Rolling Meadow senior Morgan Keller and Prospect junior Christina Santiago definitely set the tone at the Class 3A girls track and field state meet preliminaries at Eastern Illinois in Charleston on Friday.
Keller, a five-time state medalist, took the early lead in discus by hitting the top mark in the preliminaries with a throw of 149-07, with two-time defending Class 3A champion Emmonnie Henderson of Edwardsville sitting in second (146-01).
Keller also looked strong in shot put (43-06) and enters Saturday's finals with the second-best mark. Henderson hit a Class 3A state record (49.07.75) to take the top prelim spot. Friday's marks in both discus and shot put will carry over into Saturday's finals.
While Keller was throwing down the thunder, Santiago was lighting up the track for Prospect.
Santiago opened the day by helping Prospect secure the third-best time in the 3,200 relay (9:19.87). She followed up by hitting a school record and securing the third-best time in the 1,600 (4:55.72).
The 41st annual state finals at O'Brien Stadium begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, with finals on the track beginning at 11 a.m.
Lincoln-Way East senior Aaliyah Brown is powering a Griffins attack that is in fine position to secure its first Class 3A state title.
Brown earned the top mark in both the 100 dash (11.99) and 200 dash (24.28), and she also helped power the Griffins to the top mark in the 400 relay (46.45) and 800 relay (1:38.83).
Keller started the day on a low note, but finished the day on a high note. The Mustang senior wiped out while spinning on her last practice throw for shot put. But she was riding high by the end of the day with top position in discus
"I was a bit concern after she slipped," said Rolling Meadows throws coach Charlie Henry. "But she responded well and we're right where we want to be. You couldn't have asked for a better day."
Keller hit a 132-0 on her opening discus throw, and then turned it up a notch, hitting a 147 on her second throw. The senior then closed the day with a flourish hitting her top mark and putting the defending two-time champion Henderson on her heels.
"I'm super pumped," said Keller of her opening statement. "I wanted to go into the day putting a scare in Emmonnie, and I think I did that."
Prospect is also sitting in good position, especially with its 3,200 relay. Santiago combined with senior Brooke Wolfe, sophomore Hannah Getschman and senior Lauren Poplawski in leading the Knights to a victory in first heat.
Santiago gave the Knights the lead in third leg and they never looked back. Now Prospect has entered the mix for a possible state championship in the 3,200 relay.
"There is no question we are in the hunt," said Prospect coach Dave Wurster. "I think that race played right into our hands."
Sophomore Catherine Sherwood got the Knights off to a fast start in the field by hitting a school record in the long jump (17-11). She enters Saturday with the seventh-best mark. Junior Erin Reese also advanced for the Knights in the shot put and enters the finals with the fifth-best mark (40-02).
Palatine started the day hot. Junior Liz Cox, sophomore Kara Burton, senior Tess Wasowicz and senior Taylor Tenca pushed the Pirates to the second-best preliminary mark in the 3,200 relay (9:16.63).
The Pirates are clearly in the conversation for a state title in the 3,200 relay, with the likely addition of junior Cassidy McPherson adding some firepower to the quartet.
"We have a lot of tradition and take a lot of pride in that relay," said Palatine coach Joe Parks. "We're hoping to be in the mix (in finals)."
Also heating things up for the Pirates was senior Meg Jump, who enters Saturday's finals with the fifth-best mark in the triple jump (37-01.25). Jump has been a finalist for the triple jump in two out of her first three years, but it didn't look too promising for the Pirates senior after she tore her left ACL last fall.
But Jump made an amazing comeback and now is primed for her first state medal.
"It's great feeling to make it back," said Jump, "My coaches and teammates have really been supportive, and now I just want to end big."
Hoffman Estates junior Banke Oginni remains in the mix for shot put as she secured the third-best mark (41-11.5). Oginni also qualified for the finals in the discus (120-06) for the first time.
"I am looking for a big throw and end strong," said Oginni, who finished second in shot put last season.
Conant junior Jennifer Donnell also advanced in the shot put (38-11.25) and discus (115-04) for the Cougars.