High School Sports

These 7 girls could make their schools contenders for state track and field titles

A three-sport athlete, East St. Louis senior Rokelle Stanley will be tough to beat this season in either hurdles event or in sprint relays.
A three-sport athlete, East St. Louis senior Rokelle Stanley will be tough to beat this season in either hurdles event or in sprint relays. znizami@bnd.com

The Cahokia Comanches had their three-year reign as Class 2A state champions come to a close last May, but the metro-east has enjoyed its share of success at O'Brien Stadium in Charleston over the past decade.

In addition to the titles won by Cahokia from 2014 through 2016, Belleville West (2009), East St. Louis (2011) and Edwardsville (2012) have all won Class 3A state championships. Central (2009), Cahokia (2017), East St. Louis (2007 and 2010), Belleville West (2012), Edwardsville (2013) and Alton (2016) have all placed second in their respective classes.

And as the 2018 outdoor season approaches, it is anybody's guess as to which, if any, local teams will contend for a state championship this spring.

Following is a list of some of the top individual athletes who could help make their teams a contender.

Rokelle Stanley, East St. Louis senior

The top-ranked hurdler in the state all season a year ago, Stanley won sectional titles in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles and qualified for the finals in both. But the Flyers standout did not make it to the starting line for the finals because of injury. A three-sport athlete, Stanley will be tough to beat in either event and will also shine in sprint relays for the Flyerettes, who should be in the trophy hunt at Eastern Illinois University.

Kelvi Searcy, junior, and Jessica Coughlin, sophomore, Belleville West

Thanks in a large part to this duo, the Maroons came on strong at the end of the season a year ago. Now a year stronger and wiser, West should be a force in major invitationals and in the postseason later this spring. Searcy, a state qualifier in the 100-meter hurdles, will be a leader in what could be the most competitive event in the area. Searcy also will compete in the relays for the Maroons. Coughlin, a state qualifier a year ago in both the 400-meter and long jump, will compete in several open events, as well as in relays.

Jenna Schwartz, Waterloo junior

After staking her claim as the top Class 2A distance runner in the state by winning the state cross country title in November, Schwartz will attempt to win a rare double as she competes in the 3,200-meter. The soft-spoken Bulldogs standout placed seventh in the event a year ago, finishing in a time of 11 minutes 28.28 seconds. Schwartz will also benefit from the emergence of teammate Ella King, who could also be in medal contention after placing 17th in the 3,200-meter last year.

LaQwasia Stepney, Belleville West junior

After helping Cahokia place first and second at the Class 2A state track meet the past two years, Stepney has transferred to what should be a Maroons team loaded with young talent. A three-time state medal winner a year ago when Cahokia placed second behind Dunlap in the Class 2A event, Stepney will compete in the long jump and in both hurdles events for the Maroons. The Maroons newcomer recently jumped a career-best 18 feet in the long jump at the Charleston Indoors Invitational.

Evangelynn Harris, East St. Louis senior

One half of the Flyerettes' dominant combination along with Jazzmine Poole, who won the state championship in the discus a year ago, Harris had a throw of over 41 feet in the shot put. She placed eighth in the Class 3A state competition. This year, competing in Class 2A, Harris will be one of the favorites to win the state title. The Flyerettes star has already had throws of over 42 and 43 feet during the indoor season.

Katie Mans, Alton senior

A former Southwestern Conference champion, Mans has a chance to enter the record book as a four-time Class 3A state medal winner as she shoots for a state championship in the high jump. The Redbirds' senior placed third with a leap of 5 feet, 5 inches a year ago. Mans placed seventh in the state finals as a sophomore two years ago after placing eighth as a freshman in the 2015 state finals.