There’s nothing more common than clock watching at the IHSA State Track and Field Meet.
But because of the unique set-up of this year’s event clock, watching is going to become more common and even more significant than ever for the 2021 state meet.
That’s because the typical meet structure has been set aside this season and the meet will be not be run with an opening day of preliminaries followed by finals for those who qualify.
Instead, the entire field will run in heats, and then the placement will be decided solely by performance in those heats. Even though the heats will be staggered with the best sectional performers placed in the same heats, there’s no guarantee that if the “fast heat” winner bested all the others in previous heats.
So its pretty clear to see that clock watching will be the focus of pretty much all involved over the three day event at Eastern Illinois University.
The schedule also has changed. Each of the three classes will have one day devoted to their classification. Class 1A will kick things off Thursday, Class 2A follows Friday, while Class 3A will be held Saturday.
Here’s a closer look at how area athletes stack up in this weekend’s title chase.
Lincoln-Way East appears to be right in the thick of the chase for the Class 3A championship.
Not surprisingly, the biggest obstacle seems to be long-time rival and conference foe Homewood-Flossmoor.
Lincoln-Way East’s efforts will be anchored by standout Mariam Azeez. Azeez is a top-three seed in three individual events and enters the 100-meters as the person to beat based on sectional times. Azeez is the second seed in the 200 and the third seed in the long jump.
The Griffins 400 relay also includes Azeez and not surprisingly finds itself positioned well at No. 3 seed.
Even with a splendid performance from Azeez, Lincoln-Way East is going to need contributions from others to secure the hardware.
Sophia Barnard is a top-eight seed in both hurdle events, ranking 5th in the 300 hurdles and 8th in the 100 hurdles. Every point Barnard potentially could provide will increase the probability of success.
The Griffins also are hoping that at the very least Katie Scarini in the 300 hurdles (6th seed), the 3,200 relay (8th seed) and shot putter Jamie Sierocki (9th seed) can maintain their seed positions and possibly move up a few spots.
Numerous other area individuals appear poised to reach the medal stand. Lockport’s Grace Mildice enters the 300 hurdles as the second seed, while Lincoln-Way Central’s Marla Hayes is seeded fifth in the shot put.
Minooka is the No. 3 seed in the 3,200 relay, while Plainfield East’s Carmen Trillo is the No. 3 seed in the pole vault.
Plainfield South’s two qualifiers are seeded among the top seven in their respective events. Macy O’Neill is the four seed in the high jump while Janiya Bowman is the seventh seed in the 200.
The seven individual qualifiers and five relays will have to make significant upgrades from their sectional qualifying efforts in order to reach the medal stand.
The highest seeded local qualifier is Providence pole vaulter Natalie Papes who was seeded 10th; Providence shot put thrower Gabby Yacino is the 12th seed. Yacino also qualified in the discus as the 15th seed.
No other area qualifier in Class 2A was seeded in the Top 15.
Seneca makes up the largest grouping of area athletes in the Class 1A event and some of those entrants have high aspirations.
Based on seed times, Belleville Althoff looks to be the favorite to take home the team trophy. But Seneca appears very much in the mix for a team trophy and will likely be grappling with Winnebago, Salt Fork, Rockford Christian, Pittsfield and Tuscola to take home one of the big trophies.
Seneca’s success will hinge heavily on how many points standout Brooklyn Giertz can add to the Fighting Irish’s final tally. Giertz is seeded to place in all three of her individual events (Pole Vault - 2nd; 300 hurdles - 4th; 100 hurdles - 7th) and Seneca’s 400 relay of which she is a part is the third seed.