Kloss right on track; sectional title to Lakes
Upon finishing an interview, with the rain still coming down, the wind still whipping and Grayslake Central's stadium nearly empty, Leah Kloss eyed the back entrance to the high school.
She then sprinted an unofficial 100 meters, give or take.
Hey, it's what she does best.
A junior who played softball for Grayslake Central last year, Kloss decided to take a swing at track. Her decision has been a home run for the Rams' track squad, which during its own Class 2A sectional Thursday night saw the newcomer qualify for next weekend's state meet in three sprinting events.
Kloss first decided to try indoor track during the winter.
"That was mostly just to get in shape," Kloss said. "That's all I was going for. Then the minute that I heard that I was one second off going to (indoor) state for the 200, I said, 'I'm doing track.'
"Other than the weather (this spring), it's been awesome," she added, smiling. "I love it so much."
Lakes coach Matt Rife loved what he saw from his team.
With Danielle Griesbaum winning the 100 meters (12.73) and high jump (5-2), and running on a pair of state-qualifying relays, and her twin Brittani dominating in similar fashion, Lakes won its first sectional championship with 103 points, 14 more than runner-up Grayslake Central.
Brittani Griesbaum sped to a winning time of 59.96 in the 400 dash and also took top honors in the long jump (16-9.75). Freshmen Kortney Schardt and Maeve Tuley qualified for state in the 1,600 run and pole vault, respectively. The Eagles' victorious 1,600 relay (4:07.29) consisted of the Griesbaums, Erica Terry and Rachel Terry. Danielle Griesbaum took the lead on the third lap, before handing off to her twin.
Lakes' winning 3,200 relay (9:32.96) featured the Griesbaums, Schardt and junior leadoff-leg Heather Hurlbut, who got convinced to come back out for track after not competing last spring. The Eagles also got through junior Mia Bennett, who placed second in the discus.
"I'm weird, and I'll score the meet in multiple ways," Rife said. "I was thinking we'd score 104 points. We knew Grayslake Central was tough where we had nothing. Then we scored in the 200 (Dylan Tagliapietra, sixth), which I didn't really plan on. Mia Bennett got down in the discus. I'm happy for Rachel Terry in the 4 x 4 because she had a real good freshman year, got injured sophomore year and then came back a little last year."
Kloss finished second in the 100 dash (12.77) to Danielle Griesbaum, and then the speedy Ram anchored the winning 800 relay. Kloss ended her night by capturing the 200 meters in 26.36, edging Richmond-Burton freshman Miranda Halverson (26.93).
"I'm extremely proud of myself," Kloss said. "I'm so happy I did track this year."
"She's very athletic," first-year Rams coach Shawn Murphy said. "We talked her into coming out for indoor and got her to stay. ... Big pickup."
Besides Kloss, senior Jamie Mara also qualified for state in two individual events for Grayslake Central.
Mara will compete downstate for the first time after winning the 100 hurdles (16.38) and finishing third in the 300 hurdles (47.80). Other Rams heading to Charleston to compete individual events are seniors Elsie Rehberg (1,600 run), Claire Haggerty (1,600 run) and Cara Engal (pole vault) and freshman Alexa Schmitt (high jump). Engal and freshmen Sara O'Malley and Maddie Jacobs joined Kloss on the winning 800 relay (1:46.58). The 3,200 relay — Rehberg, junior Kia Gomez, Haggerty and O'Malley — finished second and qualified thanks to its 9:33.75 clocking.
"We've been pretty consistent all year, so I think we had a pretty good idea of what we were going to do," Murphy said. "We were really confident coming in. It was just a matter if we could execute."
Antioch pulled off a stunning victory in the 400 relay. Seeded seventh, the Sequoits' foursome of Erin Hogan, Andrea Sodt, Rikki Moncrief and anchor Alexis Duehr ran 51.83. Antioch was running fourth when the freshman Duehr received the baton. Coach Dan Oslage juggled his order, but kept the same four girls on the relay.
"We thought we needed some better handoffs to improve our time," Oslage said. "We moved Alexis to anchor, the handoffs were there, and she brought it home for us."
Sodt also took third in the long jump, just missing qualifying downstate. Duehr, the sister of former Sequoits softball star Olivia, also surprised by qualifying for the 100 finals.
"She had a great meet," Oslage said.
Vernon Hills senior star Alli Tran won the 300 hurdles (46.37), qualified for state as well in the long jump (second, 16-8.5) and anchored the Cougars' runner-up and state-qualifying 1,600 relay, despite battling the flu.
"It hit me Tuesday and I was in bed all day," Tran said. "But I recovered by (Wednesday) afternoon, and then I just thought about the team and thought about ending my senior year on a high note. I kind of pushed myself to compete today."
Unlike a year ago, when Vernon Hills finished as the state runner-up in the 1,600 relay, Tran had a young supporting cast Thursday night. Freshman Molly Wasserberg and sophomores Kiara Schuh and Christine Tsai joined Tran on the 1,600 relay.
"They've all stepped up to fill some pretty big shoes, and they've done an amazing job," Tran said. "I'm really, really proud of them. They're excited because this is all their first time down. It's funny being the old veteran, but I really like mentoring them."
Defending sectional champ Vernon Hills (third, 78 points) also qualified its 3,200 relay (fourth, 9:52.84), while sophomore Kasey Firnbach won the discus (111-8). Cougars junior Cassie Lira finished eighth in the 1,600 run, but her time of 5:21.39 earned her a berth downstate. Seniors Kristen Whitney (3,200 run) and Taryn Rawles (pole vault) also qualified downstate.
"We definitely had some injuries, and there was obviously the weather and everything," Tran said. "But we gave it our all."
Wauconda finished 1-2 in the shot put with sophomore Christina Meinhardt (37-9.25) and junior Dani Sturm (35-7). Meinhardt placed 10th at state last year.
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