Girls track and field: Lincoln-Way East 4x400 relay races to IHSA state title, leads area medalists

Joliet Catholic long jumper Symone Holman takes second, best finish ever for JCA athlete

Seneca’s Teagan Johnson eyes the runway in the 1A Pole Vault Saturday, May 18, 2024 at the IHSA girls state track meet in Charleston.

CHARLESTON – When Lincoln-Way East freshman Alaina Steele took the baton for the final leg of the 4x400-meter relay at the IHSA Class 3A Girls State Track and Field Championships on Saturday, she knew what she had to do.

“C’mon, let’s go, we gotta finish this,” Steele was thinking as she headed into the final lap.

And that’s what she did, holding off a furious kick by Oregon-bound Allison Ince of Normal to give the Griffins the Herald-News area’s only state title in the final race of the day at Eastern Illinois’ O’Brien Field.

Knowing that Ince was closing the gap, Steele remained focused.

“I’ve got to get to the finish line first, I’ve got to finish this race for my team,” she remembered thinking.

East, which ran the state’s fastest time of the season in Friday’s preliminaries at 3:52.71, ran another PR in the final: 3:50.73, the 64th-fastest time in the country this season. Junior Kyra Hayden led off for the Griffins, followed by junior Jumi Aremu, freshman Nora Keane and Steele.

Ince and Normal were just behind in 3:50.80, the second-fastest time in Illinois and 65th-best in the nation.

“It was a surprise even to get this far, to the finals,” Steele said. “It was exciting to know that we were able to PR.”

She had another PR in the 400, taking third with a 56.75.

Two area athletes finished as runners-up: Joliet Catholic sophomore long jumper Symone Holman in 2A and Lincoln-Way Central freshman Mia Forystek in the 3A 800.

Holman, who posted her top mark of 17 feet, 8 inches in Friday’s preliminaries, had the best finish ever for a JCA girls track and field athlete. The only better performances in program history were back-to-back state titles in the Class 2A 100 by Tonya Scott for St. Francis Academy, one of the predecessor schools to JCA.

Just competing was a win for Holman, who strained her right hamstring in the sectional. The injury prevented her from running the 100 at state; she won that event at the sectional.

“My expectations were just to make it to the podium,” Holman said. “I couldn’t really perform to the best of my ability so I think second place is pretty good.”

She focused more on rehab than training in the days heading into state.

“I was icing my leg a lot and soaking it in hot and cold water and massaging it and getting it taped,” Holman said.

Like Steele in the relay, Forystek was going up against Ince in the 800.

Ince, who also won the 1,600, took first in the 800 in a state-meet record of 2:05.33. Forystek ran a PR of 2:12.24 to take second.

“My hope was honestly just to go out with a bang and have fun,” Forystek said. “I (qualified) with my 4-by-8 as well. We didn’t make it to finals but it was a lot of fun. I wanted to PR and I did that.”

Plainfield’s Janhnel Bowman (left) eyes the finish in the 200 dash Saturday, May 18, 2024 at the IHSA girls state track meet in Charleston.

Taking thirds were pole vaulters Mckena Miglorini of Lockport, who cleared 12-1.5 in 3A, and Teagan Johnson of Seneca, who cleared the same height in 1A for a season best.

“I’m thrilled,” Johnson said of her finish. “I was hoping to PR, but I was really just trying to get back to my longer run into my bigger poles,” Johnson said.

Lincoln-Way East was the top local team finisher, taking 10th in 3A with 23.5 points. Also contributing for the Griffins were Hayden, who was third in the 300 hurdles with a PR of 43.81, and Jaiden Knoop, who finished ninth in the pole vault at 11-1.75.

Plainfield North tied for 12th with 21 points. The Tigers had a third in the 4x100 relay from Alex Eydenberg, Kaiya Bradshaw, Aniya Poindexter and Taylor McClain, who ran a season-best 47.04. McClain also ran a PR of 24.44 to finish fifth in the 200 and anchored North to seventh in the 4x200. Eydenberg, Bradshaw and Poindexter also ran on that relay.

The Tigers also won medals in the 4x400 (sixth, 3:55.89) and the 4x800 (eighth, 9:23.94). Eydenberg, Poindexter, Tessa Russo and Lauren Dellangelo ran the 4x400, while Elsie Czarniewski, Lindsey Wenz, Kaitlyn Ward and Russo ran the 4x800.

Plainfield South’s Jahnel Bowman won three medals, taking fifth in the triple jump (38-6.75), seventh in the 400 (57.48) and ninth in the 200 (25.03).

Other local medalists in Class 3A were Minooka’s Maya Ledesma (fifth in the 3,200, 10:53.48), Joliet West’s Janellisa Oceguera (eighth in the 800, 2:14.76) and Bolingbrook’s Kristyn Johnson (ninth in the 100, 12.36).

Coal City’s Ella Wills took ninth in the triple jump in 2A (35-8.75). In 1A, Seneca had a fifth from Evelyn O’Connor in the 1,600 (5:11.40), a sixth in the 4x800 (9:50.61) and a seventh from Faith Baker in the discus (117-6). Dwight’s Mikayla Chambers took ninth in the 1A 800 (2:20.78).