Izzy Taylor has the requisite state track and field pedigree.
The three Batavia sprint relays were the engine of the undefeated regular season the Bulldogs orchestrated last year. Taylor was an indispensable cog in the Bulldogs’ 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 quartets all placing sixth at the Class 3A girls state finals last May.
But the Batavia junior had to adopt an entirely new persona this spring for the program.
Jessica “Essie” Newburn and fellow Division I recruit Katrina Schlenker were the Bulldogs’ senior leaders whose athletic prowess sustained the program. Taylor will no longer be the understudy to Newburn, however, as the Bulldogs seek to replicate their brilliant three-week run of a year ago.
“We won the Triple Crown – (Kane County meet), the sectional (Lake Park) and (the DuKane) conference,” Taylor said. “We hope to do that again. That’s the goal.”
Newburn was a force last spring during the Bulldogs’ unanswered run of titles preceding the state meet, accruing invaluable team points in both open dashes and as a relay anchor. Taylor is the Bulldogs’ new final leg on the 4x100 and 4x200 quartets. Fellow juniors Sylar Sandoval and the Wilson twins, Mariah and Madison, all return with state hardware as well.
“The times can only get better,” Taylor said in the aftermath of the three relays powering the Bulldogs’ 121-104 triumph over St. Charles North at their home invitational, the Carlson-Anderson Classic, last weekend.
Taylor has adopted to her new role with aplomb.
“It’s a lot more pressure,” said Taylor, who concentrated on individual sprints during the Bulldogs’ runner-up effort at a major Wheaton North competition the week before. “I talk to [Newburn] all the time. She was so good at it last year.”
“[Taylor] has stepped into that role in a couple different ways,” Batavia coach Justin Allison said. “Essie wasn’t just a great athlete but also did so much as a leader to the other girls. Those are big shoes to fill.”
Taylor is as adaptable as Newburn, ever willing to temper her individual aspirations for the betterment of the team. Should the Batavia coaching staff elect to procure as many team points as possible at the county and league meets, Taylor has been quietly preparing.
“I have been doing a lot of blocks work,” Taylor said of transitioning between open sprints and her newfound anchor duties. “It’s always been my goal to push myself and do my best.”
The Batavia girls will seek to repeat the first leg of their triumphant 2022 regular season Thursday evening as West Aurora hosts the Kane County Invitational.
Several area coaches enter the competition with eerily similar viewpoints.
“County is the kickoff to the championship season,” Geneva coach Peter Raak said. “It is a historic meet with great athletes. I want to see where we are accordingly.”
“County is very important for us,” St. Charles East coach Brad Kaplan said. “We view county as a prelude to the sectional.”
“We’re going to use these other schools to help push us through to get better,” Burlington Central coach Vince Neil said.
“It is such a historic meet with a lot of significance to it,” said Allison, whose defending champion Batavia program is the consensus team to beat. “We’re definitely pleased with where we’re at but never satisfied.”
Of many events with particular interest, the long jump bears potential high drama. Multiple-event all-state candidate Paige Greenhagel uncorked the second-best mark in Class 2A with her 18-foot, 6-inch effort earlier this month. But the Burlington Central senior could face a stern test from Bridget Kosky. A Batavia senior, Kosky broke the program record with her 18-0 runner-up leap April 21.
Milas rounding into form
Burlington Central certainly makes no effort to dodge top-flight competition during its boys invite schedule. Nolan Milas is a firm believer in the efficacy of such an approach. The Rockets’ senior is the last link to a runner-up metric-mile relay unit from two years ago at the Class 2A state finals. Milas also is the lone returnee from a fourth-place 4x100 relay quartet last year.
“Competing against the best guys in the state only makes you better,” Milas said of the Rockets’ regular-season schedule in which being dwarfed by Class 3A programs is commonplace. “You have to trust yourself and good things will happen.”
Milas is making progress in his return from a quad injury.
“I am not super happy about [my season thus far],” Milas said. “I am still trying to get into better shape.”