Few rivalries in the DuPage Valley Conference have crystallized with such drama in recent years as much as the one between Wheaton Warrenville South and West Aurora in girls track and field.
The schools have traded the last six combined indoor and outdoor conference championships, but the Blackhawks' athleticism was too much even for the herculean efforts of Hope Schmelzle and McKenna Kiple to overcome.
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The 200-meter dash Thursday night at North Central College in Naperville was the penultimate event at the indoor league meet, and West Aurora trailed WW South by 2 points.
But Anita Saffa, who earlier had captured the 55 dash in 7.34 seconds, restored the Blackhawks' lead for good with her second gold medal in 26.46.
Monique Dunum edged Tigers sprint workhorse Jessie Spera for fourth to give West Aurora an edge with only the 1,600 relay left.
West Aurora had only to place to win its first indoor conference championship in three years.
Schmelzle and Kiple, who powered the Tigers' history-making 3,200 relay last spring, concluded their majestic nights with another eye-dropping performance in the event.
But the Blackhawks, with Saffa, star jumper and hurdler Emma Spagnola and an emergent Kyla Walton, were runners-up to cement their 116-108 victory over WW South.
Naperville North was a distant third, followed by Glenbard North, Naperville Central, Glenbard East, Wheaton North and West Chicago.
"I heard the (team) score after (the 1,600 run) and knew we were behind by 2," Saffa said. "I knew Monique and I had to do something."
"After the 400 and mile," WW South coach Rob Harvey said to West Aurora counterpart Teresa Towles, "I knew we had to have a 10- to 12-point lead in order to win (the team title). We were only up 2."
Spagnola once again was the personification of the Blackhawks' athleticism.
The junior won the 55 hurdles and literally leapt past teammate Walton on her final attempt to win the long jump.
"The whole time (Walton) was leading by an inch," Spagnola said before turning back her classmate with an 18 feet, 2 inches effort. "It was a very friendly battle."
Spagnola soared 5-5 in the high jump, but WW South junior won the event in a tiebreaker.
Walton came back to win the triple jump, and Maya Marion captured the Blackhawks' sixth individual championship with a come-from-behind triumph over Naperville Central senior Tina Norris in the shot put.
Schmelzle and Kiple put on mesmerizing performances for the Tigers.
The former teamed with the latter to win the 3,200 relay by 13-plus seconds before destroying the field in the open 1,600 to win in 5:05.61.
Schmelzle then reversed a 20-meter deficit, going from last to first in the process, to enable Kiple to set a new standard in the 1,600 relay of 4:05.5.
Kiple, meanwhile, tasted defeat only to indoor conference record-holder Simone Carr of Glenbard North at 400 meters.
The Miami of Ohio recruit was in a league of her own in breezing to the open 800 in 2:16.37.
"Those two young ladies are just phenomenal," Towles said. "I will not be sad when they graduate."
"That's my favorite thing about track and field, to be behind and catch up," the Purdue-bound Schmelzle said of her third leg in the 1,600 relay. "This is my all-time (personal record) in the indoor mile."
"We will definitely use this for motivation for outdoor season," Kiple said of the rivalry with West Aurora. "I'm going to make the most of my senior year."
Glenbard North won the 800 relay, and Carr held off Kiple to win the 400 in 58 seconds flat.
Lindsay Graham became a freshman sensation for Glenbard East after winning the 3,200 run and placing second to Schmelzle at 1,600 meters.
Hope Turner claimed the sole championship for Naperville North by clearing 11-6 in the pole vault.
"It was fun to be a part of," Harvey said. "West Aurora is a great team, and I think we have a great team. We have some special kids on this team."