Thursday may have been the first day of May, the month when Brittny Ellis wins state medals, but it sure didn't feel like it.
Especially considering the Warren junior started April with a smoking-hot 54.67 in the 400 meters. Ellis ran the time in Florida at a tryout for the World Youth Olympic Team. She placed first for the United States, which means she finds out in June whether she was selected to compete in the World Youth Olympic Games in China in August.
"Very exciting," Ellis said, "because I was so close to making it to the previous Games (which) were in the Ukraine. I had taken third overall, and they took the top two."
On a cool, overcast, wet evening at Grayslake Central, which hosted the Lake County invite, Ellis, as always, weathered the competition. She anchored Warren's winning 400 relay and then sped to wins in the 100 (12.22), 400 (58.25) and 200 (25.33) dashes.
"Chilly. Rainy. It's not Florida, that's for sure," said Ellis, the two-time defending Class 3A state champ in the 400. "It was hot (in Florida). It didn't even rain when I was there. The first day, I couldn't even breathe it was so hot. But then I got used to it and ran the next day, and did well. And then I came back here. I was like, 'I'm not used to this.' I got spoiled down there. "
Ellis ran six races, including the 100 and 200 prelims, in helping Warren (93 points) nip Lakes (92) for the championship. Grant (86) finished third, with Highland Park (53) and Libertyville (46) rounding out the top five.
Ellis chose to run the 100, an event she doesn't always compete in, to work on her start.
"I'm not very explosive out of the block," she said. "I've been working on it. It has been getting better, but it's still my weakness."
While few names are bigger in Illinois girls track than Ellis, it's likely few fans of the sport have heard of Starbrina Sharples. At the county meet, however, the Grant senior won the shot put.
The 6-foot-1 Sharples transferred to Grant from Vernon Hills at the start of second semester. In Grant's dual meet, coincidentally, at Vernon Hills on Tuesday, Sharples and Aerial Darby won a challenge among teammates, earning them the right to represent their team at the county meet.
"We had six girls beat Vernon Hills' best girl," Grant throws coach Jim Cramer said. "We had all pretty good girls. I said, 'I'm taking only the top two to county.' (Sharples) hasn't been one of the top two. The last couple of weeks, she's been pushing it."
Her hard work more than paid off.
"It was really awkward because I felt like I should have been on (Vernon Hills') team," said Sharples, who credited the diligent coaching that Cramer gave her, especially with her glide technique.
Sharples' winning shot-put throw traveled 37 feet, 3 inches. Warren's Abena Atuobi (36-10.5) was second.
"It's amazing, because when I started at Grant I was throwing 28, 29 (feet)," said Sharples, who earned an academic scholarship to Eastern Kentucky University. "Then out of nowhere, I'm the Lake County champ. I love it."
Other individual champs included Lakes' Danielle Griesbaum in the 800 run (2:19.77) and high jump (5-4), her twin Brittani Griesbaum in the long jump (17-5.75), Grayslake North's Allie O'Connell in the 100 hurdles (16.01), Grant's Emily Troemel in the 300 hurdles (48.29), Grayslake Central's Katie Schroeder in the pole vault (11-3) and Warren's Keely Knobbe in the discus (123-8).
Grant started the track finals by winning the 3,200 relay (9:51.19) with Brooke Drabek, Madison Romig, Lindsey Lewis and Lauren Troemel. Ellis anchored the winning 400 relay (49.53), which also included Autumn Santos, Brynn Santos and Marquesa Daniels. Brittani Griesbaum ran the anchor leg on Lakes' victorious 800 relay (1:47.80), and her 25.78 time in the 200 was good for second.
Grant's Delaney Basala continued her strong season, clocking a 59.67 in finishing second to Ellis in the 400. Basala also anchored the Bulldogs' 1,600 relay, which went 4:10.27 in finishing second to Highland Park (4:08.11).
Lake Forest's Lisa Bennatan won the 1,600 (5:16.85), Highland Park's Marni Pine finished first in the 3,200 (11:50.69), edging Lakes' Ashley Espinosa, and Zion-Benton's Jetaeia Lewis ended the night by taking the triple jump (33-8.5) ahead of Carmel's Hassana Huff (33-4).