WHEATON – Huntley is on a mission.
“We have never won a (state) plaque before,” said Alex Johnson, the Raiders’ four-event champion Friday night at Wheaton Warrenville South.
But Huntley has been recently anointed as the top-rated Class 3A girls track and field team in the state by milesplit.com, and Johnson and her freshman sister Dominique are central ingredients to the Raiders’ undeniable recipe for success.
Alex Johnson, the defending state champion in the long jump, has the finest mark in the state this outdoor season as the junior soared 19 feet, 4 inches to deny highly regarded Naperville North senior Denise Hernandez by six inches.
“I have been trying to get it for so long,” Alex said of what she terms “the magical barrier in the long jump” – the 20-foot barrier.
Alex Johnson later dusted the field at the Tiger Invitational to win the 100-meter dash in 12.31 seconds.
The junior, with able support from Melissa Aningayei-Bonsu, Vicky Evtimov, Jessie Ozzauto and her freshman sibling also captured sprint-relay titles at 400 and 800 meters.
Dominique Johnson, with Aninagyei-Bonsu finishing runner-up, then captured the triple jump at 39-7, an astounding distance for a freshman newcomer.
The Raiders would need every point they could muster in turning back defending state champion and third-ranked Lincoln-Way East 91-89.2.
Naperville North was close behind for third in 86.5.
Naperville Central, WW South, York and Oswego were in a close pack for fourth but considerably behind the three state powers.
On the track, Glenbard West do-it-all senior Audrey Allman anchored the Hilltoppers’ 4x800 relay to the fastest time in the state – by more than 10 seconds – with their collective 9:26.99.
Naperville Central sophomore LIv Phillips was the unquestionable queen in the open 3,200 run with her runaway win in 11:11.25.
Sophia McNerney made a statement as the Tulane-bound senior for Downers Grove South, hobbled by injuries throughout the indoor and early part of the outdoor season, rose to the challenge with a scintillating 2:14.23 clocking in the 800 run.
“I kind of go off by feel,” said McNerney, an athlete with tremendous range who was runner-up last June in the 3,200. “I want to feel like I have a little more left in the last 200, 100 meters. I am trying to build throughout the race.”
York team-cross-country champion Brooke Berger was right on her heels at 2:15.43, with Naperville North freshman breakout performer Emma Berres in third at 2:16.37.
Naperville North quarter-miler Christina Gu had two brilliant 400 races to earn a pair of gold medals at the 20-team invitational.
Gu turned back Allman to win the open 400 in 59.03 before harnessing all her energy for a fantastic anchor leg in the meet-closing 4x400 relay to give Naperville North a come-from-behind win in 4:05.38.
In the open metric-mile, Hinsdale Central junior Catie McCabe, fourth last year in the fastest 1,600 run in girls state track history, came home in 4:05.38 to secure first place.
“This is when the season gets more fun,” McCabe said. “I was trying to break five (minutes) for the conference and state series. I was trying to go about 2:26 by the 800, but we were a little slower than that. There were a lot of good girls in the race; it was definitely a lot of fun.”
Oswego scored 50 points to finish seventh overall.
Junior distance ace Audra Soderlind skipped her specialty event – the 3,200 - to do battle with McCabe and Co. in the metric mile.
Soderlind was among four runners a mere three meters apart at the gun lap. But the Oswego junior would settle for fourth in 5:08.41.
“”I tried to get to the front of the line,” Soderlind said. “I knew there were a lot of good runners in the field. I did get boxed in a little bit but was able to work my way around it.”
Chaleica Booker and Skylar Greenslade anchored the Panthers’ sprint crew with their respective 100 heat victories.
The former climbed into runner-up position by claiming the penultimate of seven heats in 12.69. Booker later finished third in the 400 with her 60.87 clocking.
Greenslade was timed in 12.89 as the senior also ran the open 200 while running both of the two shortest sprint relays.
“It was nice to be able to compete against all these different schools, so I felt really good about how the meet went overall,” Greenslade said.
Oswego senior pole vaulters Emma Ponx and Gwen Berenyi were second and fourth, respectively, with their 10-10 clearances.
Yorkville finished near the bottom of the 20-team field with its 16 total points.
Freshman phenom Courtney Clabough once again climbed to the top of the podium at a major invitational with her victorious heave of 39-6.5 in the shot put.
The ninth-grader is ranked No. 5 in Class 3A with her season-best of 39-9. The Foxes’ Katie Melzer anchored their 4x400 relay to a sixth-place finish in 4:11.29.
“The four-by-four is always fun,” said Melzer, who also ran the open 1,600. “It ends the night off well, so we always try to win it. I am all over the place right now (event-wise). I am more of a mid-distance runner; I love the 800.”