3A girls track and field: Jahnel Bowman’s 4-event qualifying just 1 highlight at Minooka Sectional

Joliet Central’s Madison King advances in 800-meter run

Plainfield South's Jahnel Bowman competes in the triple jump during the 3A Minooka Sectional on Wednesday, May 8, 2024.

MINOOKA – It’s been a while between successes in girls track at Joliet Central, but that’s beginning to change.

Introducing Madison King, a diminutive sophomore who made a big statement in Wednesday’s Class 3A Minooka Sectional. King made her presence known with a state-qualifying time of 2:19.04 in the 800-meter run. She finished third behind Joliet West’s Janellisa Oceguera (2:17.29) and Washington’s 2:18.29, but at more than 1.5 seconds faster than the state standard of 2:20.60 easily advanced to next week’s state championship at Eastern Illinois University.

Easily in her mind, at least.

“There’s no reason I wasn’t going to qualify,” King said. “I knew I was going to. If it wasn’t by place, it was going to be by time. I knew it.”

Youth has a way of instilling confidence, but hers was justified. Her seed time of 2:19.54 was third-best in the field, and that’s where she finished.

King didn’t double in the 1,600, finishing third but in 5:26.28, about 15 seconds off the qualifying time, but Charleston is in her future nonetheless.

“And I have two more years,” King said.

As opposed to Plainfield South senior Jahnel Bowman, who’ll spend the next four years at Indiana State, but not before she takes up residence at Eastern Illinois for a weekend as a four-event qualifier. Bowman won the triple jump on her only leap of the afternoon, going 39 feet, 6½ inches, third-best in Illinois this year, then came to the track and took second in the 400 in 56.44 seconds. She finished by winning the 200 in 24.92, the 12th-best time in Illinois this spring.

It all began with the long jump, the event that bit her a year ago. Last year, she fell inches short of advancing to the state final. This time, her final jump of 18 feet, 3¼ inches surpassed the state minimum and also placed her second behind Kankakee’s Na’Kyrah Cooks (18-7¼).

“My plan was to come in, do one jump and sit down,” Bowman said. “But … clearly today was something else. I wasn’t touching the board at all. My last jump, I had to take a deep breath and really lock in and tell myself I could do it. And I did!”

That got her going. The one-pass triple went according to plan, only Kankakee speedster Naomi Bey-Osborne’s blistering 55.12 – the top time in Illinois this year – beat her in the 400, and she beat Kankakee’s Trinity Noble to the line by almost a quarter-second in the 200.

Bowman earned 36 of Plainfield South’s 53.5 points. Kankakee won the meet with 102.5 points, with Minooka second (99.5).

Minooka was helped by the double qualification of thrower Leila Richardson, who surprised herself with a winning throw of 127-10 in the discus, then took third in the shot put with a put of 38-7, nearly 2 feet better than the standard. Joliet West’s Kailah Murray (36-9¾) also advanced to the state final.

Minooka's Maya Ledesma legs out the 1,600-meter run during the 3A sectional track meet Wednesday, May 8, 2024, at Minooka.

Minooka’s Maya Ledesma won the 3,200-meter run and took second in the 1,600, while the Indians won the meet-climaxing 4x400 relay and grabbed second in the 4x800. Natalie Nahs anchored both teams, running the final lap of the 4x400 in 58.527 seconds to pull away from Kankakee’s Taniya Munson. The Indians also advanced in the 4x200, one of six teams to do so.

The 200 Bowman won was astonishing. She led five other runners across the line in state-qualifying time in her heat, after four of the eight in the previous heat also surpassed the standard of 25.75 seconds. Lincoln-Way West’s Alanah Smith (25.48) and Minooka’s Elizabeth Egwunwoke (25.49) were among the 10 runners advancing. It would have been 11, but Bey-Osborne pulled a hamstring and limped home.

Lincoln-Way West junior Reese Geiger won the pole vault at 11-2¼, bettering the state standard by nearly a foot. West’s Madelyn Schussler (10-3) and Minooka’s Riley Warren (10-3) also advanced.

Jerie McClellan of Joliet West advanced with a second-place finish in the 100 (12.26), joining Oceguera on the trip downstate. McClellan also was part of the successful bid by the Tigers’ 4x200 team to advance (fourth, 1:43.31).

Five of the eight teams in the 4x100 relay advanced, led by Kankakee (46.90). Lincoln-Way West (49.06) finished fourth but will make the trip downstate on time.

Joliet West's Janellisa Oceguera runs the 800 during the 3A Minooka Sectional contested Wednesday, May 8, 2024.