Top teams: Neuqua Valley, Wheaton Warrenville South, Lake Park, Glenbard West, Downers Grove South, Naperville North, York, Naperville Central, Downers Grove North, Benet
Top athletes:Addison Trail: Jaime Borscha (jr., sprints); Chandlyr Kulpa (sr., hurdles); Kaleen Smith (jr., sprints, jumps); Yulisa Vivero (jr., sprints, jumps); Benet: Audrey Blazek (sr., distance); Jenna Martin (jr., sprints, jumps); Loren Riedy (jr., sprints, jumps); Lucy Zimmerman (fr., hurdles, jumps); Downers Grove North: Meghan Bonfield (jr., middle distance); Gaby Hesslau (sr., middle distance, distance); Rebecca Riderhoff (sr., sprints, jumps); Stephanie Urbancic (jr., middle distance); Downers Grove South: Sam Baeten (sr., sprints); Jada Franklin (jr., sprints, jumps); Katie Strelau (sr., distance); Amanda Thate (soph., distance); Fenton: Valerie Andrews (soph., hurdles, jumps); Emelia Burris (fr., sprints, jumps); Taylor Patton (sr., sprints, jumps) Mimi Vaolis (soph., distance); Glenbard East: Stephany Flores (jr., sprints); Jamie Gradishar (sr., pole vault); Lindsay Graham (fr., distance); Glenbard North: Simone Carr (jr., sprints); Tasia Colllins (sr., throws); Kailey James (sr., hurdles, jumps); Briana Kruse (sr., jumps); Glenbard South: Monica Byrne (sr., distance); Shannon Cadagin (sr., middle distance); Katelyn Hill (jr., sprints, hurdles); Sam Howard (sr., throws); Glenbard West: Emma Gambol (soph., sprints, jumps); Lisa Luczak (soph., distance); Madeline Perez (jr., middle distance, distance); Emma Reifel (sr., sprints, middle distance); Julia Sakach (soph., middle distance); Hinsdale Central: Jill Hardies (sr., distance); Cara Tenerelli (sr., hurdles, jumps); Jennie Thomson (soph., sprints); Hinsdale South: Bridget Bodee (sr., jumps); Nakiyah Darden (soph., sprints, hurdles); Rachel Steinhaus (sr., hurdles); Sarah Warren (jr., sprints); IC Catholic Prep: Allie Cervone (sr., throws); Rachel Hill (jr., sprints); Cara Horan (jr., sprints); Marissa Mesnard (sr., sprints); Lake Park: Lindsay Flanagan (sr., distance); Tyshai Freeman (sr., jumps); Maya Golliday (sr., pole vault); Brianne Murphy (sr., distance); Danielle Wojciechowski (soph., pole vault); Lisle: Tori Espositio (jr., throws); Alex McClain (sr., sprints); Kaitlyn Stanley (soph., distance); Dawn Yackley (jr., jumps); Metea Valley: Elizabeth Brandenburg (sr., pole vault, hurdles); Kendall Cast (sr., distance); Emily Cowan (jr., sprints, jumps); Holly Julifs (soph., throws); Montini: Theresa Connelly (sr., hurdles, middle distance, distance); Brittney Fisher (jr., middle distance); Catherine Kitz (sr., middle distance, distance); Gianna Salzbrunn (fr., sprints, hurdles, middle distance); Naperville Central: Mary Beth Blank (jr., sprints); Lauren Erickson (jr., sprints); Tina Norris (sr., throws); Katie Sheehan (soph., middle distance); Naperville North: Elly DeTurris (soph., distance); Maria McDaniel (jr., middle distance); Kimber Meyer (sr., distance); Hope Turner (sr., pole vault, throws); Neuqua Valley: Savannah Carson (sr., sprints, jumps); Olivia Griswold (soph., throws); Kenna Lonergan (fr., hurdles, jumps); Maya Neal (soph., sprints, hurdles, jumps); St. Francis: Jenna DiVerlio (sr., distance); Ali Frost (sr., sprints, jumps); Meghan McShea (jr., middle distance, distance); Amanda Nunley (jr., sprints, hurdles, jumps); Waubonsie Valley: Ashley Bruner (sr., middle distance); Alyssa Post (jr., sprints); Alli Wilson (jr., distance); West Chicago: Julia Caithamer (sr., middle distance); Lindsay Sayner (jr., middle distance); Sarah Triner (sr., sprints, hurdles); Wheaton Academy: Gabby DeMerritt (sr., sprints, jumps); Litzy Larson (sr., sprints); Jackie Smith (sr., middle distance, distance); Wheaton North: Allison Farnsworth (jr., middle distance); Emma Grisanzio (sr., sprints); Arica Secrest (sr., hurdles, pole vault); Wheaton Warrenville South: Erin Hermann (sr., middle distance); McKenna Kiple (sr., sprints, middle distance, distance); Hope Schmelzle (sr., sprints, middle distance, distance); Jessie Spera (sr., sprints, hurdles, jumps); Erin Zappia (jr., jumps); Willowbrook: Colleen Krawczykowski (sr., sprints, middle distance, jumps); Molly Krawczykowski (soph., middle distance, distance); Jada Stills (jr., throws); Timothy Christian: Hannah Bosman (fr., distance); Elena Bulthuis (jr., sprints); Abby Dykema (jr., middle distance); Heidi Huiner (soph., sprints); York: Shante Dansby (soph., sprints); Emma Fisher (sr., distance); Josie Jelinek (soph., sprints); Marissa Sparks (sprints, jumps).
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Scouting report: The indoor season is in the books, and one thing is incontrovertible as spring arrives: there is no dearth of talent in the area. College commitments are coming in as quickly as the snow is slow to melt, but the local girls track and field contingent has already posted marks and times that stand among the best in the nation, let alone the state.
Neuqua Valley and Lake Park have more in common than their shared Valley Division status in the Upstate Eight Conference. Each storied program returns a state champion. Carson became the fourth Neuqua Valley athlete to capture one of the three jumping events with her triumph in the long jump, while University of Washington-bound Flanagan returns to defend her crown at 3,200 meters for the Lancers.
"(Carson) is very composed," Neuqua Valley coach Gretchen Parejko said of her Purdue-bound senior standout. "I think Savannah has her own expectations (for the outdoor season). She leads by example." Carson, who also has earned all-state status in both the 100 and 200 dashes, has an extraordinary understudy in Neal. The Wildcats have the distinct possibility of sweeping the long jump at the state meet as Neal was third as a freshman a year ago in the event. Carson has her sights on the ever-elusive 20-foot barrier after breaking 19 feet at the indoor conference championship.
Neal barely missed the mark in finishing second; the Wildcats' underclass star beckons comparisons to former Waubonsie Valley state champion Shakeia Pinnick with her remarkable versatility in everything from the hurdles to sprints to middle distance.
Freshman sensations are as commonplace to the sport as a starter pistol, and the Wildcats have arguably the one to watch in Lonergan, who was indispensible to the Wildcats' razor-thin win over St. Charles East for the indoor conference championship. Lake Park, on the other hand, could have the distinction of not winning the conference title but finishing higher than Neuqua Valley at the state meet. The Lancers did just that last spring with their fifth-place finish, the best in program history.
In addition to Flanagan, the Lancers welcome back all-state performers Golliday in the pole vault and Freeman in the high jump. "They will be missed at the end of the season," Lake Park coach Brian Hesik said of his senior-dominated crew. "I will enjoy it while I can. We have to get more points out of our sprinters (to beat Neuqua Valley ourdoors)."
Metea Valley will look to its four returning state qualifiers in Cowan, Brandenburg, Cast and Julifs. Waubonsie Valley has Bruner and Wilson to remedy the graduation loss of 100-meter state champion Morolake Akinosun (Illinois).
The DuPage Valley Conference has undergone a seismic shift in recent years with the ascension of Wheaton Warrenville South and West Aurora. The two programs were on another level than their counterparts at the indoor conference championship.
WW South has two of the most remarkable area athletes in Kiple and Schmelzle. The duo wreak havoc on the track with their unique blend of gracefulness and drive. "It's not necessarily their athleticism but their mindset," WW South coach Rob Harvey said of Kiple and Schmelzle, who ran 2:10 splits on the final two legs of the 3,200 relay last May in becoming the first team in state history to break nine minutes in the event. Kiple and Schmelzle, bound for Miami of Ohio and Purdue, respectively, can score points at any distance from 400 to 3,200 meters. The Tigers' hopes of defending their league title suffered a grievous loss when sprinter Maggie Dansdill blew out her knee during basketball season.
Naperville North hopes to parlay its Class 3A cross country championship into a memorable track season this year. Not only are DeTurris, McDaniel and Meyer back in the fold, but all-state 3,200 relay runners Alex Moxon and Ellie Gschwender also return. "Wheaton Warrenville South and West Aurora are awesome teams," Naperville North coach Joanna Wilson said. "We have such a limited schedule indoors that it is hard to tell how good we can be. I don't think we have put together a full lineup yet."
Glenbard North has state-seasoned veterans in Kruse, James and Carr. The latter is poised for a breakout year, especially at 400 meters. "I'm really excited for this year," Carr said. Naperville Central has very capable sprinters in Blank and Erickson; Norris barely missed all-state distinction in the shot put last year.
In the talent-rich West Suburban Conference, all the ingredients are in place or a terrific showdown between Perez, the reigning Class 3A state cross country champion, Fisher and Hardies. At the Silver indoor championship, in a race for the ages, less than a second separated the three as the Stanford-bound Hardies prevailed at 1,600 meters. "They will be running against the best in the state," York coach Annette Schulte said of the three returning all-staters. "They will be able to see each other's strategy."
The Hilltoppers' Luczak could very well be the wild card in the picture after winning the 3,200 at the indoor Top Times meet last weekend in Bloomington. The Hilltoppers' Reifel is the latest superlative 800 runner from the area; the Wisconsin-bound senior demolished the field at the distance at Top Times and her presence on the Hilltoppers' state runner-up 3,200 team is formidable. "Emma Reifel has made me a better coach," Glenbard West coach Kelly Hass said.
The big news in the Gold Division comes from Downers Grove South: less than a year removed from representing her native Lithuania at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, former double state champion Egle Staisiunaite returns to her alma mater as its new coach. Glenbard South and Montini are the best local bets to fare well at the Class 2A state tournament.
Key dates: Apr. 6, Downers Grove South Invitational; Apr. 12, Downers Grove North Ritter Invitational; Apr. 19, Lockport Invitational; Apr. 20, Glenbard West Sue Pariseau Invitational; Apr. 20, Glenbard East Ram Invitational; Apr. 26, Glenbard North Invitational; Apr. 26, Wheaton Warrenville South Invitational; May 2, DuPage Valley Conference championship at Naperville North; May 2, Upstate Eight Valley Conference championship at Elgin; May 3, West Suburban Silver at Lyons Twp.; May, 3, West Suburban Gold at Willowbrook.
-- Kevin McGavin