Girls Track and Field: Huntley takes home team state title along with three individual champions

Prairie Ridge’s Rylee Lydon closes career with a first, two seconds and a fourth

Huntley’s Ally Panzloff throws the discus in the 3A event Saturday, May 20, 2023 during the IHSA state track and field finals at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.

CHARLESTON – Huntley came to Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium yearning to accomplish something spectacular.

The Red Raiders, poised and hungry, achieved everything they wanted - including a team title.

“It’s insane,” junior sprinter K’Leigh Saenz said. “It is such a memorable moment, probably life-changing. It’s such a huge accomplishment as individuals and as a team to experience this. I know we all worked really hard for it. It’s such a nice reward at the end of everything we worked for.”

“It’s insane. It is such a memorable moment, probably life-changing. It’s such a huge accomplishment as individuals and as a team to experience this. I know we all worked really hard for it. It’s such a nice reward at the end of everything we worked for.”

—  K’Leigh Saenz. Huntley sprinter

Huntley came through with three titles and top performances across the board to win the Class 3A team title at the IHSA Girls Track and Field State Meet Saturday. The Raiders join the 2019 Class 4A softball team as the only team champs in school history.

“They did everything they needed to do these last two days,” Raiders coach Jason Monson said. “They were focused, it’s been the goal from the get-go this season and they never took their eyes off of that. I’m incredibly proud of them and our coaching staff. This is historic. The number of people reaching out via text and Twitter has been pretty cool.”

Led by state champions Ally Panzloff (discus), Alex Johnson (long jump) and Dominique Johnson (triple jump), Huntley scored 62 1/2 points for first. Prospect (52) was second, Chicago Kenwood (45) was third and Prairie Ridge and Neuqua Valley (42) tied for fourth.

Huntley’s state championship is the first team state trophy in the McHenry County area for girls track.

Prairie Ridge tied for fourth with two athletes – Rylee Lydon and Rachel Soukup – doing its scoring. Lydon finished her outstanding career with high jump title, runner-up finishes in the long jump and 400 meters, and a fourth place in the 100 high hurdles.

Soukup was second in the 3,200 meters and took eighth in the 1,600. Soukup closed a sizable gap on Glenbard North’s Grace Schager and almost caught her. Schager won in 10:15.81, Soukup was second in 10:16.61 and looked as if she would have won if the race has been 20 meters longer.

Alex Johnson won the long jump for a third consecutive year, but Dominique, her sophomore sister, beat her for the triple jump title by 3 inches. Those two, along with Saenz and Vicky Evtimov took second in the 4x100 relay and third in the 4x200 relay.

Breanna Burak picked up five points in the 3,200 for the Raiders and Dominique Johnson tied for fifth in the long jump to give them 62 1/2 points.

“I’m so proud of our 4x100, we ran really well and it was a good race,” said Alex Johnson, a senior headed to Arizona State. “I wish I would have done a little better in triple jump, but my sister won and I got second, so I can’t complain too much.”

Dominique Johnson called her triple jump win bittersweet. She jumped 12.35 meters and Alex jumped 12.27 for second. Both jumped those distances in Friday’s preliminaries.

“I was mostly really hyped after my relays,” Dominique Johnson said. “I was really loose and had a lot of adrenaline. I knew I was about to get a good jump. I just focused.

“I know she really wanted to win. I know it’s her senior year. It was sad seeing she didn’t win. That was my main goal this entire season to win triple jump.”

Panzloff launched her winning throw on her first attempt Friday, 48.73 meters, the fourth-longest throw in state meet history and her career-best effort by 15 feet.

“I felt faster than normal, but I didn’t look at the throw,” said Panzloff, who will play volleyball at NCAA Division I Brown University. “I walked out and my coaches are cheering and I had no clue. They asked if I saw it coming and I didn’t see it period.

“I’m so excited (for the team). My whole high school career I’ve wanted to win a state championship and I thought it would be in volleyball. I’m so happy to do it with this group of people. They are the nicest people and they are so talented.”

The state meet marked the end of two of the best athletes to ever come out of McHenry County in Alex Johnson and Lydon, both of whom finish with nine state medals.

Lydon will compete at Texas A&M in the heptathlon, which is comprised of the 100 high hurdles, 200, 800, shot put, long jump, high jump and javelin throw. She defended her high jump title with a 1.75 jump, her career best. Normal Community’s Allison Ince edged her out in the 400 55.18-55.28.

“I wish the long jump would have gone a little better, but I ended up second behind Alex Johnson, so I’m pretty proud of that,” Lydon said. “In the high jump, I felt really well somehow, after rushing back after the hurdles.

“The 400 I wish I’d have gotten the win, but that was a PR for me and Allison Ince is an absolute stud, so I’m happy about that. I’m very proud of my day and my finish.”

Also in Class 3A, McHenry’s Alyssa Moore took sixth in the 800, Hampshire’s Hailey Caraway was eighth in high jump and Crystal Lake South’s Bella Gonzalez was ninth in the 3,200.

In Class 2A, Burlington Central’s Paige Greenhagel grabbed medals in the long jump (third), 400 (eighth) and high jump (ninth). She will attend D-I Liberty and compete as a heptathlete.

“I was very happy getting to finals in three events,” Greenhagel said. “That’s a big accomplishment. I definitely wish I would have done better in high jump and 400, but I’m very grateful to be in this position and be given the opportunity.”

Also in Class 2A, Richmond-Burton’s Angelina Gersch took third in the triple jump and eighth in the 300 hurdles. Burlington Central’s Tia Brennan took sixth in pole vault. Woodstock’s Hallie Steponaitis was seventh in high jump and Keira Bogott was ninth in the 800. Woodstock North’s Ashley Janeczko was ninth in the shot put.

Gersch was thrilled with her triple jump effort Saturday, moving from 11.13 (36-0) to 11.27 (36-11 3/4), although it did not improve her place.

“That’s what I was hoping for, 37-0, 11.33, but I’ll take it. I broke my own school record,” Gersch said. “My coach told me to keep up my speed, so I was focusing on keeping my speed up through all three phases and then really getting up as far as I can and getting my feet in front on the last phase and it worked out.

“I’m really grateful for this opportunity and I was hoping to end it on a good note.”

IHSA Girls Track and Field State Meet

Class 2A Local Results

800 meters: 9. Keira Bogott (Woodstock) 2:19.76.

400 meters: 8. Paige Greenhagel (Burlington Central) 58.16.

300 low hurdles: 8. Angelina Gersch (Richmond-Burton) 47.50.

Shot put: 9. Ashley Janeczko (Woodstock North) 11.08 (36-4.25).

High jump: 7. Hallie Steponaitis (Wdk) 1.60 (5-3); 9. Greenhagel (BC) 1.55 (5-1).

Long jump: 3. Greenhagel (BC) 5.50 (18-2.25).

Triple jump: 3. Gersch (R-B) 11.27 (36-11.75).

Pole vault: 6. Tia Brennan (BC) 3.52 (11-6.5).

Class 3A Local Results

4x100 relay: 2. Huntley (Dominique Johnson, Vicky Evtimov, K’Leigh Saenz, Alex Johnson) 47.97.

3,200 meters: 2. Rachel Soukup (Prairie Ridge) 10:16.61, 5. Breanna Burak (Huntley) 10:40.36, 9. Bella Gonzalez (Crystal Lake South) 10:48.86.

100 high hurdles: 4. Rylee Lydon (PR) 14.50.

800 meters: 6. Alyssa Moore (McHenry) 2:16.91.

4x200 relay: 3. Huntley (A. Johnson, Saenz, D. Johnson, Evtimov) 1:40.72.

400 meters: 2. Lydon (PR) 55.28.

1,600 meters: 8. Soukup (PR) 4:58.80.

Discus: 1. Ally Panzloff (Hunt) 48.73 (159-10).

High jump: 1. Lydon (PR) 1.75 (5-8.75), 8. Hailey Caraway (Hampshire) 1.55 (5-1).

Long jump: 1. A. Johnson (Hunt) 5.96 (19-6.75), 2. Lydon (PR) 5.71 (18-8.75), 5 (tie). D. Johnson (Hunt) 5.57 (18-3.25).

Triple jump: 1. D. Johnson (Hunt) 12.35 (40-6.25), 2. A. Johnson (Hunt) 12.27 (40-3.25).