Once and still a power in the distance running events, the O’Fallon Panthers used a pair of sprinters to help clinch a fourth straight Southwestern Conference Girls Track Meet championship on Wednesday at Edwardsville High School.
Juniors Tamya Houston and Kersten Douglas won the 100 and 200 meters respectively and also were ran legs on winning efforts in the 400 and 800 meter relays to lead the way as the Panthers overcame stiff challenges from East St. Louis and Edwardsville to win another SWC title.
Finally learning to a quick start out of the blocks, Houston finished with a time of 12.20 seconds to nip Douglas (12.36) in the 100 meters while Douglas used her power to return the favor in the 200 meters, finishing with a time of 25.41 seconds compared to the 25.92 turned in by runner-up Houston.
Those 36 points by the Panthers dynamic duo along with wins in the 400- and 800-meter relays proved to be the difference as O’Fallon finished with 166 points, 33 more than East St. Louis (133) and 47 more than host Edwardsville (119).
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“To be able to win the SWC four years in a row? That says a lot for our program, because there is no doubt in my mind that this is one of the top girls track and field conferences in the state,’’ an elated O’Fallon coach Neil James said. “This group of juniors had the advantage of working with and learning from a special group of seniors a couple of years ago and they’ve just been able to carry that on to the younger kids we have now.
“For Tamya and Kersten 1-2 in a conference which has East St. Louis, Edwardsville, Belleville East and West and even Granite City has some very good sprinters now, says a lot for them. We had a good day.’’
Senior Caitlyn Clinton won the 800 meters and sophomore Brooke Witzel won the 1,600 meters for O’Fallon. But the tone of the day was set by Houston, who struggled to harness her explosiveness out of the starting blocks until the last two weeks.
But after winning the 100-meter crown at the St. Clair County Meet last week, the Panthers junior has it figured out heading into the Class 3A Sectional next week.
“I’m not that good out of the blocks, but the last two weeks I’ve done better,’’ Houston said. “My time today (12.2) was good, but I know I can do better. My goal is to get to the state meet.’’
Getting to state is also the goal of Clinton, who would like nothing more than to end a stellar high school career by reaching the state finals in the 800 meters. On Wednesday, the Panthers senior leader got out to a brilliant start then held off a late challenge from East St. Louis’ Shonjahnea Griggs for the conference title.
Clinton finished with a time of 2 minutes, 21.9 seconds.
“She ran great. Caitlyn is one of our leaders and I know that after not being able to beat Griggs all year, it means a lot to her to be able to do it at the conference meet and help the team win conference for a fourth year in a row,’’ James said. “We talked about her going out fast tonight and she did that.
“She’s right at the time she needs to qualify for the state finals. She’s worked very hard and is very deserving.’’
Flyerettes continue improvement
While O’Fallon ends the regular season as the top team in the Southwestern Conference for a fourth straight year, the East St. Louis Flyerettes continue to show signs they may be a force in the postseason.
As expected, coach Nino Fennoy’s team got wins from Evangeline Harris in the shot put (41 feet, 11 inches) and Jasmine Poole in the discus (121 feet, 9 inches).
The Flyerettes also won the 1,600 meter relay.
Edwardsville, Alton also have impressive performances
Third place Edwardsville was led by Gabriella Romano, who won the pole vault (9 feet) and Colleen Corkery (12.05.1) in the 3,200 meters. The Tigers also won the 3,200 meter relay.
Alton was led by the senior LaJarvia Brown. The Texas A & M University recruit won the 100 meter hurdles, the long jump with an effort of 18 feet, 11 1/2 inches and the triple jump with a leap of 39 feet, 4 inches. Alton’s Katie Mans won the high jump, clearing 5 feet 4 inches.
Following O’Fallon, East St. Louis and Edwardsville in the team standings were Alton (105 points), Belleville West (68), Belleville East (45), Granite City (41) and Collinsville (18).