Unpredicable Midwest weather heads Illinois track and field weekend

Sarah Kreikemeier anchored the Lyons 4 x 400 Relay to victory at the Bruce Ritter Invitational Tony Jones/ESPNHS

Overcast skies, cool climes, and a hint of wind usually canvasses Midwest high school track and field venues during the early outdoor season. This of course is the expected mid-April track weather menu.

What usually isn’t expected is the cancellation of a major invitational. But that is what Midwest Prep Invitational (Lawrence Central HS; Indianapolis) meet manager Alfie Hernandez did less than an hour before the field events were to begin. He issued a distressing statement via email to all coaches and participants: “due to the inclement weather, we are canceling the 2012 Midwest Prep Track & Field Invitational. Sorry for the inconvenience that this may cause. We felt for the good of the athlete (especially the caliber of athletes entered) it was the best decision.”

Over the past six years, the Midwest Prep Invitational has been cancelled three times: snow and severe cold were the other two.

The weekend was not all lost though. The 25th Annual Downers Grove North Girls Invitational (12th year as the Bruce Ritter Invite) was held Friday evening. The non-stop action did not disappoint.

Glenbard West distance crew opens meet with record run

The festive evening started with Glenbard West and the 4x800 relay… and it did not disappoint.

The Hilltoppers got out of the gate on the strength of lead runner Maddie Nagle controlling the field of 15 runners through the first 400 in 69.7. Nagle pushed aside resistance from the host Downers North, Naperville Central, and a few more on the backstretch; she steamed home in 2:18.5.

Freshman Julia Sakach was up next for the Hilltoppers and continued to lead comfortably through the first part of the backstretch. The chase pack that included Naperville Central, Prospect, Downers North, and York closed the gap well. It actually appeared as though Downers North transitioned first with a sub-2:20 carry. Sakach ran well in 2:20.4.

Next up was Katie Born to get her Glenbard West squad rolling again. It was a little surprising to see Born in such a high powered situation; she has been known for her longer distance prowess in years past. However, it was distance coach Paul Hass who said his unit is so deep that he is still “experimenting… working on things.” Well, Born was able to retain the lead at the end of her leg despite Downers North and a hard charging Tess Wasowicz of Palatine making things interesting.

The anchor chores were rested assuredly on junior Emma Reifel’s shoulders. The drama and thrill of a tight anchor scenario would not happen. Reifel, who is quickly becoming one of the state’s best middle-distance runners, bolted away fast over her first 400 and it was over. The only thing left in her wake was the track and meet records. Reifel sprinted hard home with a cheering crowd on its feet. The final verdict was indeed the meet/track record in 9:16.0 (2:16.1 tote for Reifel). The effort moved the Hilltoppers into the US#6 spot and a real possibility to threaten the immortal 9:00 mark at the end of the season. Downers Grove North, who will be stronger when mainstay Jillian Kothanek returns, passes Palatine a few meters from the finish line take second 9:31.2-9:31.6.

Fox leads fast 3200

Naperville Central distance ace Amanda Fox has enjoyed a great senior year of running to date. First, she won the 3A cross country title in record time and then went on to become a Nike Cross Nationals All-American. She followed up matters with a solid indoor campaign that produced the 20th fastest 3200 in the country (10:46.28). But for some reason she wasn’t heard from… until now.

The deep field opened well with the front running Madeline Perez of Glenbard West leading in 2:34.5 through 800. Seven runners including Fox, Lisa Luczak (Glenbard West), Lisa Gordon (Lyons Twp.), Brooke Wolfe (Prospect), York’s Kayla Spencer and Shari Lund were in tow.

Perez continued to lead at the 1600 in 5:17.2 but Fox, Gordon, and Luczak was still there. Wolfe drifted a short distance back from the four-pack.

With less than a half-mile to go, Fox asserted herself in full control of the race and opened up a gap on Perez. Fox continued to run surge hard and finally come home with a 10.40.7 personal best win. Perez, who did the majority of the yeoman’s work, also set a lifetime best in 10.46.3. She was followed by Gordon’s 10:46.9 effort. Luczak and Wolfe also broke 11:00 with 10:48.4 and 10:58.5 marks respectively.

Afterwards, Fox calmly obliged media requests regarding her race. “Yeah, I missed out on the [Illinois Prep] Top Times because I was out of town”, she said in reference to her late indoor season AWOL status. “But I was never hurt or anything like that- my training has been going well.” It was pretty obvious that Fox is fit. The bigger question is can she complete the double and win the 3200 crown in May’s state championship. “My goal right now is to make state in the 1600 and 3200… we will see how things go from there.”

The best of the rest

Crete-Monee speedster Tayler Whittler gave the faithful what was to come with two eye opening prelim runs: 100 (11.8) and 200 (25.3). Both marks gave her the top seeds for the finals. Whittler did not disappoint as she finished what she started- narrowly holding off Anita Saffa of West Aurora in the Century 12.4-12.5. Whittler finished off her evening with little resistance in taking the 200 easily in 25.6. Again it was Saffa in the runner-up spot in 26.2.

LaDonna Caston of Harvey Thorton surprisingly wasn’t in the championship heat of the 300H. But it didn’t matter for the 100H all-state ace as she crushed the field in the penultimate heat with a solid time of 45.8. It appeared as though her time might hold up. But it didn’t. Champaign Central senior Samone Thompson is no stranger to the long hurdles. She placed fourth in last year’s state championship. So, it wasn’t a surprise to see her whip over the hurdles and clear of another solid athlete like West Aurora’s Emma Spagnola. Thompson cleared the final three hurdles against a stiff breeze to take the title in 44.9.

The 1600 wasn’t as nearly as thrilling as the 3200 but nonetheless it was a good race. Wasowicz opted out of her mainstay event the 800 to test herself against a solid field. Early on it appeared as if she was a little gassed from running a great leg in the 4x8. Wasowicz and Wolfe stalked through two laps in 74.4 and 2:35.0 before Downers Grove North’s Gabbie Hesslau moved ahead on the bell lap. Hesslau hit the gas hard on the backstretch with a sizable gap of several seconds. However, Wasowicz didn’t panic; she made her move with about 150 to go and blazed the home straight uncontested to win in 5:06.4. Hesslau held for second ahead of Wolfe 5:09.0-5:11.8.

There were several ties up and down the high jump ledger but it didn’t involve freshman Emma Haugen of Lyons Twp. She won the event in a personal best 5-4.

The final event of the day was of course the exciting show stopping 4x400 relay. The leadoff leg was held first by Lane Tech’s Jackie Bynes in 60.6. Several others were closely shadowing as the second leg got underway. Lane Tech got to the pole first but was overtaken by several teams including Lyons Twp. and Palatine. Lane Tech would get the lead back with Carina Coss’ 59.6 tote. But it would be Lyons Twp. and Crete-Monee running 1-2 before the Lions’ anchor Sarah Kreikemeier holding on for the narrow victory in 4:05.1-4:05.5. Lane placed third in 4:06.3, Palatine took fourth in 4:06.5, and Glenbard West rounded out the top five running 4:07.7.

Lyons Twp won the team title with 101.5 points, West Aurora 99, Prospect 75, Palatine 68, Glenbard West 66.