CHARLESTON -- The sense of anticipation was palpable as the star-studded field in the Class 3A 100-meter dash took their starting positions Saturday afternoon at O'Brien Stadium at Eastern Illinois University.
Lincoln-Way East junior Aaliyah Brown, the two-time defending state champion and second-ranked sprinter in the nation, was looking to break the girls track and field record in the event held by 14-time state champion Alex Anderson of Morgan Park.
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But Waubonsie Valley senior Morolake Akinosun had designs of her own. The Warriors' Illinois-bound four-year standout was a bolt of lightning out of the blocks, seizing command early and never relinquishing control en route to tying the seven-year-old Anderson record of 11.41 seconds with her first state title.
"Every possible emotion you could feel," said Akinosun, who was runner-up to Brown last year. "I feel like I was beat out of the blocks last year. It was probably my best start ever in eight years of running. Aaliyah Brown will always be regarded as one of the best in the nation."
Brown later came back to defeat Akinosun and Willowbrook two-time defending runner-up Cherise Porter to defend her crown at 200 meters. Akinosun was third and Porter took fifth in the 200 dash.
"I'm not making any excuses (in the 100)," Brown said. "I have to give it to Morolake."
The Akinosun triumph at 100 meters capped an extraordinary opening portion of the meet for the many local participants.
In a race never approximated in state history, the Wheaton Warrenville South 3,200 relay withstood a challenge for the ages in denying its rivals from Glenbard West.
WW South junior Hope Schmelzle faced a 40-meter deficit when she began the third leg, but the Tigers were soon back in business after Schmelzle clocked a 2:10 split.
"I had so many teams in front of me," Schmelzle said. "I knew I had to push the baton up as far as possible."
Madeline Perez was equally brilliant for the Hilltoppers as Schmelzle handed off to anchor McKenna Kiple a meter in front of Hilltoppers counterpart Emma Reifel. The two exchanged positions like dueling prizefighters, but Kiple found one last burst of energy, overtaking Reifel for the final time with 60 meters to go.
The Tigers' junior sped to the finish line and created history as the Tigers became the first quartet in state history to break the magical nine-minute barrier in 8:59.03. The Hilltoppers also broke the four-year-old Barrington state record by more than three seconds with their 9:00.72 time.
Amy Yong and Erin Herrmann were the opening WW South legs.
"I just knew I had to stay on (Reifel)," Kiple said. "I had to do whatever I could to win it for the team."
Savannah Carson became the fourth state champion -- all in jumping events -- for Neuqua Valley when her Friday preliminary long jump of 19 feet, 4½ inches withstood all challengers.
"We have the best jumps coach (Wayne Hartmann) in the state," Neuqua Valley coach Gretchen Parejko said.
Lake Park, which finished fifth with 35.5 points to lead all area programs, crowned the other state champion when Kaylee Flanagan emerged victorious in a duel with the last two state cross-country champions, Ariel Michalek (Oswego East) and Amanda Fox (Naperville Central), to win the 3,200 run in 10:30.47.
Lindsey Rakosnik closed her memorable career at Glenbard East with personal records of 2:09.23 at 800 meters and 4:55.15 at 1,600 meters. But the defending champion in the former was denied by Rockton Hononegah junior Courtney Clayton in the 800 and Michalek and New Trier junior Courtney Ackerman in the 1,600 in her quest for a unique double.
"There was such a fast field in both the 800 and the mile," Rakosnik said.