Panthers turn up the heat at Southwestern Illinois Relays

News-DemocratMarch 29, 2014 

— For most of the hundreds of athletes who competed Saturday at the Southwestern Illinois Relays, the conditions had to seem miserable as they struggled to stay warm and loose in the cold weather.

For Tae'Mon Franklin of O'Fallon, the weather was perfect.

Ignoring 40-degree temperatures, Franklin was in near mid-season form as he set an O'Fallon record in the long jump with a leap of 23-feet, 1 1/2-inches and also captured the 100 meters to lead the Panthers to a narrow win at Edwardsville High School.

Aaron Smith won the high jump while Dorrian Gordon took the 1,600 meters for O'Fallon, which finished with 116 points, 13 more than the host Tigers.

A third Southwestern Conference school -- Belleville West -- was third with 90 points.

Like many of the 13 boys teams and 16 team girls teams which participated, the Panthers held some of their athletes out, while other elite competitors -- such as Class 3A state cross country champion Patrick Perrier of O'Fallon --were attending the state indoor championships at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington.

So on a day when the Panthers needed help, Franklin stepped up.

"Tae'Mon had a great day. To jump 23 feet this year and under these conditions, he responded very well,'' O'Fallon coach Ron Koch said. "His time in the 100 meters (11.2) wasn't great, but there was good competition.

"The thing I'm most pleased with was that there was no complaining from anybody about the conditions. The kids were focused and they went out and competed to the best of their ability.''

O'Fallon nearly made it a sweep in the girls meet. State power Rock Island, getting a win from elite sprinter Mystique Thompson in the 100, nipped O'Fallon 97 3/4-96 3/4 for the girls title.

Gordon, also one of the top cross country runners in the state, won the 1,600 in 4:35, while Smith won the high jump by clearing 6-0 for O'Fallon's other individual wins in the boys competition.

Second-place Edwardsville got a win from Isaiah Michl in the 300-intermediate hurdles (41.06). The Tigers also won the 400, 3,200 and distance-medley relays.

Junior Ricky Nelson led West with wins in the discus and shot put. Alex Smith of Collinsville won the pole vault with an effort of 12 feet.

While the O'Fallon girls fell a point short of a title, Panthers coach Neil James liked that his team stayed close to Rock Island.

O'Fallon got a 1-2 finish in the 1,600 from Reagan Lear and Hannah Nabb and won the 3,200 relay. But it was the Rocks speed which proved the difference.

"They (Rock Island) just have a great group of sprinters. They could win the 400- and 800-meter relays at state in May and Mystique (Thompson) is one of the best around,'' James said. "It was great to let our young kids see that this is a level that we can compete.

"We had some freshmen step up and do a great job in the relays. We also talked about how we needed some depth in the field events and we had some young kids do well there as well. For day one, it was a good effort.''

West (68 points), Edwardsville (63) and Cahokia (54) rounded out the top five teams in the girls standings.

The Maroons were led by senior Jasmine Berry, who won the 300 hurdles in 45.6 and was also on the Maroons' sprint medley relay which won in a meet record 1:48.22.

Anna Fishbein of West won the pole vault, while Deborrah Blackburn of Edwardsville took the high jump.

Cahokia senior Daisha Townsend claimed the shot put and discus.

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