High School Sports

Depth carries Panthers to county crown

Unlike most of the top track and field coaches in the metro-east, Neil James of O’Fallon doesn’t have the one athlete who can win three or four events each time the Panthers compete.

But the Panthers’ season of domination continued Wednesday at Clyde Jordan Stadium.

Angela Buch and Noelle Gilster won the 1,600 and 3,200 meters, respectively, and the Panthers swept the relays as they went on for a 56-point win at the St. Clair County Girls Track and Field Meet.

Unchallenged for the last half of the 3,200, Gilster finished in a time of 11-minutes, 22.47-seconds, a full 42 seconds faster than O’Fallon teammate Sarah Duffy (12:05.04), while Buch outlasted Althoff senior by five seconds in the 1,600.

O’Fallon also got a 1-2 finish from Caitlyn Clinton and Air Force Academy recruit Tami Cardenas in the 800 to complete a sweep of the distance events.

“I thought both Noelle and Angela did an outstanding job today, but after watching them run and seeing their times, I’m asking myself what kind of times are they going to run when they’re pushed,’’ James said. “It’s a nice thought.’’

Sophomore Abby Carney (high jump) and Mackenzie Ryan (triple jump) also won titles for O’Fallon, which won with 179 1/2 points. East St. Louis, getting championships from Aaliah Herron in the shot put and discus, was a distant second with 123 1/2, 11 more than third place and defending Class 2A state champion Cahokia (112 1/2).

But as it has been all year, O’Fallon was just a little too deep and talented as it remained undefeated against local competition this spring.

“We moved some kids around in different events today just to get some different looks. This is the time of year, right before conference, when everybody is a little tired and often times you are battling to keep kids motivated,” James said. “But again, I thought we stepped up today.

“I was very pleased with Abby (Carney) winning the high jump. She’s a sophomore who has really come on lately. She looked very good when she cleared 5-feet-2, today as well as 5-4. She even had a good look at 5-6. We’ve got a meet in Collinsville on Friday and we’re going to back off the girls a little bit. Our top girls will maybe compete in one event each. We’re going to give some other girls a chance.’’

Herron, one of the best in the state in the shot put, led the way for the Flyerettes. The senior had a winning throw of 44-feet, 7-inches, nearly eight feet better than runner-up Danielle Meitzenheimer of Belleville West.

Herron then nipped teammate Jasmine Poole by two feet with a throw of 128-11 in the discus. Poole’s top throw was 126-1. The Flyerettes other win came from Nicquayleeonntea Moore, who won the 100 in 12.51 seconds.

The day was also a good one for Cahokia.

Decimated by injuries to many of their top athletes, including junior Raynesha Lewis (stress fracture) and Mariya Hudson (knee) for most of the season, the Comanches enjoyed perhaps their finest day of the season as Lewis won the 100 hurdles and Hudson, one of the top sophomores in the nation, eased to wins the long jump, 200 and 400.

“It was a good day today. I really liked what I saw from both Raynesha and Miraya. It’s been a tough season for both of those young ladies, but they seem to be a little healthier than they’ve been,’’ Comanches coach Roscoe Dowell said. “ If I had to say, I would probably put Raynesha at about 85 percent and Mariya at 90 percent right now. They’ve got a ways to go yet. But after today, I’m a little more hopeful that they’ll get there.’’

Belleville East placed fourth and was led by senior Miya Dorsey, who won the 300 hurdles in 45.80. Freeburg’s Stephanie Jacobs cleared 9-6 to win the pole vault.

Contact reporter Dean Criddle at dcriddle@bnd.com or 618-239-2661.