IHSA Girls Track and Field State Meet: Huntley returns to defend its Class 3A team title

Huntley’s Sienna Robertson throws the discus during the Huntley IHSA Class 3A Girls Sectional Track and Field Meet on Wednesday, May 8, 2024, at Huntley High School.

Huntley coach Jason Monson feels like the field is wide open for the Class 3A team title at the IHSA Girls Track and Field State Meet this weekend in Charleston.

Monson points out Whitney Young, Homewood-Flossmoor, Hinsdale Central, Kankakee, Prospect, Neuqua Valley, Chatham Glenwood and Normal as teams with the potential to score 40 to 60 points.

All those teams likely are looking at Huntley, the Class 3A defending state champion, as a team to beat, particularly after the performances the Red Raiders posted the last two weeks.

They broke five meet records while running away with the Fox Valley Conference Meet title, then outdid those efforts in several events at last week’s Huntley Sectional.

Class 1A girls compete Thursday at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium, with 2A athletes starting Friday morning and 3A in the afternoon. The finals will be run Saturday with Classes 1A, 2A and 3A competitions in order in each event.

Huntley’s Dominique Johnson competes in the 100 meter dash on Thursday, May 2, 2024, during the Fox Valley Conference Girls Track and Field Meet at Jacobs High School in Algonquin.

Although Huntley graduated Alex Johnson (long jump state champ, triple jump runner-up) and Ally Panzloff (discus state champ) from last year, the Raiders are poised for another run at a state title.

According to seeds out of last week’s sectional meets, defending triple jump champion Dominique Johnson is first, Sophie Amin is first in the 100-meter high hurdles and Amin, Emmy Byers, K’Leigh Saenz and Vicky Evtimov are first in the 4x100.

Sienna Robertson is second in discus but has the best throw in the state this season, and Johnson, Byers, Saenz and Evtimov are second in the 4x200. That team won its sectional race by more than five seconds.

Amin dropped a remarkable .3 off her time with a 14.34 in the 100 high hurdles. Last year, she suffered a horrific left ankle injury at sectional and couldn’t run at state. The South Dakota signee will get her shot Friday afternoon.

“She’s pretty hungry right now,” Monson said. “She has some big goals and some things she wants to achieve next weekend. I’m excited to enjoy that ride with her because she’s a gamer.

“She hasn’t been pushed yet either. It’s going to be fun to see when she has a girl on her shoulder.”

The natural

Robertson cranked out a 45.18 meters (148-2) discus throw to break Panzloff’s meet record. She threw 42.25 (138-7) last week. She has been working on a reverse step in the last few weeks with great success.

“I feel going in I’m in a good place,” said Robertson, a state qualifier last year. “I’m happy that I’m throwing consistently, and I’m prepared walking into state.

“I started reversing lately. I’d say the past 2 1/2 weeks, [throws coach Zack Borring] introduced it to me. A lot of throwers it doesn’t come to as easily. It kind of just clicked. It felt more comfortable and clicked right away and it’s helped me out a lot.”

The reverse allows the thrower to give full exertion and not foul, as they switch feet at the end, in essence having the right leg [for right-handed throwers] replacing the left.

“It keeps my momentum going and gives me that last whip,” Robertson said. “It exerts as much energy as I have in my upper and lower body and trying to stay in the ring. I consistently stayed in for all my throws, and I’m very happy about that.”

Pack mentality

Prairie Ridge coach Kelly MacDonald switched spots this season with former coach Sarah Long, who had her first baby just after the 2023 season. MacDonald now is head coach and Long is an assistant.

The Wolves, dropping from Class 3A to 2A, are sending a large pack to state with nine entries in eight events after winning the Carmel Sectional last week. It was Prairie Ridge’s second girls track and field sectional title in school history.

MacDonald is retiring as a physical education teacher at Prairie Ridge after 30 years teaching in District 155. She plans to stay on for a few more years with cross country and perhaps one more in track.

Last year, the Wolves had Rylee Lydon win a 3A high jump state title, while taking seconds in the 400 and long jump and a fourth in the 100 high hurdles. Rachel Soukup also took second in the 3,200 and eighth in the 1,600 as Prairie Ridge tied for fourth with 42 points.

Katie Jewell, who broke the FVC 100 record two weeks ago, qualified in the 100, 200, 400 and with the 4x100 relay.

“The whole night was pretty unbelievable,” MacDonald said. “We were only seeded first in one event and second in four. The team knew we had a chance to qualify a big contingent to state. We had no idea it would be this many. The girls were great.

“Rylee and Rachel are great athletes and they would be missed, but our program was good because of the quality of the kids who backed them, that this year was their opportunity to shine and to make a name for themselves.”

Johnsburg’s Caitlyn Casella, right, cruises to victory in the 100-meter dash as Richmond-Burton’s Jasmine McCaskel pursues during the Kishwaukee River Conference Girls Conference Championships track meet at Harvard High School Tuesday.

Casella’s time

Johnsburg senior Caitlyn Casella was one spot from making the finals in the Class 2A 100 last year. She comes in seeded third (12.19) in the 100 and fourth in the 200 (24.93). Prairie Ridge’s Jewell is sixth (12.23) and ninth in the 200 (25.46).

It has been a great year for area sprinters as Casella set the McHenry County Meet 100 record (12.19) and Jewell set the FVC Meet 100 record (12.20).

McHenry’s Kelly Huerta and Crystal Lake South’s Gracey LePage, who ran right behind Casella and Jewell at the county meet, qualified in the 200 on time from the Huntley Sectional. Huerta qualified in the 100 and with McHenry’s 4x100 as well.

Gators and Raiders

The 4x800 becomes a really interesting race this time of the season when relay teams see top competitions and times drastically drop.

Crystal Lake South’s Liv Pinta, Cecelia Piemontese, Tori Pinta and Abby Machesky ran 9:29.01 at the Huntley Sectional after running 9:46.67 in the FVC Meet.

Huntley’s Morgan Sauber, Aspen Maldonado, Cori Kilvinger and Haley Rahman did not run together in the FVC Meet, but cranked out a 9:30.77 in the sectional.

South is seeded eighth and Huntley 12th going into the state meet. The top-12 teams in the preliminaries advance to the finals.

Local State Qualifiers
Class 2A
Harvard: Jaden Timblin (HJ).
Johnsburg: Caitlyn Casella (100, 200, 4x100, 4x200), Natalie Burke, Lila Duck (LJ, TJ, 4x100), Addison Sweetwood (4x100).
Prairie Ridge: Katie Jewell (100, 200, 400, 4x100), Lila Stewart (800, 4x800), Olivia McPherson (800, 4x800), Brenna Benjamin (3,200, 4x800), Kelly Anderson (100HH,4x200), Anna Borg (4x100, 4x200), Paige Bredemeier (4x100, 4x200), Anastasiya Halayko (4x100), Kaitlyn Harmke (4x200), Faith Wilder (4x800).
Richmond-Burton: Kristina DeLeon (4x200), Sahanna Doherty (TJ, 4x200), Sophia Komar (4x200), Jasmine McCaskel (4x200), Savannah Wells (4x800), Kaylin Lotz (4x800), Alexia Spatz (4x800), Emerson Wold (4x800).
Woodstock: Hallie Steponaitis (HJ), Sophia Mendoza (LJ, 400, 4x400), Amina Idris (300LH, 4x400), Mia Foss (4x400), Sophie Sarabia (4x400), Anna Crenshaw (SP, discus).
Woodstock North: Bella Borta (100HH), Ashley Janeczko (SP, discus), Lauren Bieszczad (HJ).
Class 3A
Cary-Grove: Kate Aniolkowski (300LH), Olivia Parker (100HH, 300LH).
Crystal Lake South: Abby Machesky (800, 4x800), Liv Pinta (4x800), Tori Pinta (4x800), Cecelia Piemontese (4x800), Gracey LePage (200).
Dundee-Crown: Marissa Klaas (100HH).
Hampshire: Ella Perrone (400), Hailey Caraway (HJ), Hudson Szymonik (4x800), Alyssa Garcia (4x800), Hannah Jones (4x800), Kaley Byhre (4x800).
Huntley: Dominique Johnson (TJ, LJ, 4x200), Vicky Evtimov (200, 4x100, 4x200), Sophie Amin (100HH, 4x100), Emmy Byers (4x100, 4x200, 4x400), K’Leigh Saenz (4x100, 4x200, 4x400), Addi Busam (TJ, 4x400), Morgan Sauber (4x400, 4x800, 800), Aspen Maldonado (4x800), Cori Kilvinger (4x800), Haley Rahman (4x800), Sienna Robertson (discus), Elena Fetzer (SP), Gianna Howard (HJ).
McHenry: Kelly Huerta (100, 200, 4x100), Brianna Amedio (4x100), Emma Blanken (4x100), Avery Stinger (4x100), Danielle Jensen (3,200), Skylar Balzer (1,600, 3,200).
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