On a day of dominant individual performances, it was the St. Charles East triumvirate of Jordan Shead, Kelsey Gentry and Britney Williams who were the difference-makers at the eight-team St. Charles North girls track and field invitational.
The three St. Charles East runners enabled the Saints to win all three sprint relays, including runaway victories in the 800- and 1,600-meter varieties as the Saints broke free from a tightly congested field to win with 89 points.
Contact information ( * required )
Glenbard South (77 points) edged Wheaton North (75), Conant (74) and Glenbard East (74) for runner-up status, with the host North Stars, Libertyville and Benet rounding out the field Saturday morning and afternoon in St. Charles.
Williams, a returning all-state 400 runner, anchored all three relays to easy triumphs for the Saints.
Underclassmen Allison Chmelik and Corrine Adams were the respective fourth legs on the Saints' 400 and 1,600 quartets.
"I think our four-by-four (1,600) was the best," Williams said after crossing the tape 12 seconds faster than her closest pursuer to finish at four minutes, 2.35 seconds. "All of our splits were really good. We worked really well as a team."
Annie Martines' imprints were also squarely connected to the Saints' first major team title in almost two years.
The senior, a returning state qualifier in the 300 hurdles, swept the two obstacle events with convincing victories in the 100 and 300 hurdles.
"My times (16.83 seconds) for the 100s were a lot faster than I thought they would be," Martines said. "I felt stronger (training over) spring break and all of last week. It felt good."
St. Charles East showcased its depth to win the team title as coach Denise Hefferin deliberately did not have any of her athletes compete in more than two individual events.
"A really good team effort today," Hefferin said. "Track and field is about variety. (We were) getting (contributions) from a variety of people."
Ten of the 14 individual event champions were claimed by five multiple winners.
None was as impressive as defending Class 3A 800 state champion Lindsey Rakosnik.
The Illinois-bound Glenbard East senior skipped her specialty event and put on a mind-bending performance by winning the 3,200 run by almost 36 seconds.
Rakosnik was attempting to break the school record in the event but fell shy by about five seconds with her 10:51.9 time.
"There's no race harder to run without competition than the 2-mile," Benet coach Scott Brooks said.
Rakosnik came back and faced a much stiffer test from St. Charles North senior Sydney Stuenkel at 1,600 meters.
The two were a meter apart from the start of the second lap until the gun lap, but Rakosnik made her move seconds later and cruised to victory in 5:08.38.
Rakosnik was the Top Times indoor state champion at 1.600 meters, while Stuenkel set a personal record that day to finish third.
"My whole strategy of the race was to push the pace because I knew (Rakosnik) would be tired from the 2-mile," said Stuenkel, who was timed in 5:12.93. "I think I gave (Rakosnik) some good competition. She's awesome."
The Rakosnik performance is all the more remarkable considering she was state runner-up at 400 meters less than two years ago.
"(Rakosnik) has a tool in her toolbox that other kids don't have," Brooks said.
"My goal was to rack up points for the team," Rakosnik said. "The 2-mile really got me tired. I like the 800 and mile a lot more. (Setting a new school record) was ultimately the goal. I really wanted to get it."
Jessica Scheets provided the North Stars not only their lone champion but also a measure of redemption against Glenbard East when she turned back a spirited challenge by the Rams' Maggie Angst to win at 800 meters.
"I felt like I tried to keep my pace," Scheets said after denying the state-qualifying Angst 2:22.47-2:23.3. "I think it was good that (Angst) was behind me the whole time. It's a good start to the season."
"It was a tough race," said the Missouri-bound Angst, making her season debut due to basketball-related injuries. "(Scheets) was tough."
Glenbard South was paced by the championship effort Katelyn Hill authored in the 400 dash, while thrower Sam Howard was second in the discus with a career-best 122 feet, 2-inch mark and a third in the shot put.
Benet returning all-state triple jumper Anne Yahiro was one of two double winners in the field with championships in the long jump and triple jump.
Darcy Cadman claimed the Redwings' third field crown with a criteria win over Libertyville junior Haley Becker in the high jump at 5-2.
The Wheaton North quartet of Laura Gann, Esther Maletich, Grace Onesti and Morgan Hayden was the lone team in the 3,200 relay to break 10 minutes to frame the Falcons' sole championship.
Angela Herrmann picked up right where she left off from the state finals from last year in leading Conant to its third-place team tie.
One season removed from a four-event state-qualifying campaign, the Cougars' senior was the class of the sprinters in trying conditions.
Herrmann, the lone returning member of the Cougars' 400 relay medal-winning quartet, opened the finals portions of her day by anchoring the new-look squad to a runner-up result.
"Our team is coming together," Herrmann said of fellow sprint-relay members Kyrah Sherrod, Sarah Kliora and Maya Lane.
After qualifying for the finals in both the 100 and 200 dashes via the morning preliminaries, Herrmann tamed the nasty headwinds in both races to emerge victorious with respective times of 13.05 and 26.45 seconds.
"I am hoping that I will get even better," said Herrman of her two wins in the shortest sprints. "The two (200 dash), I feel I have that second gear to push it out. (My starts) were both very good (in both finals races)."
Herrman, an Illinois Wesleyan recruit, did not run her customary anchor leg for the Cougars' 800 relay team, the fourth event for which she qualified in state last May.
The untapped potential of sophomore Jen Donnell was the other central development for Conant.
The thrower, with no previous experience whatsoever in either the shot put or discus before entering high school, unleashed winning distances of 37-10 in the former and a personal-best 126-07 in the latter to win against quality opposition.
"I didn't throw as far as I wanted to in the shot put," said Donnell, who is a reigning state qualifier in the event. "I was practicing discus the whole week, and it paid off."
Junior Katie Prince was hovering around the state-qualifying at-large distance in the discus with her third-place 116-01 effort for Conant.
Jessica Giannini was second in the 100 hurdles for the Cougars.
The pole vault was the monopolistic domain for Libertyville at St. Charles North on Saturday.
In claiming the only one-two sweep of the afternoon, Nicole Jaffke established a new personal record with her winning effort at 11 feet.
Jackie Hansen fell a foot short of her teammate to claim runner-up status.
Jaffke, a most incongruous athlete who is a distance runner on the track, credits a vigorous off-season training regimen for her improvement.
"I put in a lot work over the winter," said Jaffke, who had her state series sidetracked by an injury last year. "I quit basketball. It's pretty much a lot of off-season training."
As the final contestant in the competition, Jaffke was given an option after successfully clearing 11-0.
"(The bar) was moved to 11-4," Jaffke explained. "The school record is 11-3. I really wanted to break the school record. I still have time."
The Wildcats also received runner-up efforts from Becker in the high jump and Julia Smagacz in the long jump.
Jen Angster and Carly Stewart anchored the Wildcats' sprinters with their fourth-place finishes at 200 and 400 meters.
"We have improved at every meet we have been to," Libertyville coach Tom Bizosky said. "We knew coming in that it was some of the best competition in the area. That's why we come here."