CHARLESTON — Tired of taking a backseat to their three-time defending Class 2A state champion boys team, the Cahokia Comanches girls track and field squad did something about it Saturday at O'Brien Stadium.
The Comanches won a title of their own.
Freshman Mariya Hudson won the 400-meter title in 55.65 seconds and combined with sophomore Raynesha Lewis to win six individual medals as the Comanches captured their first girls state championship with a seven-point victory over Normal University High School.
"The boys team made a name for themselves and so we wanted to make a name for ourselves,'' said Lewis, who earned a fourth medal as a member of the Comanches' sixth-place 1,600 relay. "We've worked for this all year. To finally have it become a reality is super special.''
Senior Daisha Townsend added second-place finishes in the shot put and discus for Cahokia, which finished with 61 points. The Comanches wrapped up the title when Hudson placed third in the 200, the next to last event of the day.
It was a fitting end for the Comanches first-ever girls state team champion.
Long a local power, the Comanches seemed to take the next step over the last two years with the additions of Lewis and Hudson to their lineup.
"It feels tremendous. We've always told the girls that hard work pays off. It's paid of for the boys program in the past several years and today the girls got their proof as well,'' Cahokia coach Roscoe Dowell said. "Kids like Earlicia (Shaw) have done so much for this program and we've always been good.
"It took getting Raynesha (Lewis) and Mariya (Hudson) coming in to take us to that next step. That next level. I'm just so proud of the girls.''
Highland senior Lena Giger has been at that level for the last three years and Saturday, the Bulldogs senior won her third straight state championship in the shot put.
Headed to Stanford University, Giger's winning throw of 45-feet, 6-inches came in Friday's preliminaries.
Lewis, one of the metro-east's top all-around athletes, placed third in both the triple jump and long jump, but clipped a hurdle and settled for ninth in the 100 hurdles.
Hudson's third medal came in the long jump, where she placed seventh.
But it's her first state championship in the 400 that she'll remember the most.
"To win a state title and to be only a freshman, feels just great,'' Hudson said. "The race was a good race and I got out fast, which helped. I didn't know though.
"There are so many fast girls up here.''
The trophy is the second won by Cahokia in the last five years. The Comanches placed third in the 2009 Class 2A state finals.
Dowell also gave credit to Townsend, who got the Comanches off and running both days.
"Daisha had a great meet. She was able to have a couple of strong throws in both of her events and I think that got the other girls going as well," Dowell said. "She's one of our seniors and we're going to miss her. Hopefully, we've got some girls who will step up.
"But I can't get away without giving credit to assistant coach (Greg) Crockett. Cahokia wouldn't even have a girls track program if it weren't for what he's done for these kids.''
Heavily favored entering Friday's preliminaries, Giger, despite struggling a bit with her form, was still able to have the her title virtually wrapped up heading into finals.
"What am I going to do to celebrate? My family is here and there are a lot of them, so we're probably just going to go out and eat someplace,'' Giger said. "My form wasn't where I wanted it this weekend, but to win a third state championship, I'll take it.
"To win three in a row is bigger than anything I could have dreamed about when I got here a few years ago.''
Highland also got a seventh-place medal from its 3,200 relay and a ninth from Bailey Leitschuh in the triple jump.
Triad also had three medal winners in Claire Buck (third in the pole), Allison Richter (fifth in the shot put) and Tyler Bakarich (seventh in the triple jump).
Central's Ciara Lohman finished eighth in the triple jump.