High School Sports

East St. Louis, Cahokia set to challenge for girls state track championships

Consistency has been the hallmark for East St. Louis track and field athletes Evangeline Harris, Jazzmine Poole and Rokelle Stanley, who have established themselves as the best of the best in their events during the 2017 track and field season.

Now they must prove it one last time.

The top discus and shot put combination in the state, Poole and Harris will lead the Flyerettes into O’Brien Stadium on Friday in Charleston for the preliminary round of the Class 3A Girls State Track and Field Meet.

Under the guidance of coach Nino Fennoy, the Flyerettes will try to take the first step toward their first state crown since 2011 in the third and final preliminary round of competition leading up to the finals in all three classes on Saturday.

The Class 1A preliminary round begins the 2017 state finals Thursday at O’Brien Stadium while the Class 2A preliminary round is Friday morning.

Harris, a junior, and Poole, a senior, enter the state finals as the favorites in their specialties with the hope of adding a second top-five performance along the way. Harris had the best throw in the shot put in all Class 3A sectionals in the state last week with an effort of 44-11 1/4, while Poole had the best throw in the discus with a personal-best effort of 149-6.

“It felt good when I released it. You just know when it’s a good throw,” Poole said after the Belleville West Sectional. “But really, my goal was 152 feet. I’m hoping that will come at state. My goal is to win state in the discus and do well in the shot put. But I really want to win the team state title.”

Harris in the discus and Poole in the shot put could be in the top five in those events, while Stanley enters the state finals as a threat to win the 100- and 300-meter hurdles. The junior had the best sectional time in the 300 hurdles (43.82) and the second-best time in the 100 hurdles (14.53). The Flyerettes also had the best time in the 1,600-meter relay (3:56.98).

Southwestern Conference rival O’Fallon, featuring a senior-dominated squad, could also be in the hunt for a top-three trophy.

Loaded with sprinters, the Panthers have the fastest time in both the 400-meter relay (47.09) and the 800-meter relay (1:39.91). O’Fallon senior Tamya Houston had the seventh-best time in the 100-meter (12.09).

The Panthes were second behind East St. Louis at the Southwestern Conference Meet. O’Fallon coach Neil James is hoping for the best this weekend.

“We are excited about the state meet as we have a big group going. For many of our girls this will be their last state meet, so I know they are excited for it to be successful,” James said. “We have the fastest times in the state in the 4-by-100 and 4-by-200, but as we know, you have to get the baton around the track.”

Other metro-east Class 3A athletes competing are Brittany Walker, of Belleville West, in the triple jump; Katie Mans, of Alton, in the high jump; and the Granite City Warriors in the 400-meter relay.

Cahokia in 2A trophy hunt

Co-state champions along with Maple Park Kaneland a year ago after winning outright titles in 2014 and 2015, Cahokia will need to hold off Dunlap if it is to win a fourth-straight state championship.

Located near Peoria, Dunlap has the top sectional time in all four relays.

“They’ve been pointing toward this season and have been narrowing the gap against us recently,” Cahokia coach Roscoe Dowell said of Dunlap. “They are very good in all the relays and have solid athletes in several individual events. They’re going to be tough to beat.”

Cahokia is led by senior Mariya Hudson. A two-time state champion in the 200- and 400-meter, Hudson is also a threat in the 100-meter and long jump and could score over 30 points alone. Sophomore LaQwasia Stepney is perhaps the favorite in the 100-meter hurdles and could contend in the long jump.

Other Class 2A athletes to watch include Mackenzie Dixon, of Mascoutah, in the 800-meter, and Stephanie Jacobs, of Freeburg, in the pole vault.

Berberich leads Class 1A athletes

Lebanon senior Casey Berberich could contend for a state title in the Class 1A long jump while also competing in the triple jump, 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles. The Wesclin Warriors are medal hopefuls in the 400- and 800-meter relays, and Epiphany Smith could contend in the 200-meter.