As the IHSA gears itself up for a full slate of state competitions, here's a list of metro-east teams and athletes which represent the best chance of bringing the heavy hardware back to the metro-east.
▪ Columbia Eagles: The Eagles ran their record to 25-0 by winning the Triad Tournament on Saturday and are the metro east area's top hope to compete for a championship. The Eagles, who will compete in Class 3A have wins over strong programs such as Belleville East, O'Fallon, Freeburg, Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin and Chatham Glenwood. Led by senior all-state catcher Chelsea Pena, the Eagles have a balanced lineup and two solid pitchers in Mikaela Kossina and Kaelyn Rheinecker.
▪ O'Fallon Panthers: The Panthers had their 11-game winning streak snapped by Columbia on Saturday, but coach Jason Portz has his team headed toward the Southwestern Conference title with just under two weeks remaining in the regular season. The Panthers feature a deep and experienced pitching staff headlined by senior ace Hayden Juenger and Brayden Arnold. O'Fallon has never won a state championship in any team sport.
▪ Columbia Eagles: They started 2-3, but have not lost a game in the more than six weeks since and appear to be playing their best baseball heading into the home stretch of the 2018 regular season. With wins over Mascoutah and O'Fallon last week at the O'Fallon Tournament, Columbia improved to 19-3. The Eagles have four players including Shane Wilhelm (.480) and Jordan Holmes (.404), hitting over .400 with Luke Watson (4-1), Wilhelm (3-1) and Brandon Kuchinski (3-1) leading a deep pitching staff.
▪ Valmeyer Pirates: Second in the Class 1A State Tournament a year ago, the Pirates are currently 23-7 and top-ranked in the News-Democrat small-school baseball poll. Coach Greg Reinhardt's team features a solid pitching staff led by sophomore Philip Reinhardt (2-2) as well as Cole Juelfs (5-1) and Drew Maus (5-1). Reinhardt (.458) and Juelfs (.375) lead a balanced hitting attack.
▪ Columbia Eagles: Led by high scoring junior forward Kennedy Jones (100 points, 42 goals, 16 assists), the Eagles are the top Class 1A hope of reaching Napervillle and the Class 1A State Soccer Tournament in a little over two weeks.. The Eagles (19-2) could get a major test from Althoff in sectional competition should both win regional titles later this week. Althoff (14-3-4) defeated Columbia 2-1 earlier this season.
Boys Track and Field
▪ East St. Louis Flyers: Runner-up to Edwardsville a year ago at the Class 3A state track meet, the Flyers drop to Class 2A this spring and should be one of the favorites to win the title. The Flyers have the potential to go 1-2 in the 400 meters with Deante' Anderson and Willie Johnson. East St. Louis could also contend and possibly win the 400-, 800- and 1,600-meter relay titles.
▪ Jermaine Stewart, Collinsville: Stewart, who placed fifth in the Class 3A 400 meters last year currently has the third best time in the state in the 200 meters (21.60 seconds). He'll also contend in the 100- and 400-meters.
▪ Belleville West 4x200 meter relay team: Always a threat to contend for a state championship in the sprint relays, coach Patton Segraves best shot this spring could be in the 4x200 event where the Maroons have the second best Class 3A time at 1 minute 28.50 seconds.
▪ Deante Anderson and Willie Johnson, East St. Louis, 400 meters: Take your pick here. Anderson was the state runner-up in the Class 3A state 400 meters and along with Johnson should be among the favorites as the Flyers drop down to compete in Class 2A this spring. Anderson currently has the second fastest time (48.76 seconds). Johnson, only a sophomore, has the No. 3 time (48.80).
▪ Charlie Parrish, Freeburg: Looking to end his high school career with a bang, Parrish has a shot in both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. The Kansas State University recruit has the fifth best time in the 1,600 meters (4:21..50) but his best chance is in the Class 2A 3,200 meters where his top time of 9 minutes 16.24 seconds is the second best in the state.
▪ East St. Louis Relays: The Flyers were dynamite a year ago when they used their strength in the relays to place second behind Edwardsville in the Class 3A team competition. In Class 2A, the Flyers should be a threat to win the 400, 800 and 1,600 meter relays. East St. Louis currently has the best time in both the 800 meter (1 minute 28.62 seconds) and 1,600 meter (3:21.49) relays.
▪ Waterloo and Mascoutah 3,200-meter relay: Mississippi Valley Conference rivals loaded with solid middle distance runners, the Bulldogs and Indians have the second and third best times in the Class 2A 3,200 meter relay. Waterloo 's time of 7 minutes 58.86 seconds was turned in on Saturday at the Collinsville Invitational. Mascoutah, which won the 3,200 meter state indoors championship in March, has the third best outdoor time of 7:59.6.
▪ Jordan Hawkins, Roxana: Fourth in the state a year go in the discus, Hawkins' top throw of 184 feet 5 inches is the best by any Class 2A athlete n the state by over 11 feet.
▪ Zach Pluff, Freeburg:One of the more consistent athletes in the high jump, Pluff has the second best jump in the state at 6 feet 8 inches.
Girls Track and Field
▪ East St. Louis Flyers: Defending Class 2A state champion Dunlap returns several of its top athletes from a team which ended Cahokia's three-year title run last spring. But Dunlap will be pushed by an East St. Louis team which has a pair of athletes capable of wining two championships. In senior Rokelle Stanley (100 and 300 meter hurdles) and Evangelynn Harris (shot put and discus), the Flyerettes could have 30-40 points.
▪ Jenna Schwartz, Waterloo: The Class 2A state cross country champion, Schwartz will try to win the distance running triple crown at O'Brien Stadium in Charleston next week by adding medals in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter events.. Schwartz currently has the top time in the 1,600 meters (5 minutes 00..70 seconds) and the 3,200 meters (10 minutes 44.4 seconds)
▪ Rokelle Stanley, East St. Louis: After an injury ended her state championship dreams a year ago, Stanley is a threat to be a double winner in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles next week. She is currently ranked second in both the 100 meter hurdles (14.79 seconds) and 300 meter hurdles (44.42 seconds)
▪ Veronica Sherrod, East St. Louis: 300 meter hurdles: Sherrod posted the best time in the state in winning the 300 meter hurdles title at the Southwestern Conference Meet with a time of 44.12 seconds.
▪ East St. Louis relays: The Flyerettes have the top time in the 1,600 meter relay (3:54..5) and the second best time (1:42. 1) behind defending state champion Dunlap in the 800 meter relay.
▪ Evangelynn Harris, East St. Louis: Harris could win a pair of state titles next week in each the shotput and discus. Harris is ranked first in the shot put (46 feet 8 inches) and first in the discus (140 feet 7 inches).
▪ Laqwasia Stepney, Belleville West: After helping Cahokia place first and second in the Class 2A state finals the past two years, Stepney is even better while competing at Class 3A Belleville West this spring. Stepney has the top time in the 100 hurdles (14.13 seconds) and second best time in the 300 hurdles (44, 89 seconds)
▪ Belleville West 800 Meter Relay: The Maroons have the top Class 3A time in the state at 1 minutes 42.1 seconds.
▪ Alex Gray and Seth Lipe, Edwardsville: After combing with Zach Trimpe to win the Class 2A state doubles championship a year ago, Gray has combined with Lipe to become the top doubles team outside of Chicago and one the best in the state. The tandem placed second at the prestigious Invitational two weeks ago, the combination won the No. 1 doubles crown at the Naper Valley Invitational this past weekend. Trimpe, a junior, will more than likely play singles for the Tigers in the postseason.
▪ Andy Graf, Mascoutah: Competing in tournaments most of the season with other top local players including Max Skaer, of Belleville East, Trimpe, and O'Fallon's Dominic Macaluso, Graf could contend for the title in the Class A State Tennis Tournament later this month in suburban Chicago. Gray is an Emporia State (Kansas) University recruit.