominant Little. Little won in 58.63, narrowly missing the meet record and over three seconds ahead of Stearns.

Aaliyah Brown: ‘The Franchise’ got her day off to a flying start with a solid 7.09 in her prelim. The mark held up over the next five rounds… the stage would be set for the final. Brown appeared to come out of her blocks just a tiny bit sluggish but not enough to be upset though. She gained her top speed at 30m and before the crowd could blink, the race was over in a smoking hot meet record: 6.95. The mark is now IL#2/US#8.

Brown continued her red hot ways when she brought her teammates back once again in a relay- this time the 4x2r- in dramatic fashion to win in 1:46.11.

The final event of the day was a little tough for Brown who finished second in the 200 in 25.21. It was a valiant effort before falling to Jones, who had a little more in the tank over the final 40m. Brown didn’t offer an excuse in one of her few high school losses. She immediately hugged her close friend and moved on.

Cessily Jones: it doesn’t bother her at all when she finishes second to Brown who she calls her “best friend.” Besides, “I have to go out and execute my own race”, she asserts. That would make a ton of sense for an athlete on the verge of elite status that Jones is. The senior standout has already signed to compete at the University of Oklahoma next season. Now, it’s all about finishing her high school season in good standing. The diminutive Jones ran well in the 55 in a personal best 7.00 and good enough for 2nd place and US#16- not bad for being a second place finisher.

The 200 has always seemed to be Jones’ better event. The final would be loaded with Brown, Alexis Hyshaw of Naperville North, and Seton Academy’s DaJanae Terry in the championship heat 7. Little had already put the pressure on when she coasted to victory in heat 6. The race got out well with Jones running even with Brown for the the initial turn and through first 100. Surprisingly, Brown didn’t pull away on the final turn. That inability gave Jones all the confidence in the world and in a matter of a few seconds, she turned on the jets and pulled away from her on the homestretch and won easily in a meet record 24.81. Jones knows the state championship doesn’t start today, so there wasn’t any need to jump and down or any big smiles. She realizes every finishing step on the track is a process in the plan to elite status.