Putting the finishing touches on an unforgettable high school career, Edwardsville senior Emmonnie Henderson moved closer to a fourth straight title in the shot put on Friday at the Class 3A State Track and Field Meet.
And the Edwardsville Tigers also continued to take aim on a second straight state team championship
Utilizing its depth and talent in the field events, Edwardsville advanced 12 entries into the finals to lead the way for metro-east athletes during Class 3A preliminaries at O'Brien Stadium in Charleston.
One of the nation's top two-sport athletes, Henderson all but clinched the shot put title with a throw of 49-feet-7 3/4 inches. The throw is more than six feet further then current runner-up Morgan Keller of Rolling Meadows, who got off a heave of 43-6.
Last week, Henderson became the first to throw an Illinois High School Association recognized shot put over 50 feet, when she won the Belleville East Sectional title with a toss of 50-3.
But Henderson was just a small piece of the story for Tigers' field event athletes.
Edwardsville advanced two athletes into the finals in three field events -- shot put, discus and high jump -- and one apiece in the pole vault, triple jump and long jump.
On the track, junior Kristen Dowell reached the finals of both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles. The Tigers' 1,600 relay ran a 3:58.62, which advanced them to finals with the ninth fastest time of preliminaries.
The Tigers' effort was just part of an outstanding day for Southwestern Conference teams in Charleston.
Belleville West has six finalists while O'Fallon has five and Collinsville, Belleville East and Granite City all have one.
While Henderson has the shot put crown wrapped up, she has work to do to win her third straight discus crown.
She got off a toss of 146-1, but is second behind Rolling Meadows' Keller, who made a throw of 149-7.
Tigers teammate Aaliyah Covington is in fourth at 132-4. Covington sits in third in the shot put, with a toss of 43-3.
Lauren White and Debra Blackburn are in the finals in the high jump after clearing 5 feet 4 inches, while Kennedy Roderick is in the pole vault finals after going 11 feet on Friday.
White is eighth in the long jump (17-10), while Morgan Sharpe is fourth in the triple jump at 37-7 1/4.
Junior Claudette Day and sophomore Jasmine Berry led the way for West.
Berry posted the third-best time in the 100 hurdles (14.68) and sixth best in the 300 hurdles (44.63). Day is ninth in the long jump (17-9 1/2) and fourth in the 100 hurdles (14.71).
Junior Kelsey Shannon also is in the finals in the high jump (5-4) while the Maroons posted the fifth-best qualifying time in the 1,600 relay at 3:55.04.
O'Fallon qualified for the finals in all four relays.
The Panthers' top effort came in the 800 relay, where they ran the fifth-best time at 1:42.02. Sophomore Tami Cardenas is O'Fallon's lone remaining individual, she ran a 2:18.8 to be the ninth-fastest qualifier in the 800.
Belleville East senior Anna Gailius is in the finals of the pole vault after clearing 11 feet while Granite City senior Natalie O'Keefe is in the high jump finals with a jump of 5-4.
Collinsville junior Kayla Marshall is in third place in the triple jump after a leap of 38-8 1/2.
Defending champion Lena Giger of Highland all but wrapped up a second straight shot put title with a throw of 47-9 1/2 inches as she led the way for metro-east Class 2A athletes at O'Brien Stadium.
Giger's throw is more than five feet better than the second best throw of 42-1 put up by Normal U-High junior Gabi Jacobs.
Giger's throw Friday was more than four feet better than her winning toss of 43-5 from a year ago
A junior, Giger is also currently in fourth place in the discus after a preliminary round throw of 125-8.
While Giger had the best individual performance of any Class 2A competitor, the East St. Louis Flyerettes put themselves in position for a possible top-five effort in the team race by advancing seven entries into the final.
Senior Markita Rush led the way for East St. Louis.
The 2-11 Class 3A state champion in the 300 hurdles, Rush turned in the third-best time of 44.95 on Friday. Rush also posted the fifth-best time in the 100 hurdles at 15.41.
East St. Louis teammate Micayla Collins also qualified for the finals in two events. She is currently in second place in the long jump after an effort of 18-1. Collins is currently sixth in the triple jump after going 36-4.
The Flyerettes also are in the finals in three relays. East St. Louis ran the fifth best time in the 400 relay (48.9) and seventh-best in the 1600 relay (3:59.62).
East St. Louis also in the finals in the 3,200 relay, after posting the 12th-best time at 9:40.20
Triad qualified for the finals in three events with four entries. The Knights' Claire Buck and Lauren Kershner both cleared the mandatory 10-0 mark in the pole vault, while Abi Sowash cleared 5-2 inches to advance in the high jump.
Triad also posted the ninth best time in the 800 relay (1:44.64).
A pair of freshmen led the way for Cahokia, Dasha Thomas is currently sixth in the long jump (17-6 1/2), while Raynesha Lewis is fourth in the triple jump (37-2 1/2).
Junior Daisha Townsend is seventh in the discus at 120-9.
Columbia's Amy Rzepczynski also cleared 5-2 inches and is in the final of the high jump while Freeburg junior Abby Lealaimatafao is fifth in the shot put at 39-7.