Big hits, kicks and jumps
If the East St. Louis Fllyerettes are to win their first girls state track and field championship since 2012 at O’Brien Stadium on Saturday, they will need a total team effort.
And for the 2019 Flyerettes, it could come down to the relays.
Fresh off an impressive win a week ago at the Triad Sectional, East St. Louis has the top time in three relay events and the second best time in a fourth heading into the Class 2A preliminary round on Friday at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
Second in the Class 2A state finals a year ago, East St. Louis is led by its 1,600 meter relay team. The Flyerettes winning time of 3 minutes 53.2 seconds last week is more than 10 seconds better than the team with the next best time, Carbondale (4:04.6).
East St. Louis also has the best time in the 3,200 meter relay (9:40.6) and the 800 meter relay (1:41..6). Its time of 48.1 seconds in the 400 meter relay is just behind Carbondale (47.8).
The 2019 state finals begins on Thursday with the Class 1A preliminaries at 11a.m. Class 2A preliminaries are set for Friday beginning at 9 a.m. with the Class 3A athletes taking the field at noon.
The finals in all three classes are set for Saturday starting at 10 a.m. In addition to their strength in the relays, the Flyerettes, who have 18 entries in Charleston, also have a number of possible state title contenders in individual events.
Leading the way are Veronica Sherrod and Maysha Vickers, who have the top two times in the 300 meter hurdles. Sherrod ran a time of 44.2 seconds at the sectional, while Vickers turned in a time of 45.7 seconds. Senior Jariah Turner has the second best time in the 400 meters 57.6 seconds.
While East St. Louis is expected to battle Springfield Southeast and its superstar, Serena Bolden, for the Class 2A state team title, Belleville West could be in the running for a second straight trophy in the Class 3A meet.
The Maroons, who placed third in the state finals last spring, had some bad luck despite winning the O’Fallon Sectional last week. Finishing second behind Belleville East in the 400 meter relay, the Maroons were disqualified in that event and forced to give up a berth in the state meet.
Also during the meet, senior LaQwasia Stepney failed to qualify in the 300 meter hurdles, an event in which she placed at last year’s state meet. A University of Nebraska recruit, Stepney maintains the best effort in the long jump, 19 feet 7 inches and the fourth best time in the 100 meter hurdles
“Not qualifying in those two events certainly didn’t help our chances at the state meet, but we had two other entries that we maybe didn’t expect to get out, advance to state,’’ West coach Sally Stephens said following the sectional. “If we can get a similar type effort this weekend, we have a chance at doing well once again at state this year. (Stepney) has been progressing all season and she is at her best right now.
“This is what we’ve been working for all season . I know our girls will give a great effort.’’
Stpeny, the defending champion in the long jump, has another goal in mind this weekend. In addition to successfully defending her title, she wants to hit the magic 20-foot mark.
“I went 19-7 at the sectional and I’m healthier and ready to go at state. The goal is to win state again, but I think I can go over 20 feet as well,’’ Stepney said. “If we can compete like we have all year, I think we can be in the top three again.’’
Several other local athletes could also contend for state championships.
Belleville East, which qualified in all four relays, has perhaps its best chance in the 800 meter relay where it has the third best time of just over 1 minute 41 seconds. West senior Britney Mosby has the fourth best jump in the triple jump at 38 feet 3/4 inches.
In Class 1A, the metro east area’s top hopes are Nashville’s Halle Rueter, whose time of 12.37 seconds was the second best in sectionals last week and the Hornettes 800 meter relay team, whose time of 1 minutes 46.38 seconds leads the way.
Althoff sophomore Nairah Parks has the best time in the 400 meters of 58.55 seconds and also the sixth best time in the 200 meters (26.05 seconds).
In Class 2A, Highland’s Taylor Kesner has the third best throw in the shot put (41 feet 9 1/2 inches), defending 3,200 meter state champion Jenna Schwartz of Waterloo has the fifth best time (11:23.5) in her event, while Freeburg junior Breanna Chandler has the fifth best time in the 800 meters (2:22.3).