Willits leaps into the record book during NCAA Division I Indoor Championships

She never gave up, and it resulted in a national title …

Iowa State junior Sydney Willits (Glenbrook South) won the women’s long jump title March 8 in Boston at the NCAA Division I Indoor Championships in track and field. Willits soared to a personal-best 6.74 meters (22 feet, 1½ inches).

The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association women’s Midwest field event athlete of the year, Willits came into the meet seeded 12th. On her first attempt she set Iowa State’s record at 21-6. Twice opponents took the lead only to have Willits reclaim it with two more program records including the winning jump on her sixth and final attempt. Willits is the first long jump national champion in Cyclones history.

Arkansas redshirt senior Danny Spejcher (Lake Park) earned his second first-team All-America honor with a ninth-place finish in heptathlon.

Eastern Kentucky University graduate student Antwainette Walker (St. Francis) earned her second straight first-team honor on the All-Atlantic Sun women’s basketball team. The league’s 2022-23 newcomer of the year after transferring from Marquette, Walker was second in points and scoring average (18.1 points per game) this season and averaged 19.7 points since joining the Colonels last season.

We’ve written about him recently in Sports, but you can’t keep those Pierce boys down …

Princeton sophomore Caden Pierce (Glenbard West) was named Ivy League player of the year for men’s basketball. The 6-foot-7 forward entered Saturday’s Ivy League Tournament with 13 double-doubles, and is in the league top-10 in six statistical categories. He averages 16.3 points and 9.3 rebounds for the 24-3 Tigers.

Illinois Wesleyan junior Lauren Huber (Glenbard East) was among 10 finalists for the Rotary Club of Salem (Va.) Jostens Trophy as the top women’s player in Division III basketball. A three-time first-team College Conference of Illinois-Wisconsin pick, Huber is a repeat all-region selection and this year added Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-America honorable-mention. She averaged a team-high 15.6 points and 8.1 rebounds.

Also at Illinois Wesleyan, in women’s lacrosse senior attack Britney Maldonado (Conant) extended her own program record with 14 points in a 22-13 win over Linfield on March 12. She scored 3 goals with a program-record 11 assists, which according to Illinois Wesleyan were the most this season in NCAA Division I, II or III. In that game, junior midfielder Mia Fiandaca (St. Charles North) scored 7 goals to tie her own Titans record.

As we suspected before it was announced last Sunday after deadline, Southern Illinois junior swimmer Alex Santiago (Buffalo Grove) was named the Mid-American Conference most outstanding swimmer. The former unrecruited walk-on set two individual MAC records and added a third on a relay. Of the seven events Santiago swam in, six won.

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