With its impressive win at the Mississippi Valley Conference championship last week, the Triad Knights reaffirmed their position as one of the top Class 2A teams in Southern Illinois.
Now the Knights are ready to prove it again.
Elite sprinter Jenniba Johnson headlines a strong group of Triad athletes who will compete for trips to the state finals on Thursday when the Knights host the Class 2A Girls Track and Field Sectional.
Field events begin at 4 p.m. at Triad High School, with running preliminaries set for 5 p.m. A total of 22 teams are competing in the meet including perennial state powers Carbondale, East St. Louis, Cahokia, Freeburg, Mater Dei and Triad.
The top two finishers and any other athlete equaling or bettering qualifying distances and times in all events advance to the IHSA girls state track and field meet, which will be held May 16-18 at O'Brien Stadium in Charleston.
Other local teams competing today include Central, Columbia, Mascoutah and Waterloo.
Highland, led by the Lena Giger, is competing in the Jacksonville Sectional on Thursday. Giger is ranks No. 1 in the state in both the shot put and discus.
Johnson, the MVC champion in the 100 and 200 meters, will lead the way for Triad. Other top hopes for the Knights include Abi Sowash in the high jump, Claire Buck in the triple jump and pole vault, Lauren Kershner in the pole vault, Tyler Bakarich in the 100 hurdles, Ally Richter in the discus and Abby Richter in the 800.
For Knights coach Brian Weiss, the sectional meet is their last step toward possible state glory.
*Our ladies have really worked hard in the offseason for a shot at getting to state and medaling in a lot of events once they get there,'' Weiss said. "Now all we have to do is put everything together on Thursday and show that we are capable of being one of the best teams in Class 2A this year.''
Cahokia, in the midst of one of its finest seasons, is led by freshman Dasha Thomas. Ranked second in the state in the 100 hurdles, Thomas is top-ranked in the triple jump at 37-feet-10-inches.
The Comanches' Daisha Townsend ranks fourth in the shot put (41-3), while Freeburg junior Abby Lealaimatafao is sixth in the event at 40-0 1/2.
East St. Louis also seems to be peaking at just the right time. The Flyerettes are led by former state champion Markita Rush, who is ranked second in the 300 hurdles and third in the 100 hurdles.
East St. Louis is ranked first in the 1,600 relay (3:57.92) and second in the 400 relay.
Class 1A Sparta Sectional
Site: Sparta High School
Date and Time: Friday, 3 p.m.
Local teams: Althoff, Metro East Lutheran, Lebanon, Madison, Nashville, New Athens, O'Fallon (First Baptist Academy), Okawville, Red Bud, Sparta, Wesclin and Gibault.
Top local individuals: Brittney Burmester (Red Bud) 1,600 and 3,200; Savannah Ames (Althoff) 1,600.