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Illinois Girls State Meet

Class AA Championship Preview

Fri.-Sat., May 18-19, 2007 - Charleston IL

Preview, Coverage by Tony Jones, IllinoisPrepTopTimes.com

The Barrington Fillies have been dominating the Illinois track and field scene since February. Ironically, their destiny with history will have to go through legendary programs E. St. Louis Sr. and Evanston. Evanston is four-time defending champion but graduation has finally caught up to them in this rebuilding year for the Wildkits. ESL will perhaps present the biggest challenge for the Fillies. A younger but apparently more focused and hungrier Flyerette team may give Barrington all that it wants.

For the first time since 2002, there will be no Alexandria Anderson or Shalina Clarke show to look forward to. However, this is Illinois track and there will be new stars in the making.

Watch Waubonsie Valley’s Shakeia Pinnick dazzle the crowd in the jumps, hurdles, mid-distances, and sprints. Middle distance superstar Ashley Verplank of Bloomington will have a date with destiny. She will compete in the 800m and 1600m and will be the first athlete in many years with a realistic chance to dethrone Shelly McBride’s ageless marks that have stood tall since 1985. Verplank has already clocked mind-blowing times of 2:09 and 4:58 this season. There may have been other state meets with more drama and stardom but the ’07 edition has an opportunity to make a name for itself for years to come.

-Top teams-

Key events: 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1600m, 100HH, 300IH, LJ, TJ, 4x1, 4x2, 4x4, 4x8.

Scouting report: Who is going to stop this juggernaut? No team has even close to the same depth as Barrington. The Fillies are truly a great team (one of the best in the nation) that is poised to win the championship after last year’s debacle.
Consider the fact that there have only been four schools to ever win the team title: Evanston, Morgan Park, Chicago South Shore, and E. St. Louis. The main item on the agenda is to stay focused and keep both eyes on the big prize: state championship. Coach Jody Gitelis has a philosophy if that each one of her athletes competes to their ability, then there will be no failures.
The skinny on the Fillies is depth. Samantha Learch is as interchangeable as there is in the sport, running anything from 100m to 3 miles. Look for Learch and junior Molly Glantz to carry a big load this weekend. Glantz will run the hurdles and possibly two relays. Sisters Amanda and Jenny Schnack will be vital forces in the short sprints and relays. Valery Taylor? The senior ace will become very important on day two with long and relay duties. An absolute total team effort is going to be needed here for the favorites.

E. St. Louis Sr.-
Key events: 100m, 200m, 400m, 100HH, 300LH, LJ, TJ, 4x1, 4x2, 4x4

Scouting report: Not many people will be familiar with this Flyerette team. ESL appears to be a much better team than previous installments that were more talented and experienced. Legendary coach Nino Fennoy has won a record 14 state championships, but none since 1993. However, despite Barrington’s dominance, if there is a team that can take down the Fillies it will be East Side. If the right decisions are made, Barrington will have a difficult time on their hands. Sprint ace Ronecia Nash will lead her team’s attack as she has the potential to muster 40 points. Ambrea Brimmage will take command in the field, but look for upstart Chelsey Robinson to contribute in a big way in the long sprints.

Hinsdale Central-
Key events: 800, 1600, 3200, 4x1, 4x2, 4x4, 4x8, 300LH, LJ, 100H, SP.

Scouting report: It’s a little hard to tell how good the Red Devils are. They stack up well against the best teams in the state, but in the two times against Barrington they looked average. In recent times though, HC has come to life in several events. Tenika Waldroup has dropped the triple jump from her program and added the LJ. The strength of the team is the middle and long distances, but a collective effort from the relays will be needed for any trophy spot. The 4x4 and 4x8 are the best bests of big points in terms of relays. The young distance corps of Elaine Kuckertz and Lauren Zumbach will need to be in the mix on Friday. Also, expect a few surprises as well despite the sectional disappointment of pole vaulter extraordinaire Cassie Ludwig. The state’s most consistent vaulter didn’t clear opening height at sectional. Molly Kinsella has the ability to place in the Shot Put if she is on her game.

Key events: 4x4, 4x8, 300LH, SP, DT, PV, 800, 1600.

Scouting report: the Pirates are a very young and dangerous team. Coach Steve Currin’s unit has gotten so much better since the middle of indoor season. The distance runners in particular are poised to actually make the final and score a few points. The strength may still lie with middle distance and field events. Michelle Brunk and Jocelyn Kuksa are team leaders in terms of getting the ball rolling. Thrower Martha Shepard could contribute in a big way should she make the Shot Put final. The Pirates should be able to muster 30 points at the end of the day.

-Running Events-

Ronecia Nash (E. St. Louis)
Toni Graham (Hoffman Estates Conant)
Tamika Robinson (Chicago Morgan Park)
Scouting Report: This is a loaded event - one of the strongest in years. Check out the who’s who: Olivia Allen (Lake Zurich), Yolanda Suggs (Belleville West), Natalie Tarter (Batavia), and even ’06 all-state speedster Aireonna Bailey (Zion-Benton) could be thrown into the mix. Nash ran a fast 11.5h in late April, but will be pitted against Robinson who has several sub-12.0 FAT clockings. If the dash is decided by heart and effort, then place your bets on Graham.

Ronecia Nash (E. St. Louis)
Adrienne Slaughter (Evanston)
Yolanda Suggs (Belleville West)
Scouting report: Nash could very well sweep the short dashes depending on how fatigued she may be. If not, then maybe one of the aforementioned athletes could move up. Coryn Marzejon (Huntley) is undefeated and un-pushed for the ’07 campaign. Would it be crazy to think Amanda Schnack (Barrington) to squeeze into the top 5 along with teammate Samantha Learch?

Coryn Marzejon (Huntley)
Yolanda Suggs (Belleville West)
Jessica Lenoir (Alton)
Scouting report: The lack of sub 59.0 clockings suggest this event isn’t as strong as in recent years. Still, the event will be strong up top and there could be potentially 20 girls with a chance of earning all-state honors. Suggs brings her 100 and 200 speed to the oval event and that could make a difference. Chelsey Robinson (E. St. Louis) and Kindra Perkins (Proviso East) are realistic all-state candidates. Lenoir is an unknown that could surprise the field. How about Eileen Moran (Providence Catholic) duplicating last year’s 4th place feat? This is Marzejon’s strong suit and her best chance for victory. Potentially, a sub-56 effort awaits the winner.

Ashley Verplank (Bloomington)
Casey Short (Naperville Central)
Shakeia Pinnick (Waubonsie Valley)
Scouting report: This will be the event of the day because of the possibility of the state meet record being broke. Verplank ran the 6th fastest time in history last week in 2:09.7. Defending champion Short has missed substantial time due to soccer commitments, but should be ready after running the second fastest sectional mark (2:12.4). Pinnick has run as fast as 2:12, but has the ability to run faster.
Other surprises could include event newcomers Regina George (Chicago Gordon Tech) and Abby Higgins (Benet Academy). George has been practicing and competing just a month and posted a very impressive 2:14 at her conference meet. Look for Michelle Teague (Proviso West) to break out after posting the fastest indoor mark (2:16) but as yet to break 2:20 during outdoor season.

Ashley Verplank (Bloomington)
Elaine Kuckertz (Hinsdale Central)
Nicole Benson (Bartonville Limestone)
Scouting report: Verplank appears to be the big favorite here. It is not certain that anyone listed in the field can put up much of a challenge once Verplank decides to race. Can defending champ Haley Staples (Crystal Lake Central) improve enough in time? It may be just a race against the clock after 1000m as some critics have suggested. Lizzy Hynes (St. Charles East) skipped indoor season for the run at the outdoor title. However, the lack of racing may not lend her to handle a rugged pace if someone decides to push the pace. Whether the pace is fast or slow, no one is going to defeat Verplank.

Caitlin Comfort (Peoria Notre Dame)
Kristina Aubert (Crystal Lake South)
Laurie Dalrymple (York)
Scouting report: The news here is that this is going to be a quality race despite times not up to par. Only two competing athletes have broken 11:00 and that was Aubert, who logged 10:59 in early April. In fact, no one else has even broke 11:10. On the plus side, a dozen runners are within ten seconds apart from one another. A slow pace would probably suit Hinsdale Central runners Lauren Zumbach and Grace Hucek well. Their team will be heavily involved in the team title chase. Amber Stack (Wheeling) won the event as a freshman two years ago and has been running well this spring and will be a factor. Race time prediction: 10:45.

Natalie Tartar (Batavia)
Egle Staisiunaite (Downers Grove South)
Jere Richardson (Cahokia)
Scouting report: Tarter and Staisiunaite appear to be 1-2 here. They have split victories during indoor and outdoor season and know each other’s tendencies. Tartar has more speed, but Staisiunaite may be the better tactician. Block starts and who maintains balance and poise through the hurdles should persevere. Look for Tiara Barr (Thornton), who has the second best mark during the regular season, to have a breakout run during the prelims and on to the state final. The overall field here is balanced and 15:00 should make Saturday’s final.

Jere’ Richardson (Cahokia)
Natalie Tartar (Batavia)
Egle Staisiunaite (Downers Grove South)
Scouting report: Don’t look at the sectional marks and assume those listed in the top nine are going to be the competitors to automatically make the final. In fact, many factors during the course of Friday’s preliminaries may change that. For one, it isn’t guaranteed that sophomore ace Shakeia Pinnick will win despite having the top mark and ’06 runner-up honors. Morgan Monroe (Chicago Lane Tech) is undefeated and logged a swift 44.4 during the outdoor season. She has beaten several of the top long hurdlers, among others such as Barrington’s Molly Glantz.

4x800 relay-
Hinsdale Central
Scouting report: It will be interesting to see what Barrington will do here. Will they concede going for the meet record and just go for the win? The Fillies clearly have the best team on paper. However, at the state meet it is more important to obtain maximum points first. Palatine has improved up to 9:20 and the Pirates could win it if the Fillies back down. Indoor champion Hinsdale Central remains solid and will fight for the top with indoor runner up Edwardsville. The Tigerettes will have some issues if key runner Kaci Smith can’t rebound from a severe foot injury. Naperville North and record holder Wheaton North will round out the top five.

4x100 relay-
E. St. Louis Sr.
Hoffman Estates Conant
Scouting report: The first sprint-oriented final will get speed enthusiasts out of their seats. Why? The 800m medley has been eliminated and the missing parts will land here first. ESL has sacrificed this event with some of their top sprinters for the medley but look for the Flyerettes to use powerful sprinter Ronecia Nash on the anchor. Conant has super talented Toni Graham to contend. Barrington will be in the title hunt with the Schnack sisters (Amanda and Jenny) in the fold.
A surprising Freeport team ran 48.00 last weekend in their sectional qualifier. Can the Pretzels from near Rockford put it together for two more races? Cahokia with contend because of Jere’ Richardson. Proviso East was once a threat to place in the top three, but a red flag was raised last week when anchor Nevada Morrison pulled up in the 100m final with a hamstring injury. Her status is unknown at current time. The wildcard could be Evanston. The Wildkits still have a powerful lineup despite the graduation of Demeca Hill and Shalina Clarke. Watch out!

4x200 relay-
E. St. Louis Sr.
Hoffman Estates Conant
Scouting report: The Flyerettes will probably rely on their young talent here. They have several freshmen who could contribute. Conant will once again use Toni Graham to stay competitive. Evanston’s young sprinters will get their feet wet here as well. Hinsdale Central has improved tremendously throughout the outdoor season. Tamika Waldroup should further the Red Devils cause. Barrington doesn’t have to win the race but finishing in the top five will add their trophy chances.

4x400 relay-
E. St. Louis Sr.
Scouting report: The show-stopper will not disappoint. Barrington should have the team title wrapped up by this point, but the Fillies may want to close the meet out on top. ESL has the top time going in, followed by Cahokia, but other medal contenders will be Bloomington, Lane Tech, Hinsdale Central, and defending champion Edwardsville. E-ville returns all four members of their quartet, but the injury bug may prevent them from repeating. Maywood Proviso East is a strong team, but the injury status of Nevada Morrison will remain in the balance. Don’t count out Evanston either. Look for the meet’s sub 3:50 clocking either by Barrington or ESL.

-Field Events-

Long Jump-
Shakeia Pinnick (Waubonsie Valley)
Diane Lindsay (Thornton)
Brittany Tolar (Evanston)
Scouting report: A mid 18-footer may be all it will take to win the title. Pinnick finally got untracked at sectionals and landed a list leader 18.5.75. One observer at the meet stated that Pinnick is primed to jump 19 feet. There is a belief that sub 18 could place top 5. If so, this proves that this event is down from last (a weak year in terms of quality jumps).

Triple Jump-
Breanna Sanner (Hillcrest)
Ambrea Brimmage (E. St. Louis Sr.)
Brittani McNeal (Romeoville)
Scouting report: Sanner landed the first 40 footer of the season last week. This event will be one of the more popular field events to watch. McNeal jumped over 39 feet this season (indoors), but has yet to get untracked outdoors. ESL’s Brimmage has positioned herself to win it all should McNeal and Sanner slip. Watch Aleisha Leeper (Freeport) and surprising Kawanna Brooks (Kenwood).

Shot Put-
Bailey Wagner (Grant)
Megan Manning (Rock Island Alleman)
Tori Zigler (Grant)
Scouting report: Wagner has been leader all season long and why should she relinquish her stranglehold on the event she has dominated for nearly two seasons? Manning started her ascent several weeks ago, but can she narrow the gap? The quality of the event won’t stop at the top three as over a dozen throwers have 40’ marks.

Bailey Wagner (Grant)
Erin Wycoff (Triad)
Geneva McCall (Thornridge)
Scouting report: Wycoff, McCall, and Wagner have led all season. That trend should hold true once more but others could move up. Sophomore Lauren Orris (Palatine) has been improving at a rapid rate. Jordan Harris has proved she is a much better thrower than she is a putter.

High Jump-
Jennifer Palovcsik (Belleville East)
Laura Morris (Mahomet-Seymour)
Alex Starks (Peoria Richwoods)
Scouting report: More balance and quality has revived an event that was left for dead just two years ago. Thanks to Palovcsik and Starks as well as multi-event specialist Morris expect the trickle down to other jumpers. All state participants have cleared 5-0.

Pole Vault-
Melissa Gergel (Marian Catholic)
Jenna Wexter (Lincoln Way Central)
Meriel Harwood (Palatine Fremd)
Scouting report: Gergel finally emerged during the outdoor season with a season best and list leading 12-6. That’s a foot higher than the next competitor, Wexter. Still, anything can happen in the vault -- as was shown by Cassie Ludwig (Hinsdale Central) not advancing to state despite having the top mark going into last week’s state sectional. Stephanie Moy (Maine West) is a multi-event specialist who appears to have ditched the high jump for the open skies. Look for her to be among the leaders. Hurdler Jocelyn Kuksa (Palatine) has cleared 11’ and should score some big points for Palatine.

IL Girls State Meet Index