St. Charles East sophomore Keely Flanigan summed up the Saints' winning approach to Thursday's Upstate Eight Conference girls track meet at Geneva, the last primer before next week's all-important sectional meets.
"Our goal was just to do the best we can and improve ourselves," said Flanigan, who ran the second leg of St. Charles East's winning 1,600-meter relay. "And if we happen to win, that's good, too."
It went pretty good for the Saints, who happened to win it all, as it turned out.
In a meet that decided an overall champion as well as River and Valley Division champions, St. Charles East was the clear-cut winner. The Saints amassed 142 team points to run away with the overall and River Division titles.
UEC Valley champion Neuqua Valley was second overall with 99.5 points, followed by Geneva (89.5), Metea Valley (83.5), Waubonsie Valley (83), Batavia (76.5), St. Charles North (67) and South Elgin (30).
The Saints dominated, thanks to first-place finishes in all four relays and individuals who nabbed first-place ribbons, including senior Jordan Shead in the 200 (25.81) and 400 (57.22), sophomore miler Toree Scull (5:10.54) and sophomore triple jumper Allison Chmelik (38 feet, 6 inches).
"The relays were pretty solid," Saints coach Tony Wolf said. "Our (800 relay) had a great drop in time. We're knocking on the door for qualifying times all around, so we really need to solidify and work on some stuff for next week and, hopefully, we mesh right into where we need to be. It's going to be tough one, though."
Shead, a Notre Dame recruit, looked to be back in winning form after a recent bout with illness and "tweaked quads," according to Wolf. She won the overall UEC title in the 400 by pulling away from Geneva sophomore Foster Ignoffo (58.53), Waubonsie Valley's Alyssa Post (1:00.07) and freshman Kathleen Strohaker of St. Charles East (1:00.25).
In the 200, Shead caught and passed Batavia freshman Hannah Schlaman in the final 30 meters.
"With how my legs are, it definitely takes me a little while to start going," said Shead, who stands 6-feet tall, six inches taller than Schlaman. "It takes me a while to get my turnover. I just never gave up, hoping in the end I'd be able to pull through.
"And I didn't get the time I was hoping for in the 400, but I was excited to win it. Overall, it was a good meet." Shead was also a contributor to the Saints' winning 400-meter relay team.
Batavia's Schlaman won the unofficial title of fastest female athlete in the Upstate Eight Conference, however, when she won the 100-meter dash in 12.84, nipping St. Charles East's Chmelik (13.05).
"I think that's a good accomplishment for me and, hopefully, the first of many in the years to come," said Schlaman, whose Batavia teammate, Taylor Stieve, prevailed in the 300-meter hurdles (46.55).
The only other double winner of the evening was a surprise: Kenna Lonergan. The Neuqua Valley sophomore took advantage of the absence of teammate Maya Neal -- a talented sprinter/hurdler/long jumper who sat out to rest for next week's sectional meet, according to Wildcats coach Gretchen Parejko -- and won the 100-meter hurdles in 16.37 seconds, just ahead of St. Charles East freshman Jessica Glas (16.61).
"I was seeded third and I got first," Lonergan said. "I did not expect to get first in hurdles. I'm pretty excited."
Lonergan also won the high jump by clearing 5-5, two inches shy of her personal best. Her teammate, Olivia DiMambro, finished first in the Valley Division and second overall in the long jump (17-2) behind St. Charles North's Hannah Schlib (17-6.5).
"Without Maya, Kenna stepped up and won hurdles and Olivia DiMambro stepped for us and won the (Valley) long jump," Parejko said. "They knew Maya wasn't going to be (competing), though she was here cheering them on and supporting them. Our team is not based on one child, that's for sure. We are definitely a team all over, and that was evident tonight."
The meet opened with a big win by Streamwood distance specialist Gabby Juarez. The junior won the 3,200 in 11:33.92, outlasting St. Charles East freshman Hannah Ewald (11:36.51) and Waubonsie Valley senior Alli Wilson (11:39.82).
Later, Juarez stayed right with East's Scull for three laps of the 1,600 until Scull's kick on the final backstretch made the difference.
"I was doubling from the two-mile and my legs didn't feel good from the start," Juarez said. "My coach was telling me to stay with (Scull) if she made a move. I tried, but she just kept picking it up. But my coach had told me to go slow in the two-mile earlier and that killed my legs. We now know not to do that anymore."
Geneva's Kathryn Adelman finished strong to win the open 800. The senior's winning time of 2:20.55 was enough to surpass Neuqua Valley junior Katie Sheehan, St. Charles East junior Corrin Adams (2:21.51) and Batavia's Hannah Ullberg (2:23.61).
"I kicked it in the last 400 and was able to hold it," Adelman said. "I was pretty satisfied with that."
In the other field events, St. Charles North senior Jessica Grill won the pole vault (11 feet), Metea Valley freshman Cortney Morgan prevailed in shot put (41-5) and her junior teammate Holly Julifs won the discus (147-7).