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Althoff sophomore ends Crusaders’ victory drought with girls 400-meter state title

Althoff sophomore Nariah Parks had three goals heading into the final day of competition Saturday at the IHSA state track meet.

The top seed in the Class 1A 400 meters, Parks wanted to do her best, win a state title and, in the process, become Althoff’s first girls state track champion in 27 years. It took Parks a little more than 58 seconds to accomplish all three of those goals at O’Brien Stadium.

Taking the lead early, Parks fought off a strong head wind in the final 150 meters to hold off a strong field.

“I just wanted to do my best. I knew that the way the wind was blowing that it was important that I get out to a quick start and then have enough of lead coming down to the straightaway,’’ Parks said. “To be able to win the first state championship in Althoff girls track in 27 years is an amazing feeling. I’ve worked very hard for this.’’

Parks, who added a sixth place medal later in the day in the 200 meters, finished with a time of 58.07 seconds as she becomes Althoff’s first girls state track champion since Beth Voellinger won the Class A high jump in 1992.

Parks was one of several metro-east area athletes who stood out Saturday at Eastern Illinois University.

Madison’s Janiya Collins put the finishing touch on her senior year with a second-place finish in the Class 1A 100 meters (12.21 seconds) and third-place medal in the 200 (25.22).

“I’m a little sad my high school career is over. But I’m very pleased and proud of how I was able to finish today,” Collins said. “I won two medals and set personal bests in both events. It was a good day.”

Also earning state medals in Class 1A were Mater Dei senior Carly Etter, who was eighth in the high jump, and the Nashville 800-meter relay team, which placed eighth.

Among the top Class 2A performances Saturday was the one turned in by Wood River sophomore Jayden Ulrich, who won the shot put with a throw of 46 feet 9 1/2 inches and placed second in the discus with an effort 139-11.

Waterloo senior Jenna Schwartz placed eighth in the Class 2A 3,200 meters. The defending champion in the event and the Class 2A cross country state champion in 2017, Schwartz finished in 11:42 on Saturday.

“I knew there were a lot of outstanding runners who were going to be here today. I don’t think I was the favorite,’’ Schwartz said with a smile. “I did the best I could.’’

Mascoutah had two medal-winning efforts. The Indians’ DeJae Hudson was eighth in the Class 2A long jump, while Anya Holloway placed sixth in the 400 meters. The Indians were also ninth in the 1,600-meter relay.

Highland sophomore Taylor Kesner was sixth in the shot put, while Columbia’s Jade Bivens placed seventh in the long jump. Freeburg’s Ella Siebenberger was ninth in the Class 2A pole vault, while teammate Caroline Gagen placed eighth in the triple jump.