The girls track and field rivalry between St. Charles East and Neuqua Valley sculpted another peculiar chapter on Saturday in Batavia.
One year after Neuqua Valley had its apparent Upstate Eight Conference indoor championship reversed on a scoring revision, the Wildcats and Saints were once again engaged in a donnybrook.
Neuqua Valley had an 8-point lead entering the final event.
But St. Charles East is the defending Class 3A state champion in the 1,600-meter relay, and all-state 400 runner Jordan Shead anchored the Saints to an easy win in the event.
The Wildcats placed seventh out of a slower heat, and the teams ended up sharing the single-division title with 105 points.
Metea Valley was a distant third, followed by St. Charles North, Batavia, Waubonsie Valley and Geneva.
South Elgin, Streamwood, West Chicago, East Aurora, Bartlett, Elgin and Larkin rounded out the second tier.
"It was pretty motivating," said Shead, who captured the 400 in 58.36 seconds while also placing in the 55 and 200 dashes, on the Saints' final-event deficit. "I was really happy for the team."
St. Charles East juniors Allison Chmelik and Torree Scull were also indispensable to the Saints' defense of the title.
The former retained her triple-jump crown with her effort of 37 feet, 6.25 inches; the twin of fellow returning relay state champion Elizabeth was runner-up at 400 meters and third at 200 meters.
Scull, a former all-state 800 runner, skipped the event to win the 3,200 run and place third at 1,600 meters.
"That was my challenge of the day, to run the mile and two-mile," Scull said. "We really wanted to win this conference (title). I just tried to do the best I could."
The Saints also return all four members of their all-state 3,200 relay quartet, and Corrin Adams' anchor leg delivered another win for St. Charles East.
"I think it's one of the coolest track meets I have been involved in," St. Charles East coach Tim Wolf. "Everyone sacrificed for the team. That's what I have stressed to the girls since I took over the program last year."
St. Charles North pole-vaulter Jessica Grill snared the final championship among the four Tri-Cities schools with her clearing effort of 10-9.
Hannah Schilb, the reigning West Aurora sectional triple-jump champion, settled for second behind Chmelik and did likewise in the long jump.
"I think it is going to be a big year," Schilb said.
"(St. Charles) North looked good," Batavia coach Justin Allison said. "They double-scored in a lot of events."
The host Bulldogs have one of the top newcomers in the area as freshman sprinter Hannah Schlaman was three one-hundredths behind Metea Valley junior Emily Cowan in the 55 dash.
"Our sprint group looked phenomenal," said Allison, who was also thrilled with the 3,200 relay finishing a strong second to St. Charles East.
Liz Markuson (pole vault) and McKenna Happold (triple jump) were the individual leaders for Geneva.
Gabby Juarez has already had to overcome issues during her twin seasons of racing.
The Streamwood junior was sidelined with an iron deficiency last fall before returning to qualify for the Class 3A state cross country meet.
Juarez was the story for the five Elgin high schools in a scintillating conclusion to the 1,600 run.
"I have only run the mile twice," Juarez said.
Juarez, Scull and Waubonsie Valley senior Alli Wilson took little time to create separation from the remainder of the second-heat field at 1,600 meters.
The trio was in a classic situation of feeling out the competition.
"My strategy was to hang on the back with the first group," Juarez said. "My coaches were just telling me to pick up and stay with the No. 1 girl."
Wilson and Scull appeared destined for a photo finish, but Juarez had a reserve burst as the Sabres' junior streaked down from the outside to steal the title in 5:09.65.
"It's my new event," Juarez said of her conversion to the 1,600 from the 800 a season ago. "I just broke (the school record) by 10 seconds."
Wilson and Scull finished in respective times of 5:10.74 and 5:12.12.
Adelaide Kelly was fifth in the 3,200 run for Streamwood, and Marisol Lazaro snared the Sabres' other medal with her seventh-place result at 800 meters.
South Elgin had a sense of team redemption.
The Storm failed to score a single point last year, but Bridgette Williams and Caroline Muller led the squad among its sister programs.
Williams is the most incongruous of athletes, placing in the 55 dash after finishing fourth in the shot put.
"My power move (in the shot put) was working much better than I expected it to be," Williams said. "The competition we had with Neuqua Valley, Metea Valley and Batavia was great to be out there with them again."
"We're really happy with all our results," South Elgin coach Jorie Bartholomew said. "Last year we came in with no points. We scored in our field events that we were hoping to score in."
Maya Neal continues to conjure up memories of former Waubonsie Valley immortal Shekia Pinnick with her numbing versatility underscored by a tenacious desire to compete.
The Neuqua Valley junior led a sweep in the 55 hurdles with her third career championship in 8.47 seconds; the all-state long jumper approached 19 feet to win easily and concluded her day with a 200 title in 26.05 seconds.
"On any given day, anyone can beat anyone," Neal said. "Overall, today was good but not great, not for what expectations I set for myself. I'm glad I pulled out the win (over Shead in the 200)."
"(Neal) is a student of the sport," Neuqua Valley coach Gretchen Parejko said. "She is still an amazing athlete."
Kenna Lonergan is a most promising underclassman for the Wildcats; the sophomore set a new league benchmark in winning the high jump at 5-5 moments before placing second to Neal in the 55 hurdles.
Metea Valley returns state qualifiers in six events, and the Mustangs have a varied collective skill set in sprints, distance and throws.
"We have three of the top eight (shot putters) in the state," Metea Valley coach Dr. Jim Braun said.
Holly Julifs was well over 40 feet, and freshman phenomenon Qualicia Miller -- an eighth-grade national champion in the discus last summer -- was third.
Kendall Cast was runner-up at 3,200 meters, but her freshman sister Nicki Cast had a stirring final 120 meters to deny Neuqua Valley junior Katie Sheehan by less than a tenth of a second to win the open 800 in 2:23.36.
"Towards the end I was really hoping on catching (Sheehan), and it actually ended up happening." Nicki Cast said.
The unquestioned highlight for Waubonsie Valley was the Warriors' 800 relay quartet of Tatiana Moore, Cynthia Ihetu, Gwen Kibbe and Brion Huges capturing the event from the slower heat.