There are a lot of paths a team can take to capturing a state championship in the team competition in the IHSA State Track and Field meet.
The most commonly taken path is get as many athletes to the state finals as one can, advance them through to the finals and hope the quantity of top performances in the finals outweighs the competitors that stand in one’s way.
Teams will vie for the state title this weekend at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. Class 1A preliminaries will be held on Thursday, followed by Class 2A and Class 3A preliminaries on Friday and then the finals for all three classifications on Saturday.
Lincoln-Way East is the defending Class 3A state champion. They racked up 56 points in winning the title, using a strong individual effort from Mariam Azeez to help lift them to the crown. Azeez took an individual first in the 100 meters and also stood near the top of the podium in the long jump (2nd) and the 200 (3rd).
Azeez is back to help the Griffins try to defend the title. She ran a very limited schedule prior to sectionals, but will participate in the 100 and long jump as an individual and is seeded among the top five competitors in each of those events and will also be a key cog in the Griffins relay efforts.
But like any good team, Lincoln-Way East won’t rely on just Azeez to possibly add more hardware to the school’s trophy case. Sophia Barnard is the No. 3 seed in both the 100 and 300 hurdle events and should supply additional points to the Griffins title chase while Jaiden Knoop is a top five seed in the pole vault.
Lincoln-Way East also advanced all four its relays to state. Only the 400 relay is currently seeded in the top 10, but the Griffins might be able to find a way to get one or two more of those teams into the final round and if they do more points could be available to them.
They may need all they can get. Last year’s runner-up and long-time Lincoln-Way East rival, Homewood-Flossmoor looks well-armed to stack up a largesse of points, while Chicago Public League power Whitney Young looks poised to do very well in the individual sprints and sprint relays and should be a factor.
Other teams that look like they could be in the mix for a team trophy are Evanston, Huntley and Prospect.
Several other local individuals look as if they could make a big impact. Lincoln-Way Central’s Marla Hayes enters the preliminaries as the top seed in the Class 3A discus competition after throwing 42.2 meters (138 feet, four inches) and Minooka’s Kendal Franklin is tied for fourth in the seeding in the high jump after her clearance of 1.6 meters (5-3) in sectionals.
The pole vault pit could be the site where area athletes fare quite nicely. Plainfield Central’s Tessani Foster (seeded in a tie for 2nd), the aforementioned Knoop (5th) and Lockport’s Makenna Skoczylas (10th) could all factor into the medal stand.
Plainfield’s South Janiya Bowman could end up being a factor in multiple events as she is seeded in the top 11 in three different individual events (100, 200 and long jump).
Class 2A doesn’t have as much local representation, but one athlete that will almost certainly be heard from is Providence’s Natalie Papes is tied for the best sectional clearance in the state with Kaneland’s Jessica Phillipp as both cleared 3.51 meters (11-5).
In Class 1A, Seneca may be able to find its way to a team trophy due to the sheer volume of qualifiers it has in the event. The Fighting Irish have 10 individual qualifiers and advanced all four of its relays to state. Many of them have high seeds as well, with all four of the Seneca relays entering the finals seeded among the top ten teams.
Individually, Wilmington’s Kate McCann is the fifth seed in the long jump. She is also a qualifier in the 100 and 200.
Class 3A Local Qualifiers
Class 2A Local Qualifiers
Class 1A Local Qualifiers
Source: The Daily Chronicle