Under most circumstances the scintillating showdown between two defending 300-meter hurdles state champions, Halle Bieber and Karyn Best, would have captured the headlines Saturday in Glen Ellyn.
Lindsey Payne, a former state champion at 3,200 meters for Glenbard West, will continue running track at Stanford next year. Sarah Schmitt was the anchor of three Naperville North cross country state championships in the last four years. She is will compete at Indiana.
But Katelynne Hart is perhaps the most extraordinary sophomore female athlete in the United States.
Schmitt and Payne were not even in the same zip code as Hart in the 3,200 run at the Sue Pariseau Invitational on Saturday.
Hart, who catapulted Glenbard West to the Class 3A girls track and field team championship last spring by completing the distance Triple Crown (state cross country, 1,600 and 3,200 titles), etched a new standard in Illinois history in the 3,200 run.
The IHSA considers only all-time records set at the state meet, but Hart ran what is believed to be the second-fastest time in U.S. history Saturday morning with her time of 9 minutes, 52.02 seconds.
California native Kim Mortensen set the American high school record in 1996 with her 9:48.59.
"I was going to go into (the race) and see how I was feeling," said Hart, who also won the 1,600 in 4:51.03 before concluding her day by anchoring the Hilltoppers' 1,600 relay to another win. "My mile (split) was like 4:54, 4:55. I was like, 'I have to go for this hard.' Today I really surprised myself."
Former Woodstock runner Kayla Beattie is the only other girl in state history to eclipse the 10-minute barrier (9:56.96 at the Class 2A finals in 2011) at the distance.
Hart has already won an indoor Nike Balance national championship in the mile this season.
"She executed the race plan nearly to perfection," Glenbard West distance coach Paul Hass said. "With about two laps to go, I said, 'Today is the day.' She went out a little faster than I would have liked. It was a special moment."
"I never thought I would be part of a state-championship track and field team," said Glenbard West senior Katie Hohe, who captured the 800 in 2:19.03. "We have so much positive energy as a team. Katelynne Hart running such an amazing race got the meet going (for us)."
But the Hilltoppers have a formidable foe in repeating their state title. Naperville North, third last year, captured the 17-team invite title Saturday with a 105-91 victory over Glenbard West.
Eleven one-hundredths of a second separated Bieber and Best in the 100 and 300 hurdles.
But Bieber, the Naperville North sprinter who captured the Class 3A long-hurdles title last spring, was a lean better than Wheaton Academy's Best, the Class 2A champion in the 300s, at both disciplines.
"They were both really great races," said Bieber, who captured the shorter distance at 15.75 and the longer variety at 45.23.
Wheaton Academy was the lone Class 2A school in the field. Best has been searching for suitable competition this spring.
"I have been racing against the guys, actually," Best said. "It was great for (Bieber) to push me to get Illinois' No. 1 -- actually Class 2A No. 1 -- in the 300s."
Best was timed in 15.79 and 45.3, respectively.
"We knew going in that it would be a really good test for Halle," Naperville North coach Dan Iverson said. "I think both of those kids got better today."
Sarah Wastek won the shot put at 39 feet, 11 inches and was runner-up in the discus for Naperville North.
"From the get-go, Paul and I thought Naperville North would be the team to beat (at state)," Glenbard West coach Kelly Hass said. "Field events, distance and sprints: they cover everything."
"Whether it will translate at state (against Glenbard West), I don't know," Iverson said.