The Cahokia Comanches proved to be the surprise team of the 2014 girls track and field postseason when they rode strong performances from freshman Mariya Hudson and sophomore Raynesha Lewis to their first Class 2A state team title.
Repeating that storybook finish next weekend in Charleston, at least at the present time,could be a near impossible task.
With Lewis and senior Earlicia Shaw still less then 100 percent after missing significant time this season because of injuries and Hudson battling a few nagging ailments, the Comanches will begin defense of their state title Thursday at the 18-team Class 2A Triad Sectional.
Of the three Comanches standouts, Hudson appears to be the healthiest and will compete in four open events. The defending state champion in the 400 meters, Hudson is also ranked in the top 10 in the 100 and 200 and also has a top 10 performance in the long jump.
But after Hudson, Cahokia coach Roscoe Dowell isn’t sure what he’ll get from his team at Triad High School.
“It’s been one of those seasons when it’s been one injury right after another. Raynesha (Lewis) got hurt during basketball season and hasn’t been completely healthy all year. It’s been very frustrating for everybody,” Dowell said. “We’re just going go out and do the best that we can. That’s all we can do.“
Mississippi Valley Conference champion Triad, along with Mascoutah, Columbia, Freeburg and Waterloo are the other local teams who will be competing at Triad, when field events begin at 4 p.m.
Civic Memorial, Central. Highland, Mater Dei, Jerseyville and Roxana are competing at the Springfield Southeast Sectional on Thursday. Nashville will host a Class 1A sectional and O’Fallon is hosting a Class 3A sectonial, both on Friday.
The top two finishers and any other athlete equaling qualifying times and distances in each event will advance to the IHSA girls state track meet, May 21-23 at O’Brien Stadium on the campus of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
With Cahokia short-handed, host Triad may be the team to beat Thursday and coach Brian Weiss said earlier this week that he hopes to get as many as 10 entries to the the state finals. The Knights have the top ranked Class 2A athlete in the state in the the pole vault in Claire Buck along with elite athletes Allison Richter (shot put and discus) and Jenniba Johnson (100 and 200) leading their cause.
Mascoutah will be led by its sprint relays along with MVC champions Mackenzie Dixon (300 hurdles) and Baylee Maxey in the 400. Waterloo also has a pair of league champions in high jumper Genoa Bourgeois and Hannah Finnerty in the 100 hurdles to lead its cause.
Cahokia Conference champion Freeburg is also a threat to advance several individuals. The Midgets are traditionally strong in the field events, distance races and in the 1,600 and 3,200 relays.
The top area hopes in the Springfield Southeast Sectional could be Jayden Shelton of Highland in the 1,600 and 3,200 relays, while Central freshman Faye Meissner could advance in the 100, 200 and 400. Meissner won all three events at the Cahokia Conference Meet last week.
The Althoff Crusaders hope to continue building off a strong second half of the season when they compete in the the 16-team Nashville Sectional beginning at 4 p.m. on Friday.
Althoff finished fifth in the six-team South Seven Conference Meet last week and but thanks to a challenging schedule, which included the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Relays,the Crusaders could advance several individuals to state.
“This is what we’ve trained for. This is a good hard-working group of kids who have competed against many of the top large school programs in the (metro-east) area all year,” Crusaders coach Roscoe Whitfield said. “We’re hoping that high level of competition has prepared us for the next two weeks.”
Althoff’s top hopes are Grace Rowan and Megan Seible in the middle distance and distance races and Dayton University recruit Marie Harla in the high jump. Seible has signed with Maryville University.
Also in the field at Nashville are Dupo, Metro East Lutheran, Lebanon, Madison, Nashville, New Athens, O’Fallon (First Baptist Academy), Okawville, Red Bud, Sparta, Wesclin and Gibault.
Perhaps the top hope for a state championship will rest with Red Bud junior Keri Burmester. One of the top cross country runners in the state the past two years, Burmester is a top hope in both the 1,600 and 3,200.
In the midst of an undefeated season, the O’Fallon Panthers begin their journey towards what they hope will end in a top 10 place at the Class 3A state meet next week when they host the O’Fallon Sectional on Friday beginning at 2 p.m.
A group of talented and experience middle distance and distance runners will lead the way for O’Fallon, which looked sharp last week in winning the Southwestern Conference title.
But the key to O’Fallon’s hopes for a top 10 or better finish at state may rest with an exceptional group of sophomore sprinters and their field event athletes.
“We have had an outstanding season so far. Even though most of our sprinters and jumpers are sophomores they have excelled,” O’Fallon coach Neil James said. “Our distance runners have been very steady and seemed to be primed for good performances over the next couple of weeks.
“I think that our best chances are in all four relays. I also feel that we have a good shot in the 100, 100 hurdles, 200, 800, shot put, high jump and triple jump as we have had athletes hit state-qualifying marks in those events. I also feel that we have a decent shot in the 1,600 and 3,200.”
Belleville East, also having one of its better seasons, is led by Miya Dorsey in the hurdles and Sidni Williamson in the 100 and 200. The Lancers are also strong in the sprint relays.
Belleville West has solid hopes in the relays, while East St. Louis is led by state title hopeful Alliyah Herron in the shot put and discus. Edwardsville also has several solid hopes, while Granite City and Collinsville could also have a few state meet representatives.
Alton is led by one of the top athletes in the nation’s top triple jumpers in junior LaJarvia Brown.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.