CAHOKIA — Contending for a state championship in Charleston in late May is nothing new at Cahokia High School, where the Comanches have won three straight Class 2A boys track and field titles.
But now the Comanches' girls squad appears ready to challenge for a title.
Led by sophomore Raynesha Lewis and freshman Mariya Hudson, the Comanches will try to take that first step toward Charleston today, when they compete with 16 other teams at the Class 2A Herrin Sectional.
Taking a page out of fellow Comanches sophomore Jamari Ward's book, Lewis heads into the postseason with the state's best Class 2A effort in the triple jump (38-feet, 1-inch) and is tied with Hudson for the top mark in the long jump (17 feet 9 1/2 inches).
Hudson, meanwhile, is ranked first in both the 200 meters (24.77) and 400(54.66).
When adding in the power of Lashawndra Brewer and Daisha Townsend in the shot put, along with three top-10 ranked relays, Cahokia should be a team to watch during the next two weeks.
Cahokia coach Roscoe Dowell, although pleased that his team has a chance of advancing several athletes, said the school's boys program is in a league of its own.
"We've got to get there and then be at our best for two days in Charleston. The boys have a formula for success at the state meet. We're just trying to copy that formula a little bit,'' Dowell said. "We're looking forward to the challenge of competing in Herrin. It will be our first time there, but because of their own success in track over the years, we're expecting to see a very good facility.''
Columbia, Mascoutah, Freeburg, Triad and Waterloo also are in the field. The meet begins at 4 p.m., with the field events. Preliminaries in the running events are set for 5 p.m., with the finals to follow.
The top two finishers and any others equaling state qualifying times or distances will advance to the Class 2A state track meet, May 23-24 at O'Brien Stadium in Charleston.
Also at Herrin, Highland senior Lena Giger will begin her quest for a third straight state title in the shot put.
Headed for Stanford University, Giger has the best pre-sectional throw in the shot put at 49-2. A two-time medal winner in the discus, she also owns the best Class 2A throw in that event at 151-2.
Highland also has a top distance runner in sophomore Allison Zobrist, who could be a a state medal winner in the 1,600 and 3,200. The Bulldogs should also boast one of Class 2A's top 3,200 relays.
Freeburg senior Abby Lealaimatafao is a two-time state medal winner in the shot put and should advance, while Mississippi Valley Conference champion Triad could advance several entries to state.
The Knights are led by junior Claire Buck in the pole vault. Buck placed fifth at state a year ago and has been ranked among the top 25 in the nation this year.
Buck, along with teammates Tyler Bakarich, Keala Lusk, Melissa Eeftink, should also advance in the 400 relay. Allison Richter is a candidate to qualify in the shot put and discus.
But there could be many more, according to coach Brian Weiss
"We have a great chance to qualify in many events," Weiss said. "The girls have worked hard and are in championship-mode physically and mentally.
"We are ready for anything. I will be surprised if we don't qualify in five events.''