Althoff’s Nariah Parks advances to state track finals
Four years of hard work ended in triumph for the East St. Louis High School seniors and the rest of the Flyerettes on Saturday at O’Brien Stadium in Charleston.
Putting the finishing touch on a dominating run in the 1,600-meter relay, Flyerettes seniors Shonjahnea Griggs, Maysha Vickers and Jariah Turner, and junior Faith Mitchell turned in a time 3 minutes, 52.96 seconds, more than 10 seconds faster than their closest rival, to clinch the Class 2A team state championship.
“This is what we’ve worked so hard for the last four years,” Turner said as East St. Louis waited to accept the championship trophy late Saturday afternoon. “To have it come true is a dream come true.”
The championship is the first since 2012 for the Flyerettes, who had 13 entries in the finals Saturday and saw 11 of them earn points. East St. Louis finished with 72 points, five more than second-place Springfield Southeast. The Spartans received one of the great performances in state finals history from senior Serena Bolden, who won four state titles: the 100 and 200 meters, long jump and triple jump.
But on this day, East St. Louis wasn’t going to let anything stand in its way. Not even Bolden, one of the top prep track and field athletes in the nation, who has signed with LSU.
“Never let anyone stand in the way of reaching your dreams. This team has dreamed of being state champions for the past four years, and today it came true,” Flyerettes legendary coach Nino Fennoy said. “They have represented East St. Louis to the highest level. That’s what it’s all about.”
In addition to the title in the 1,600-meter relay, East St. Louis also won the 800-meter relay title with Veronica Sherrod, Faith Mitchell Brionna Graham and Markia Lampley, finishing in 1:40.86, and the 400-meter relay, where Flyerettes’ team of Veronica Sherrod, Markia Lampley, Faith Mitchell and Jariah Turner won the title in 47.41 seconds.
Sherrod captured East St Louis’ only individual title, winning the 300-meter hurdles in 43.97.
A junior, Sherrod had a look of pure joy following the victory.
“Last year left a bad taste for us. We were determined not to come up short this time,” she said.
Also claiming top six performances for the Flyerettes on Saturday were Alaysha Hudson, who was sixth in the long jump; Ahmia Dorsey, who was second in the triple jump; Sherrod, sixth in the 100-meter hurdles; and Maysha Vickers, who was fourth in the 300-meter hurdles.
Belleville East, led by a win in the Class 3A 400-meter relay, enjoyed one of its best finishes in recent memory. In addition to the championship effort, the Lancers also got a second-place finish from their 800-meter relay squad, a fifth place in the 1,600-meter relay and a ninth-place finish from senior Essence Winters as they tied for eighth place in the team competition with 24 points.
“It was a very good day for the Lancers,” a smiling coach Brad Pfeiffer said. “A top eight finish. We thought we could be in the top 10, and the girls just just went out and did a tremendous job. I couldn’t be any prouder.
“We focus a lot and work hard on the relays. The girls have really bought into the system, and we taker a lot of pride in doing well in the relay events.”
The Lancers’ win in the 400-meter relay wasn’t a surprise after they qualified second Friday. It was how they won the race that was a surprise.
East junior Aaliyah Thomas didn’t see it happen. But she heard the groans.
Dead even with top-seeded Homewood-Flossmoor at the first exchange, Thomas didn’t flinch when the favored team dropped the baton, and the Lancers got the win.
The Lancers’ team of Ahmiya Bills, Aaliyah Thomas, Essence Winters and Sunnie Collins finished with a time of 47.65 seconds, just ahead of Chicago Heights Bloom (47.86).
“I didn’t see what happened. All I heard was a loud groan, and I noticed somebody slow up to the side of me,” Thomas said. “I knew we could do this. All we had to do was run like we knew we could.”
The Flyerettes’ and Lancers’ performances highlighted the early going for metro-east athletes Saturday at Eastern Illinois University. A total of 42 entries from the metro-east were going for state medals after qualifying Thursday and Friday.
Belleville West senior LaQwasia Stepney jumped 20 feet 2 1 /2 inches, finishing third in the Class 3A long jump. Stepney, who will attend the University of Nebraska, also placed third in the 100-meter hurdles (14.14).
“I said I wanted to go over 20 feet in the long jump, and I did that. It is what it is ...’’ Stepney said. “I was glad that I finished strong in the 100-meter hurdles. I ran my best time of the year.’’
Britney Mosby closed out the scoring for West, placing ninth in the triple jump.
Edwardsville standout Abby Korak was eighth in the 1,600 meters.