Big hits, kicks and jumps
The Belleville West Maroons proved once again on Thursday that not only are they one of the best girls track teams in the state, but they are also one that can overcome adversity.
After a disqualification cost them the 400 meter relay title, the Maroons received a pair of wins from senior LaQwasia Stepney in the long jump and 100 meter hurdles and an outstanding effort from sprinter Jessica Coughlin to win the team title at the O’Fallon Class 3A Sectional Track Meet.
Ranked among the top 400 meter relay teams in the state all season, the Maroons actually crossed the finish line in front of Belleville East on Thursday. But the Maroons were called for an infraction on one of the exchanges. East, which would go on to win all four relays on a chilly spring afternoon, was awarded the win despite trailing the Maroons.
But instead of sulking, the Maroons responded to the challenge. Stepney won the long jump with a season-best leap of 19 feet, 7 inches and breezed to the title in the 100 meter hurdles, while Coughlin won the 400 meters and ran well in the 100 and 200 meters to pace West which finished with 101 points.
Belleville East was second with 85 points.
“Anything can happen in relays. I don’’t think it was any one person’s fault,’’ West coach Sally Stephens said. “But I am so proud of the girls. They should really be commended on how they responded.
“After the DQ in the 400 meter relay, it could have been a real downer. But instead of letting that happen, the girls went and just competed hard in every single event. As a coach, that’s all you can ask.’’
West also got wins from Ndia Johnson in the discus and Brittney Mosby in the triple jump. All athletes finishing in the top two in each event or recording state qualifying requirements advance to the IHSA Girls State Track Meet in Charleston, May 16-18.
While Stepney won two events, she failed to advanced in the 300 meter hurdles, an event she also excels in. But Johnson and the 1,600 meter relay team responded in a big way by placing second to advance.
“We had the two disappointments in the 300 meter hurdles and the 400 relay, but Ndia (Johnson’s) performance in the discus was something we thought she was capable of all year. Today she came through as did the 1, 600 meter relay team,’’ Stephens said..
“Jessica (Coughlin) had a great day by advancing in the 100, 200 and 400 meters. But I think we could see even better times at state next week.’’
Belleville East coach Brad Pfeiffer also had to be pleased with he saw from his Lancers. A dominant sweep in the relays highlighted the day, but East also got wins from Laila Graham in the high jump and Danielle Schultz in the 800 meters.
Schultz’s time of just over 2 minutes, 20 seconds was a personal best.
“I didn’t know if she could stay in there and win it or not,’’ Pfeiffer said of Schultz. “The second place girl was coming fast in the end. But Danielle’s a tough kid. She was very determined to win the race
“I’m very pleased today. We felt we had a chance to win all four relays and the girls did a tremendous job. I’m very proud of the effort.’’
Edwardsville’s Abby Korak also won an individual championship, taking the 1,600 meter title in 5 minutes, 4 seconds.