CHARLESTON -- Palatine took second in the 3,200 relay at last year's Class 3A girls track state finals. The Pirates are looking for a bit more this year.
Conant senior Jennifer Donnell also is setting herself up for a big finish, in both the shot put and discus.
There was plenty of action at the Class 3A girls track state preliminaries on Friday at O'Brien Stadium, and the Pirates' relay and Donnell's throws highlighted the day.
Saturdays finals for all three classes will begin at 10 a.m.
Lincoln-Way East led the way in the team race, advancing seven individuals and three relays in Class 3A, with Cahokia setting the tone in Class 2A by advancing 8 individuals and 2 relays.
Senior Liz Cox, senior Cassidy McPherson, junior Kara Burton and sophomore Kelly O'Brien didn't wait long to make a statement in the 3,200 relay.
The quartet advanced to Saturday with the top qualifying mark (9:14.98) and set the stage for a big day.
"We don't like to play around in prelims," said Cox, who led off the Pirates' effort. "We really wanted to hit it today and then come back hit tomorrow."
Cox, McPherson, and Burton were members of the Pirates' second-place effort last season, and the team has not missed a beat with the addition of O'Brien, who anchored Friday's relay.
"The experience from last season is important," said McPherson. "Overall the goal was just to qualify today, we ran well but we have things we can work on, so that's exciting."
Donnell took a step forward on Friday, advancing in the shot put (43-07) with the second-best mark and also advancing in the discus (139-0) with the third-best mark.
"I'm sitting pretty," said O'Donnell. "I have set myself up well with my marks from today. Now I just have to go out there and give it my all and have fun with it."
Junior Katie Escobar, junior Ayako Higuchi, junior Lauren Ciardiello, and sophomore Nora Finegan pushed Fremd to a qualifying mark in the 3,200 relay. Higuchi ran a solid second leg, and Finegan finished with a flurry in the last 50 meters to secure the Vikings' victory in the first heat.
"I wanted to go strong and give my all at the end," said Finegan of her closing touch. "There's some pressure, but it is kind of exciting."
Hoffman Estates will also join the fun, as junior Alondra Aquirre, senior Elsabet Haile, senior Solome Haile and sophomore Meagen Biddle pushed the Hawks into finals with a school-record time of 9:23.68.
"We had an expectation to make it to finals," said Solome Haile. "We know we have a lot left."
Donnell will have plenty of company in the shot put and discus. Prospect junior Erin Reese advanced in both events with the third-best mark in the shot put (43-7) and the fourth-best mark in the discus (137-0).
Hoffman Estates senior Banke Oginni advanced in both events, with the fourth-best mark in the shot put (43-04.25) and ninth-best mark in the discus (125-05).
Barrington senior Rachel Cheever also made her mark and will be advancing in the discus (123-0).
Prospect had a very successful day, sending six individuals to Saturdays finals.
Junior Catherine Sherwood advanced in both the long jump (17-04.25) and triple jump (36-09.25).
Senior Christina Santiago was scratched from the 1,600 due to a stress fractured suffered in early may, but the Knights senior will still run in the 3,200. And sophomore Maya Mason made a big splash in qualifying in the 100 high hurdles (14.79).
"It's crazy making it to finals," said Mason, who has really turned it on in the 100 high hurdles of late. "It gives me a lot of confidence and I feel like I'm getting stronger."
O'Brien also advanced for Palatine in the 1,600 (5:00.09) as she was nipped at the finish line by Jacob junior Lauren Van Vlierbergen (5:00..04) in the third heat.
Junior Amy Kieliszewski and senior Jessica Lincoln will also represent Palatine in the 3,200.
Higuchi finished third in the first heat of the 1,600 preliminaries in 5:00.42 for Fremd.
Barrington senior McCall Braun advanced with the fifth-best mark in the long jump (18-1). The Fillies senior made her mark on her first jump and will be in the mix for a medal on Saturday.
"I've been working on getting the height," said Braun. "I went in with confidence and it felt good to get that mark early."
• In Class 2A, St. Viator senior Meghan Carroll had a busy day -- and it will get busier on Saturday.
Carroll started the day by qualifying with a school record in the 800 (2:16.14) and then concluded her day by taking second in her heat of the 1,600 (5:07.13). Carroll is also scheduled to run in the 3,200 finals on Saturday.
"I've already made it so I might just do them all," said Carroll who used a major kick in the 1,600 to secure her position. "It is my senior year so I want to see how well I can do. I'm feeling good and this is definitely my best season."