Ellis' winning hue: A second coat of blue
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CHARLESTON — She blended nearly as perfectly as she ran.
All dressed in blue on the O'Brien Stadium blue, under a blue sky, with blue bleachers above, Warren Blue Devil Brittny Ellis dominated in her Year Two at EIU.
"Last year was just totally new for me," the speedy sophomore said. "I didn't know what was going on.
"But now," she added, smiling, "I feel like I belong here."
So true, girl in blue.
Her feats may have been new to the IHSA track world last spring, but what Ellis does on a track is getting old, yet no less exhilarating.
She won the Class 3A 400-meter dash for the second year in a row Saturday, successfully defending her title by burning off a 54.34 to edge the equally amazing Cameron Pettigrew. The Chicago Payton star sped to a time of 54.84.
"I like the 400 as a race because you just know what you have to do," Ellis said. "It all depends on the competition. I knew today I would really have to kick it in at the home stretch because I knew they would be right there. I felt pretty good."
She felt equally good about her 200 dash, despite a lower finish. Ellis took third with a personal-best 24.53, finishing behind Texas A & M-bound Aaliyah Brown (24.03) of Frankfort and Evanston junior Parker English (24.48).
Ellis, first and foremost, came downstate to finish first in the 400 meters again. Her 200-dash medal was essentially a bonus.
"I just wanted to do better than last year," said Ellis, who took sixth in the 200 as a freshman.
Dartmouth-bound Melissa Dunham of Grant hoped to at least equal her 2012 runner-up finish in the discus. She left with the third-place medal (133-9), finishing behind Edwardsville's powerful Emmonni Henderson (156-7) and Rolling Meadows' Morgan Keller (149-7).
"Of course I'm happy because it's third place, but I'm a little disappointed in my distances, especially since I threw 149 (feet in the sectional) last week," said Dunham, who failed to advance to finals in the shot put.
"I was dropping my shoulder and I couldn't figure out how to not do that. It was just something funky going on. But everyone has good days and bad days."
Mundelein's Ellie Palacios had a wonderful day.
The ever-improving senior, who competed JV her freshman year, shocked herself by finishing fourth in the 3,200 run.
"My goal was ninth place, and I thought even that might be a little out there," an overwhelmed Palacios said. "I'm so glad I got my place, and I can't believe it."
She bettered her personal-best time by a hefty 10 seconds, finishing in 10:42.10.
"I just felt like my legs were there," said Palacios, who will run next year for the University of Illinois. "I just took control of the pace, and I kept moving up. I felt great. When I was passing the final stretch, I knew that I just really wanted to end my senior year with a good finish."
A first-time state qualifier in track who went downstate in cross country, Palacios showed her commitment to her sport last summer when she ran 750 miles.
"Mostly it's the guys (at Mundelein) that do it, but it's open to the girls, and I was the first girl to ever do it," Palacios said. "I would do like 16-mile runs at my grandparents'. They would be like, 'You're going to be gone all day.' I was like (laughing), 'I hope not.' "
Libertyville's two Division I-bound field competitors, Nicole Jaffke and Haley Becker, both left with state medals. Jaffke (Marquette) finished sixth in the pole vault, while Becker (Illinois State) placed sixth in the high jump.
Ellis' efforts put Warren (17 points) in a tie for 16th place. Lincoln-Way East won the Class 3A state championship with 79 points, with defending state champ Edwardsville (68.5) finishing second.
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