Southwest Prairie Conference
Coach: Kelly Halusek
Top returners: Cassie Pina, (sprints); Jayla Crawford, (jumps); Brea’Laja Barber, (sprints); Amber Singh, (pole vault); Arianda Juarez, (800); Janiyah Melvin, (throws); Peyton Manigo, (wheelchair discus).
Key newcomers: Maciah Marszalek, (sprints).
Worth noting: The Steelmen are excited to have a full season after a few years of chaos. This team has been improving each week and look to be much improved and be a factor by the end of the season. Manigo is one of the best wheelchair discus throwers in the state.
Coach: Mallory Johnson
Top returners: Alexandria Nance, sr. (sprints, jumps); Christina Johnson, sr. (sprints); Janellis Oceguera, so. (middle distance); Morgan Park, so. (sprints).
Key newcomers: Avery Kittl, sr. (distance); Jerie McClellan, so. (sprints); Elizabeth Egwunwoke, fr. (sprints).
Worth noting: A very young team, with some veteran leadership. The team size has doubled since last season and will be led by the multi-talented Nance, who can be put in multi events across the board and be successful. Oceguera just missed going to state as a freshmen and will have a great season, especially in the 800 meters.
Coach: Kevin Gummerson
Top returners: Kathryn Cichon, sr. (middle distances); Jocelyn Host, sr. (distances); Lauryn Glossett, sr. (throws); Ella Cook, sr. (pole vault); Sara McLaughlin, sr. (distances); Audrey Boles, sr. (distances); Morgan Kopriva, sr. (throws); Kendal Franklin, sr. (high jump); Makayla Anderson, sr. (pole vault); Kayla Widlowski, sr., (sprints); Tessa Benson, sr. (sprints); Gabby Kics, jr. (distances); Eliana Culpepper, jr. (sprints); Ella McCollom, jr. (distances); Cassie Fuhrman, so. (distances); Laila Richardson, so. (throws); Lauren Manning, so. (sprints).
Key newcomers: A strong freshmen class that will have an impact on the varsity level.
Worth noting: The Indians will have a very well-rounded team with depth. The development of the relays is an exciting part of this team and really plays into the team concept that Minooka has established. Gummerson expects the Southwest Prairie Conference meet, one of the top track & field conferences in the state, to come down to just a few points.
SouthWest Suburban Conference
Coach: Brian Evans
Top returners: Marian Azeez, sr. (sprints, jumps); Sophia Barnard, sr. (sprints, hurdles); Jailee Clemmons, sr. (jumps, relays); Kate Guderjan, sr. (distance); Jaiden Knoop, so. (pole vault); Jaime Sierocki, sr. (throws).
Key newcomers: Olivia Donaldson, fr. (sprints); Tamia Maddox, fr. (sprints); Kara Waishwell, fr. (distance).
Worth noting: The defending 3A state champions just reload and look to defend their title. The Griffins only lost two athletes who scored points on last year’s state title team and will be led by one of the best athletes in the state in Azeez. This team is deep, can score in all 18 events and want to be on the top of the podium again in May.
Coach: Tom Lenahan
Top returners: Megan Whitten, sr. (distance), Olivia Fitzgerald, jr. (jumps), Natalie Papes, jr. (pole vault); Julia Kucala, jr. (relays); Faith Gade, so. (relays); Bella Morey, so. (middle distance).
Key newcomers: Kylie Williams, jr. (relays); Mia Piano, fr. (hurdles); Lizzie Donlevy, fr. (sprints).
Worth noting: The Celtics are excited to get back to a normal full season, will be young, but also have a great tradition returning in Papes. Providence has a long tradition of state placers in the pole vault and Papes will return and look to improve on her seventh place finish from a season ago.
South Suburban Conference
Coach: Tim Plotke
Top returners: Jordan Bateman, so., (high jump); Juliette Reyes, jr., (sprints); Julia Hajnos, jr., (hurdles, sprints).
Key newcomers:Natlalie Kowalski, so. (throws); Jordan Cryer, fr. (sprints, jumps); Ella Mierzwa, fr. (sprints); Tessa Lazzarotto, fr. (sprints); Ashley Wrublik, fr. (throws); Christiana Ostrander, fr. (throws); Maiah Armsworth, fr. (throws, sprints).
Worth noting: This is one of the largest teams in the Plotke era with 53 on the roster and 43 of those either freshmen or sophomores. They are really young, but with a ton of potential and a very coachable group that could reap benefits by the end of the season and the future.
Illinois Central Eight
Coach: Rich Bell (4th year)
Top returners: Keira Lestina, jr. (sprints, long jump); Zoe Hassett, jr. (sprints).
Key newcomers: Makenna Learned, fr. (sprints, hurdles).
Worth noting: The Lady Comets will be young, but worth watching especially on the sprint and relay side. This team is excited about being back to a full season.
Coach: Terry Maxwell
Top returners: Anna Bruno, jr. (sprints, jumps); Emma Smith, sr. (sprints); Faith Deering, sr. (discus, sprints); Ashley Alsvig, jr. (distance); Caitlyn O’Boyle, jr. (sprints, hurdles); Teagan Johnson, so. (pole vault jumps); Keeli Pumphery, jr. (hurdles, middle distance).
Key newcomers: Evelyn O’Connor, fr. distance; Taylor Draves, relays.
Worth noting: The Irish Ladies are set to have another strong season and will be aiming for a 10th consecutive sectional title, which is one of the longest streaks in the state. They will be led by Bruno, O’Boyle, Deering, Draves, Smith and Johnson, who all have state meet experience.
Editor’s note: Some schools declined to provide information about their programs.
Source: The Daily Chronicle