CHARLESTON -- For Grayslake Central senior pole vaulter Katie Schroeder, the goal has always been to clear the bar.
But back in February, the Rams senior had to put her track career on pause after experiencing non-epileptic seizures. After donating blood at school caused her to faint and then experience seizures, the senior went for treatment at Mayo Clinic.
Schroeder came back to win the Illinois Prep Top Times pole vault title in March and has not looked back.
On a pleasantly warm and sunny afternoon in Charleston, Schroeder completed her mission. She cleared 12 feet, 3 inches to secure the first-place medal in the Class 3A finals at Eastern Illinois' O'Brien Stadium.
It was the first state championship for Grayslake Central girls track.
"It feels really good," Schroeder said. "It's a credit to the coaches and my parents. They helped get me back right away. … It was a team effort."
Schroeder, who will be attending and competing in the pole vault for Penn, earned her second state medal after taking fourth in Class 2A in the pole vault as a sophomore.
"Prior to that happening, we knew what our goals were and what she was capable of doing," Grayslake Central coach Shawn Murphy said of Schroeder's medical setback. "But for two weeks we didn't know. ... It's an amazing feat on her part."
Schroeder entered the state meet with the top sectional mark and didn't disappoint, holding off Fox Valley Conference foe/McHenry senior Savannah Howie (12-0).
"I knew what I could do and I hit the heights I've been hitting," said Schroeder, who had one miss before her title-winning attempt. "The best feeling was landing on that mat and realizing I made it."
Lincoln-Way East cruised to its fourth consecutive Class 3A title with 83 points, followed by Alton (37 points). Hinsdale Central and Oswego East tied for third place with 30 points.
Schroeder wasn't the only athlete who made an impact for the two-time defending FVC Fox Division champions. Senior Alexa Schmidtt tied for fifth place in the high jump (5-6). Schmitt, despite jumping on a torn labrum in her hip, earned her third state medal. She finished eighth in Class 2A as a sophomore in the high jump and took ninth in Class 3A for the long jump last season.
"I feel really excited and happy with my performance," said Schmitt, who will be competing for Cornell University next year. "This year the team has really bonded, and (the girls) really gave us a lot of support."
Grant's Rachel Bicknase ended her season on a high note as well. The senior secured two state medals, taking fourth place in the shot put (42-1.5) and ninth in the discus (125-0).
"I was a little off on my discus throw," said Bicknase, who finished eighth in the discus last year. "But leaving here with two state medals, I can't complain."
Junior Katie McEnery also delivered for Grant by taking ninth in the shot put (39-7.75). Grant senior Madison Romig used a surge in the final two laps to secure a fifth-place finish in the 1,600 (5:00.60).
"I was watching the clock and it seemed like the race started slow," Romig said. "With all the talent in the field, I knew I had to start my final kick earlier."
Libertyville senior Lily Moore made up for lost time on Saturday. As a sophomore, Moore took seventh in the Class 3A pole vault. But a broken arm wiped out her junior season.
The Wildcats senior came back and delivered on Saturday, securing a fifth-place medal by clearing a season best 11-9.
"I think breaking my arm drove me to work harder," said Moore, who will competing for Memphis University next season.
Libertyville sophomore Avryl Johnson capped her breakout season by taking seventh in the 800 (2:15.48). Johnson fell behind early in the race but used strong surge in the second lap to secure her medal.
"I was focusing on my kick at the end," Johnson said. "My goal was to get to the podium."
Lake Zurich junior Alyssa Morello first started competing in the 300 low hurdles at the conference meet. In only her fourth attempt in the event, she found herself in the Class 3A finals. She delivered with a seventh-place finish.
"It feels pretty exciting," Morello said of her quick ascension in the hurdles. "I've always had a decent 400 and it just clicked in the hurdles."
Grayslake North senior Kennedy Krieg also proved to be a quick learner. In her first year of competing in the throws, Krieg earned the eighth-place medal in the discus (127-1). She hit her top mark on her first throw, alleviating a bit of the pressure.
"After hitting that throw, I was much more comfortable," said Krieg, who struggled with her throws in the preliminaries. "It's really exciting."
Wauconda freshman Grace Daun made quite a first impression at the state meet, tying for seventh place in the high jump (5-6).
Vernon Hills made quite splash in Class 2A, delivering eight state medals and finishing in seventh place with 32 points.
Northern Illinois-bound Vivian Overbeck led the charge for the Cougars, taking fourth in the 3,200 (11:11.52), sixth in the 1,600 (5:11.97) and combining with sophomore Lauren Katz, senior Shannon Skeoch and sophomore Nicole Pinter to take second in the 3,200 relay (9:40.69).
"Getting three medals in one day is something I'll never forget," Overbeck said. "We think this is the best team we have ever had. We had such a good day and, all-around, a great weekend."
Sophomore Jordyn Bunning also had a big day for Vernon Hills. She took third in the 300 low hurdles (44.66) and combined with freshman Raeden Mays, freshman Kennedy Smith and senior Molly Wasserberg to take eighth in the 800 relay (1:44.14).
Bunning also combined with Smith, Wasserberg and sophomore Lauren Katz to take eighth in the 1,600 relay (4:05.07).
Katz added a ninth-place finish in the 800 (2:18.72). Mays, Smith and Wasserberg combined with junior Emily Carido to take eighth in the 400 relay (50.24).
"We are feeling amazing. Everybody has worked so hard," Bunning of the Cougars' medal haul. "It's a good feeling that all of our hard work has paid off."