While the main focus was qualifying girls for next week's state track finals, Naperville North coach Joanna Wilson was all smiles while walking through the rain Thursday night with a sectional championship plaque firmly in her grasp.
The Class 3A title won at Plainfield North was the Huskies' first in Wilson's five years at the helm and just the program's second sectional crown in two decades.
Contact information ( * required )
The Huskies qualified for state in six individual events and one relay, including two athletes in the pole vault and the 3,200, while piling up 75 points. Minooka was a close second at 72 after claiming the meet's final event, the triple jump, and Neuqua Valley tied Oswego for third place at 69, while Naperville Central finished fifth.
"Obviously, you just want so many kids to qualify," Wilson said when asked if she thought her team would claim the title. "The whole goal is to get as many kids to qualify. Sometimes you look at team scores, but when it comes down to it you just hope the individuals get what they worked so hard to do."
With Naperville North captain Hope Turner earning a fourth trip to state after winning the pole vault and teammate Stephanie Mueller second at a personal-best 10-foot-9, things were coming together for the team. Two qualifiers also came in the 3,200 where Elly DeTurris was second and Kimber Meyer was fourth, and Mueller also earned a trip to state by clearing 5-3 in the high jump, the same mark recorded by Neuqua Valley champion Kenna Lonergan.
Even so, Wilson was pleasantly surprised when she heard the team standings announced following the mile relay.
"As we were standing there waiting after the 4x400 and they were reading the team scores and I heard third and fourth, I was like, Wait, are we like seventh or something?" she said. "I wasn't really paying attention and then they said first and I was like, oh, my gosh. I am so proud of this group."
Turner, who also was proud of the team, is expecting to cap off her stellar prep time with a big showing downstate. After placing ninth in 2012, she is gunning for even greater things this year.
"I am just proud of everyone, even the people that didn't (qualify)," she said. "Our 4x100 was amazing and so was our 4x400. We have been training so hard, usually in crappy weather like this, so this weather didn't faze us. We're called All Weather Women this year. AWW."
While the 11-3 height Thursday is not a personal high, it was Turner's best effort in weeks and sends her to Charleston on a high note.
"I would love to get 12 (feet). I'm fixing my technique and with that I'll be able to do what ever I need to do in order to get that," she said. "I would also love to place in the top five. That would be my major goal going into next week."
DeTurris, who went downstate last year as a freshman, couldn't complain about the weather much. Plainfield North moved the start time up a few hours in an effort to avoid the predicted rainstorms, and during the 3,200-meter race a light rain was not going to stop the Huskies from qualifying two distance runners for state.
"The weather was nice and it rained a little, but that didn't affect us. I felt good today and was just going in with times in mind and hoping for a PR, to put everything out there today," said DeTurris, whose time of 10:50.35 equaled a personal best. "I was second last year at sectionals too, and I'm hoping to improve downstate. I know the whole routine now, and I know that track so it will be good."
Morganne Freeman is headed to state in both the shot put and discus after a pair of second-place finishes, while the Huskies' 3,200 relay and Maria McDaniel in the 1,600 also advance to state.
Neuqua Valley went 1-2 in the long jump where Savannah Carson won and Maya Neal was second, and Neal also won both the 100 hurdles in 15.21 and the 300s in 46.26 for the Wildcats. Linda Jiang qualified in the triple jump for Neuqua.
Naperville Central was paced by Tina Norris' title in the shot put and a victory in the 400 relay where D'Jenne Egharevba, Rachel Skinner, Lauren Erickson and Mary Beth Blank held off runner-up Plainfield South 49.19 to 49.27.
Waubonsie Valley was ninth in the team standings and advances discus champion Ajah Hughes along with pole vaulter Anna Klaus, 1,600 runner Ashley Bruner and the 1,600 relay of Brion Hughes, Bruner, Alyssa Post and Allison Wilson.
"The kids gave you everything they had, which is all you can ask for," Warriors coach Dave Gowing said.
"We had big-time PRs and we have a decent amount of kids going to state."