EAST ST. LOUIS — One of the smallest members of the O'Fallon Panthers track and field team, 4-foot, 10-inch junior Denesha Swift made a huge impact Thursday at the St. Clair County Girls Track and Field Meet.
Swift won the 100-meter dash in 12.39 seconds to lead a strong Panthers' effort in the sprints as O'Fallon scored a 12-point win over host East St. Louis at Clyde Jordan Stadium.
Taking advantage of near perfect conditions, Swift broke away from East St. Louis junior Daria Walker in the final 10 meters as she paced a rejuvenated group of Panthers' sprinters.
O'Fallon also won the 800 and 1,600 relays, in addition to its usual domination of the distance events, as it finished with 184 points to defeat East St. Louis (172) and two-time defending champion Belleville West (166) for its first county title since 2010.
It was Swift who provided the early spark.
"She (Swift) says she's 5-foot, but I think she's more like 4-10 or 4-11,'' Panthers coach Neal James said. "She may be small, but my what a motor she has. She goes hard every second she's out there and has a tremendous work ethic.
"The girls in the 800- and 1,600-meter relays just did a phenomenal job today. But I saw this coming because of the way we ran at the (Edwardsville) Tigers Relays 10 days ago. The difference this year is that we've got Denesha, but we've also got depth with our sprint group. I can move kids around.''
O'Fallon also won the 3,200 relay and got individual wins from Reagan Lear (3,200), Samantha Lapp (1,600) and sophomore sensation Tami Cardenas in the 800. The Panthers scored 18 points in both the 1,600 and 3,200 by posting 1-2 finishes.
East St. Louis was led by senior Markita Rush, who won the 300 hurdles in 45.15 seconds and placed third in the 100 hurdles.
Kenesha Taylor was the Flyerettes other champion, clearing 9-feet, 6-inches to win the pole vault.
Despite the solid effort, Flyerettes coach Nino Fennoy remained low key.
"It was a good day and the girls did well,'' Fennoy said. "But we've still got work to do.''
West, despite having several of its top athletes either out of the lineup or competing at less than 100 percent, also had a good day.
The Maroons were led by junior Claudette Day, who won the 100 hurdles and the long jump. Day also ran on the Maroons 400 relay, which won in a time of 48.67.
Camelia Nicholson captured the 400 and Kelsey Shannon cleared 5-4 to win the high jump.
West coach Paul James considered the Maroons effort "better."
"Claudette (Day) looked very strong in her events and I was pleased at the way Jasmine Berry was able to come back and run for us tonight, but once again we used some of our better athletes sparingly,'' James said. "We've got the (Southwestern) conference meet next week and then we've got the sectional. We've got about two weeks left to get everybody healthy.''
Cahokia, which placed fourth with 125 points, received a pair of wins from Daisha Townsend in the shot put and discus while freshman Dasha Thomas won the triple jump with an effort of 36-3.
Belleville East rounded out the top five teams with 90 points. The Lancers were led by Aniecia Brewster, who ran a 25.77 to win the 200.