High School Sports

Balanced Panthers blitz the field

The Southwestern Conference three-peat is complete for the O’Fallon Panthers

One of several sprinters in a sophomore class loaded with speed, Kersten Douglas won the 100 meters in 12.96 seconds and O’Fallon swept the sprint relays as it captured its third Southwestern Conference Girls Track and Field Meet title in a row by easing to a 71-point win over Belleville East on Wednesday at Granite City High School.

Typically known more as a state power in the distance events, the Panthers got wins from Tami Cardenas (800), Noelle Gilster (1,600) and Sam Tidwell (3,200), but also displayed its wealth of talent in the sprint relays as they also won the 400, 800 and 1,600 relays.

“We’re just very fortunate to have a number of outstanding sprinters with our younger kids. So many in fact that if we were to sit out maybe our second-fastest sprinter, we could replace her with another sprinter and really not lose very much,’’ O’Fallon coach Neil James said. “We’ve got kids who did not run tonight, who if I put them together as a second team could possibly place in the top five teams.

“Is this our best team? Potentially, I would have to say yes because of our depth. This is a special group of girls.’’

James certainly won’t get any arguments from the other seven SW Conference coaches who watched as the Panthers kept their undefeated season alive. O’Fallon finished with 180 1/2 points, while East, getting a pair of wins in the hurdle events from Miya Dorsey, was second with 108. Edwardsville (104 points) and East St. Louis (94 1/2) rounded out the top four teams.

The victory is in sharp contract to the SWC Conference title the Panthers won in 2013 at Alton, when O’Fallon was crowned champions in the last race of the day. This time, it didn’t take nearly as long.

“If someone asks me, if I prefer winning it this way,’’ James said. “Not only with our individual champions. But in races where we went 1-2, our second runners also ran very good times.

Such was the case with Cardenas and Caitlyn Clinton in the 800. Cardenas, the premier 800 runner in Southern Illinois, ran a time of 2:21 36, while Clinton was at 2:21.82.

“I’ve started my final push sooner in the last couple of races. My teammate was right there with me again today,’’ Cardenas said. “My best time of the year is 2:17 and I’d like to be able to get down to the 2:14-:2:15 range in the next couple of weeks.”

Dorsey, also a senior, led the way for second-place East.

Still undecided about where she will attend college, the Lancers speedster should gain some attention after smashing the SWC record in the 300 hurdles by more then two seconds. Dorsey finished with a time of 43.70.

Alton junior LaJarvia Brown was second in 43.78. The win was the second of the day for Dorsey, who also won the 100 hurdles.

“I like both races equally. But after running 43.7 in the 300, I’d have to say it’s my better event,’’ Dorsey said. “She (Brown) has beaten me this year,so it feels good to beat her here tonight for the conference title.’’

East also got a win from Sidne’ Williamson in the 200.

Ranked second in the nation in the triple jump, Brown won that event and also took the long jump.

East St. Louis standout Aaliyah Herron was the other double winner, sweeping the shot put and discus crowns.

Edwardsville got wins from Gabriella Romano in the pole vault and its 3,200 relay. Collinsville freshman Brea Marshall won the 400.

South Seven Meet

Showing the form which has made her one of the top sophomores in the nation, Mariya Hudson won four titles to lead the way as Cahokia captured the South Seven Conference Girls Track and Field Meet title on Tuesday at Carbondale High School.

The reigning Class 2A state champion in the 400 meters, Hudson swept the sprints — winning the 100, 200 and 400 — and also took home the title in the long jump. Raynesha Lewis (100 hurdles) and Takrya Ford (300 hurdles) also won events for the Comanches, who finished with 153 points.

Mount Vernon was second with 127 points.

Althoff finished fifth in the six-team meet with 70 points, but the Crusaders received championship efforts from Grace Rowan in the 800 (2:24.4), Megan Seible in the 1,600 (5:33.5) and Marie Harla in the high jump (5-4). The Crusaders also won the 400 relay.

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