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Article updated: 4/1/2013 8:41 PM

Former state champs find mixed results in college

By Kevin McGavin

Kathryn 'Kat' Warner received a humbling dose of reality when arriving at East Carolina University in Greenville, S.C. to continue her track and field career at the next level.

"It is a whole different world compared to a high school setting," said Warner, a 2010 Batavia graduate who shook off nearly two years of injuries to win the Class 3A state championship in the 300-meter hurdles as a senior. "Once you enter the college world (in track and field), everyone is a state champion."

Warner is one of five former state champions from the area in track and field currently competing at the collegiate level.

Natalie Tarter had one of the most storied female athletic careers in Batavia High School history, but the four-time medal-winner at the final Class AA state tournament in 2008 alone has been besieged with injuries ever since.

After orally committing to Wisconsin as a sophomore, Tarter, who was unable to defend her state championship as a senior due to a hamstring injury, the conclusion of her prep career would mirror her difficulties in Madison.

Aurora Central Catholic coach Troy Kerber once called Tarter "a once-in-a-50-year athlete," and her blend of speed, athleticism and drive witnessed few peers.

But four years after graduating from Batavia, Tarter has been bedeviled with injuries, particularly to her hips, that have rendered her virtually inactive her whole collegiate career.

Tarter transferred to Northern Illinois University in DeKalb and has two years of eligibility remaining.

"(Wisconsin) wanted nothing to do with me," Tarter said frankly of her three years there. "I had three injuries in the space of a year. My (Wisconsin) coaches weren't patient, but I was. I'm not the same runner I once was, but I still have fun."

Tarter has been converted to the heptathlon, a seven-discipline event involving sprinting, hurdling, throwing and middle-distance running.

"I asked my (NIU) coaches, and they thought it was a great idea," Tarter said.

Batavia was the consensus top-ranked girls track team in the state four years ago, but Tarter, Warner and fellow all-state returnee Alexis Sampson all missed the state meet with injuries.

"There is no point in questioning what-if, what-if," Warner said.

But Warner would return in dramatic fashion her senior year, capping an extraordinary 90-minute span for three Class 3A local programs.

West Aurora senior Shanice Andrews, who would ultimately pocket four medals that day, captured the first state championship in program history with her blistering 14.09-second time in the 100 hurdles.

Allie Pace, the defending state runner-up for Geneva in the pole vault, soared 12 feet to win the title in the largest-division event for the third time since 2003 for the Vikings.

Warner, with only a handful of appearances at the distance during her senior campaign, then highlighted a first-third (Andrews)-fifth (Geneva senior Alissa Dappas) local finish in the 300 hurdles.

Warner is also an accomplished pole vaulter who also is making a comeback in the hurdles and participates on the Pirates' 1,600 relay.

Andrews is a redshirt sophomore at Wichita State, and Pace is one of the top pole vaulters in the Ivy League while preparing for a professional career in medical academia at Harvard University.

Andrews placed in both the 100 hurdles and triple jump to help the Shockers to the Missouri Valley Conference championship last spring.

"Being a fall athlete in conference is the best feeling in the world," Andrews said. "(The state championship) is something I'm always going to remember. You work so hard to get there, and then it's like, 'Finally.'"

Pace broke the school record in the pole vault -- a shade under 13 feet last year -- and the Geneva graduate has had a memorable career already; her shining moment was representing her school -- along with members of Yale and Princeton -- against famed English universities Cambridge and Oxford.

"(Pole vault) requires a lot of repetition to get better," Pace said. "It's a very physical sport; it's a very mental sport. I feel ready to go (this spring)."

Lizzy Hynes is the fifth local former state champion, but the St. Charles East 3,200 runner was not available for comment. She is currently nursing injuries at Boston College.

Hayley Guyton had a near-Hollywood-like ending to her extraordinary four-year golfing career at Kaneland.

Guyton was a four-time Class AA state qualifier in the girls state series after playing from the No. 1 slot on the Knights' boys team her final two years.

Currently a sophomore at Illinois State University in Normal, Guyton was a sudden-death playoff loss away from a state championship in 2009.

The Sugar Grove resident has already traveled the country -- including a recent tournament in Hawaii -- for the Redbirds.

"I think (my game) has definitely matured a lot," said Guyton. "I had a breakthrough tournament at Indiana University (last fall). There are still three or four more tournaments (this spring) where I can play better in."

Guyton honed her game against almost exclusive male competition in high school, once defeating 121 boys with a third-place finish her senior year at the Geneva Invitational with a 1-over par 72.

"I hit the ball a lot farther than I did in high school," said Guyton. "Mentally, I have got a lot stronger with my game. I'm making a lot more putts, which is so important at this level. The margin of error (with only four other teammates counting four scores) is so small that you have to stay focused."

It has been a smooth transition for Guyton, even though the courses in college average roughly 700 yards longer than prep venues and she is no longer an anomaly.

"It's definitely nice to have a bunch of girls as teammates," said Guyton, whose father John is the head professional at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, the oldest 18-hole golf course in the United States.

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