The East St. Louis Flyerettes accomplished something last week that they were unable to do during the regular season.
They had to travel to Rock Island to do it, but they amassed enough points to defeat the O’Fallon Panthers and claim the IHSA Class 3A girls’ sectional track title.
The Lady Panthers, the dominant squad in the Metro East this season, came up three points short in attempting to repeat as sectional champions.
The Lady Panthers did not go down without a fight as they won four events and qualified 10 participants for the state meet on the campus of Eastern Illinois University. The state meet starts today and runs through Saturday.
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O’Fallon’s sprint relay teams were the main contributors to the OTHS final tally.
The Lady Panthers scored wins in both the 4x100 and 4x200 events. In both races, the same group of speedsters out-sprinted the field – Kersten Douglas, Tamya Houston, Taliah Reese and Mya
Watson-Blake. Douglas punched her ticket to state twice by also taking the sectional title in the 200 meter dash. Tamya Houston and Mya Watson-Blake were also dual qualifiers for the state finals.
Besides their winning performances in the relays, Houston took third place in the 100 meter dash, and Watson-Blake was third in the high jump.
O’Fallon’s fourth sectional champion was distance runner Brooke Witzel, who started strong and built an impressive lead in the 3200 to defeat her nearest competitor by ten seconds.
Other O’Fallon state qualifiers included: Caitlyn Clinton (800), Mackenzie Ryan (triple jump) and Abby Carney (high jump).
“We will have a strong field of athletes representing O’Fallon in the state meet,” said O’Fallon coach Neil James. “Our sprint relay teams have exceptional times going into the competition are motivated by their success last year in the finals. We expect an excellent effort from our girls – most of whom have state meet experience.”
While the OTHS girls were bidding for the state finals spotlight, the Panther boys’ track team was testing their relative strength against the rest of the league in the Southwestern Conference meet. The OTHS squad collected a total of 10 medals and finished fourth overall in the meet hosted by Granite City.
Distance standout Chris Conrad was O’Fallon’s most impressive performer. Conrad, a junior, came into his own last fall during the cross country campaign and has continued his impressive rise among area runners into the current track season. Conrad motored his way to a double victory at the meet, winning the 1600 and the 800. The Panther runner was able to hold off challenges in both races, defeating Sanchez Rhodes of East St. Louis by 1.2 seconds in the 800 and freshman Andrew O’Keefe of Granite City by two seconds in the 1600.
Solid efforts were turned in by TJ Lambert, who finished second in the triple jump, and Raymon Williamson – second place medal winner in the 110 hurdles. Nathan Rainge continued to record impressive times as he prepares for state final competition in the 100 and 200 wheelchair races. Other Panthers contributing points to the OTHS total included Aaron Smith (4th in high jump) and the 4x800 relay team (4th). The distance tandem of Will VanAlstine and Joey Black rounded out the scoring for O’Fallon. VanAlstine, a freshman, crossed the finish line in the 3200 in second place. Junior Joey Black followed on his running mate’s heels, collecting a third place medal.