Girls track and field: Scouting Cook and Lake County teams

Can the Prospect girls track and field team go from taking third in the state in 2022 to second in the state in 2023 to becoming IHSA Class 3A state champions in 2024?

Only time will tell, but the Knights are certainly a strong contender to bring home that elusive state title May 18 in Charleston with all of the depth and talent you can imagine heading into the new campaign.

Prospect did lose state qualifiers Hailey Erickson (relays, Calvin University), Cam Kalaway (relays, University of Iowa), Samantha Patterson (relays, Taylor University), Katherine Lytle (100 hurdles, Pepperdine), Sophia Anast (running club at Saint Louis University) and Giselle Salom Hamwi (pole vault) to graduation.

The Knights' very long line of elite returning athletes starts with seniors Charlotte Deines (second in 4x200/third in long jump/fifth in 200/seventh in 100), Lily Ginsberg (4x800 state champions/third in 400/fifth in 800), Margaret O'Grady (4x100 state qualifier), and Kaitlin Skelton (4x800 sectionals).

Junior state qualifiers Meg Peterson (third in 800/third in 4x400), Veronica Znajda (10th in 3,200/4x800 prelims), Anna Niebrugge (second in 4x200/13th in 200/4x100), and Sophie Fransen (4x800m prelims) will be huge keys. Sophomores Samantha Skowronski (second in 4x200/third in 4x400) and Nikki Niebrugge (second in 4x200/4x100 state qualifier) are standouts who give the team great youth and depth to build towards the future of the program.

"The goals are to come together as a team, to be inclusive, and be there for each other," said coach Pete Wintermute, whose team also won MSL and sectional crowns. "We have a large team that challenges, encourages, and pushes each other to be their best daily. Our goal is to build off our indoor conference meet, qualify as many athletes for the IHSA state meet, and bring home an IHSA state trophy."


Barrington: The Fillies had a great 2023 season by taking second in the MSL, second at sectionals, and 11th in Class 3A. Barrington lost state qualifiers Sofia Rosenzweig (triple jump, Washington University) and Addie Pokorny (relays) to graduation. Legendary coach Jody Gitelis also retired after 36 years at the helm. New head coach Kala Penev was left with a lot of talent, including junior Scout Storms (third in 1,600), who was a part of the Fillies' 4x800 state runner-up team. Kaleigh Burns, Sydney Sukel, and Abby Lewis were also on that 4x800 team. Sofiabella Amirante placed sixth in the state in shot put and qualified for state in the discus as did teammate Morgan Flaska. Barrington's state qualifying 4x100 team of Sophia Goluba, Cici Stennett, Khloe Slatter, and Kaley Swanson are all back. Slatter and Swanson also ran downstate in the 4x200 while Madison Miles made state in the 3,200. Freshman Mia Sirois placed sixth in cross country while sophomore Yane Jansen Van Rensburg has already vaulted the state qualifying height in the pole vault.

Buffalo Grove: The Bison tied for 12th with Stevenson last year at sectionals as senior Martyna Ostrega qualified for the state meet in the 100 and 200. Ostrega is also off to a great start to the new season as she took first place in the 55-meter dash, and third in the 200 at the Jim Nagel-Mark Saylor MSL indoor meet. Junior Taylor Watson took fourth in the long jump in that meet with a leap of 4.96 meters while she added an eighth-place finish in the triple jump.

Conant: The Cougars have a super sophomore in Daisha Brunson, who was very impressive in winning the Class 3A state title in the 100-meter hurdles (14.16) as a freshman. Brunson was also on Conant's 4x100 state qualifying relay with graduated Micah Bates, senior Stella Richter (100 hurdles/200/300 hurdles/400), and junior Dori Lee (100/200/400). Seniors Andrea Kehaiova (distance) and Hannah Schulz (discus/shot put) will be major cogs to the team after the Cougars placed fifth at sectionals. Junior Eden Ostrowski is another strong runner in the 100, 200, and 400. Coach Aaron Essex said that the young and growing program now has over 130 student athletes and they are excited about their chances of competing in the MSL, sectionals, and having some athletes make an appearance at state.

Elk Grove: The Grenadiers finished fourth in the MSL East Division last year, and coach Michael Kamedula is hoping the team can put together higher finishes in both the division and overall conference standings this season. Some of Elk Grove's top returning competitors are Delaney Malone (distance), Lindsay Bobowski (sprints/jumps), and Lota Ugwu (sprints). Kamedula is also hoping that the squad can qualify multiple events to the state meet, especially in the relay races.

Fremd: The Vikings' Ava Fumarolo set the school record and placed ninth in Class 3A downstate in the discus while teammates Amanda Markham (distance), and Norah O’Brien (sprints) were also lost to graduation. After placing ninth in the MSL and 10th at sectionals, Fremd is off to a good start with a fourth-place finish at the MSL indoor meet. The Vikings have returning state qualifiers Mackenzie Drake (sprints), Katie Kuehn (sprints), and Gwen Zimmerman (sprints/long jump) back from their 4x200 team. Other key returners are Melia Bohrer (hurdles), Isa Hasty (distance), Kate Schillinger (sprints), and Sarah Strachowski (pole vault). "We have some talented athletes returning, especially in the sprints," said coach Joe Marcin. "We have a mixture of returners and newcomers this season that will be impactful, especially in relays and field events."

Hersey: The Huskies lost 1,600-meter state champion Anna Harden (fourth in 3,200, Air Force), Gabriella Makowski (4x800 state qualifier), Mackenzie Ginder (4x800, UW-La Crosse), and Renee Skiera (Pepperdine) to graduation. Hersey placed fourth in the MSL and second at sectionals as the 4x800 team of Makowski, Catherine Hany, Emily Lifka, and Margaretha Grabske set a school record in that event. Senior Claudia Sepko reached state in the 100 hurdles while teammates Ogechi Iwuagwu (jumps/sprints), Shannon Conroy (sprints/jumps), and Madeline Bialko (distance) are key returning athletes. Freshmen Alexa Izenstark (distance), Sofía Donner (distance), Alexandra Kopacz (mid-distance), Martyna Makowski (mid-distance), Emilia Rogowski (jumps), Madison Fee (throws), and Sadie Marx (throws) hope to make an impact at the varsity level.

Hoffman Estates: The Hawks took eighth at the 15-team Rolling Meadows sectional as now graduated Amaya Hendrickson (13.08) took second at state in the shot put. Hendrickson also qualified for state in the 100 hurdles. Hoffman Estates took eighth at the Jim Nagel-Mark Saylor MSL indoor meet as senior Laiylah Price placed third in the shot put. The Hawks got fourth-place finishes from senior Erykah Lee in the 55 dash, senior Bella Ortega in the 800, and sophomore Nina Oliver in the 55 hurdles.

Leyden: The Eagles are ready to soar to new heights in 2024 despite no longer having key graduates Jazmin Ruiz (UIC) or Rebecca Reith (Marquette) in the program. After its 4x800 relay team place all-sectional last year, Leyden will turn to sophomore Yahaira Lara (shot put/ discus), Najawa Jackson (sprints/jumps), Victoria Lorenz (distance), Elany Jimenez (distance), and Hailey Keaton (sprints/jumps) for scoring. "We have a young team with a solid core of upperclassmen returning," said coach Brent Dempsey, whose team will face tough competition in the WSC. "Our strengths will be in the mid-distance and relays along with the jumps."

Maine East: The Blue Demons have juniors Brenda Esquivel (400), and Ashley Gaba (multiple events) ready to help lead the squad in the CSL North Division this season. Freshman Grace Vo has PR's of 1:08.5 in the 400 and 29.7 in the 200 thus far this season. Freshman Neena Huicochea has a PR of 7.77 in the 50-meter dash and a PR of 8.6 in the 55-meter dash. Sophomore Kristen Ng currently has a PR of 30.08 in the 200 while Maine East's 4x150 relay has a PR of 1:33 this spring. "We've shown some tremendous growth thus far in the field events this season," said coach Jonathan Sanchez. "The goal this season is to continue to improve daily and always have a Mamba Mentality from the start to finish of each week. Thus far, our student athletes have responded and our roster has grown as we have over 50 student athletes."

Maine West: The Warriors placed fifth in the 16-team Glenbrook South sectional as senior Amelie Mach reached the state meet in the 100 hurdles and the 300 hurdles. Maine West lost Jaclyn Riedl (third in state shot put/state qualifier in discus) to graduation. The Warriors took third in the CSL North indoor meet as Mach (second in long jump) was the high jump champion (1.52 meters). Maine West's Caitlyn Gillespie and Maya Woroszylo went 1-2 in the pole vault competition while Madison Story was second in the 400. Precious Akinsanya was third in the 50 dash, third in the 200, and fourth in the triple jump.

Maine South: The Hawks lost state qualifier Morgan Gioia (4x800) to graduation after they took second in the CSL South and fourth at the St. Ignatius sectional. Senior Olivia DeLuca (distance) and junior Sofia Arcuri (distance) were both on the Hawks' 4x800 team that finished 10th in Class 3A last year. Senior Lauren Marogil, junior Ally Seurynck, and freshmen Tessie Bradley and Sarah Mendoza will potentially be on the 4x800 team this year. Senior state qualifier Reese LaBorne won the high jump at sectionals, and she recently set the indoor school record by jumping 5-feet, 4-inches. Senior Madison Basquin is a 17-foot plus long jumper and a 37-foot plus triple jumper. " As is the case every year, we expect to compete well in our outdoor invitational schedule and go after a high finish in the CSL South Conference meet as well as the IHSA sectional meet," said coach Jeff Downing. "We are hoping to qualify as many athletes as possible and a couple of relays (1,600 and 3,200 relays)."

Palatine: The Pirates placed third at their own powerful Class 3A sectional . Elite junior Aisha Kazeem (second in state in 300 hurdles, sixth in state in 100 hurdles), and Abigail Jordan (1,600) advanced to the state meet. Kazeem and senior Caitlin Basco were a part of Palatine's 4x100 team that reached state along with graduated seniors Mia Foy and Alayna Lazicki. Senior Roxy Soto went downstate in the 4x800 with three graduated seniors while junior Julia Zygier qualified for state in the high jump. Palatine placed fifth in the Jim Nagel-Mark Saylor MSL indoor meet in mid-March.

Rolling Meadows: The Mustangs placed ninth at their own powerful Class 3A sectional meet last spring as York rolled to the team title with 124 points. Rolling Meadows lost state qualifiers Colette Lampa (1,600), Hannah (Tomi) Oloro (high jump), and Melina Moreno (pole vault) to graduation. Not only did senior Roisin Grandberry qualify for the state meet in the shot put last year (14th in Class 3A), but she has started off the 2024 season by taking first place in the Jim Nagel-Mark Saylor MSL indoor meet in mid-March at North Central College. Freshman Hazel Nadal was impressive in winning the 400 in 1:00.19 to edge a very tough field of runners at the indoor championships.

Schaumburg: The Saxons lost state qualifier Chali Baumann (long jump, 4x200, University of Delaware), Antenise Williams (fourth in shot put), and Kaitlyn Minniear (distance) to graduation. Schaumburg placed fifth in the MSL and seventh at sectionals as juniors Amy Carhee (18th in hurdles/22nd in 4x200) and Kaylee Meyer (high jump) reached state. Senior Alexis Kotecki and sophomore Serena Green (triple and long jump) also ran downstate in the 4x200 while Alexis Grigsby (sprints) was an alternate in the 4x200. Juniors Milana Pisto (distance), Abby Kilian (distance), and Taline Abousamra (throws) will be key contributors. "We are looking to cap some strong performances from our young qualifiers from the previous season," said coach Robin Bingham. "Kaylee and Amy have the opportunities to break our school records in their respective events."

St. Viator: The Lions' young squad (tied for 11th in Class 2A) will not be able to replace two-time 100 and 300-meter state hurdles champion Emmi Scales (University of Kentucky) this season. St. Viator will also miss Sidney Jones, who anchored all four of its relay teams, and Amy Clarke, who set the school shot put record while running many sprint events. Junior Caroline Schermerhorn (distance) is the school record holder in the indoor and outdoor triple jump. Sophomores Mary Francl and Grace VanFossen specialize in the triple jump, long jump, and 400. Emilia Radlinski and Jada Baer are sprinters while Nicole Grudzien and Carmela Martinez (jumps) are hurdlers. St. Viator coach Bill Stanczak said co-head coach Mike Olavos has 30-plus years of experience, he is a Saint John Neuman H.S. (Naples, FL) Hall of Fame coach, and he has been a Godsend to the program. Scales' Class 2A winning times in the 100 (13.51) and 300 (42.61) hurdles were faster than the winning times in those two events in Class 3A.

Wheeling: The Wildcats will really miss the presence of state qualifier Brenda Torres, who competed in the 800-meter run last season before graduating. Wheeling took ninth place at the Jim Nagel-Mark Saylor MSL indoor meet in Naperville as sophomore Lindsay Kane took second place in the high jump with a leap of 1.52 meters. Junior Katie Moser was also impressive in the MSL indoor meet with a fourth-place mark of 4.98 meters in the long jump.


Antioch: The Sequoits are coming off of a third-place finish in the NLCC last season, and senior state qualifier Charlee Kempf (18th in discus/21st in shot put) is back. Antioch recently won the NLCC indoor championships 131-94 over Grayslake Central. Senior Shyanne Hernandez has returned after placing third in the long jump at sectionals. The Sequoits' 4x800 relay team of Addison Lane, Piper Ipsen, Angela Ortiz, and Annalise Lowrance also took third at sectionals. Sophomores Abby Fuesting and Kennedi Copeland will be runners to watch in sprints and relays while junior Rosie Gonzalez will be a key runner at 3,200 meters. Among Antioch's team goals will be to improve on their third-place finish in both indoor and outdoor, and increase its number of state qualifiers heading to Charleston.

Carmel: The Corsairs lost Paulina Sroka (10th in Class 2A in discus), and Nora Christensen (multiple-time state qualifier) to graduation from a team that placed second in the ESCC and second at sectionals. Juniors Ella Dicara (state-ranked in the 400), and Izzy Bing (state qualifier in 1,600/3,200) are key runners as Bing recently set the school indoor record in the 1,600 with a time of 5:13. Sophomore Natalie Ferguson reached the state meet in the long jump while senior Zubaydah Akorede is the top-ranked triple jumper after the indoor season. Sophomore Ashlyn Beattie was on the 4x400 team that reached state while senior Abby Hartzer helped set an ESCC record in the 4x200. Junior Sydney Krcmarik is a top distance runner for Carmel. "We hope to make the finals downstate in multiple events as we did at the Top Times meet," said Carmel coach Jim Halford. "We are in position to medal in many events this year, and our conference may be the best ever with five to six strong teams."

Grant: The Bulldogs have a state qualifier returning in junior Noelle Patrick (100 hurdles) while Patrick ran a personal best 9.33 seconds in the 60-meter hurdles at NLCC indoor meet. Junior Malia Henriot (sprints) took third in that indoor meet in the triple jump (32’4”) while freshman teammate Lauryn Francis is a 400-meter Illinois Top Times qualifier (59.54), and NLCC indoor champion in the 200 (26.54). Junior Madeline Fredendall was all-county in the shot put last year. " After a solid indoor season we are looking to continue to grow our young talent (Ireland Lewis, Erika and Audrey Hopkins, Jordynn Bernicchi) and make some noise this outdoor season," said Grant coach Greg Wodzien. "A top five finish at the Lake County Invite and a top four finish at the NLCC Invite would be nice accomplishments this season."

  Olivia Verden of Lake Zurich, center, and Grant’s Noelle Patrick, left, are two of the top returning athletes in Lake County. The Bears have won five straight NSC titles. John Starks/

Grayslake Central The Rams brought home two IHSA Class 2A state cross country championships and a second-place trophy over the past three years. Belmont University-bound senior Bella Domier (23rd in cross country) qualified for state in the 800 and was on the 4x400 relay team that placed sixth in Class 3A and just .34 seconds behind Joliet West. Western Kentucky University-bound Sofia Witt was also a part of that 4x400 all-state team as was sophomore teammate Ava Pietruszynski. Sophomores Violet Rowe (distance), Jordan Sutter (distance), and Bryanna Domier (distance) are all keys on the relays. Senior Sara Armstrong (12th in cross country) and sophomore Ava Henne (20th in cross country) are playing soccer this spring. F reshman Isabella Bergonio (shot put) placed third in the NLCC indoor meet, and she is one of the top freshman throwers in the state.

Grayslake North: The Knights' young squad placed 14th last year at the Class 3A Palatine sectional as they lost seniors Sophia Barszcz (triple jump state qualifier), and Kamila Chwieros (fourth in 300 meters at sectionals) to graduation. Grayslake North placed sixth by a narrow 33-32 margin to Wauconda at the recent NLCC indoor championships. Senior Sanaa Jones placed second in the shot put in that meet while teammates Madison Petersen and Yaremi Ramos went 4-5 in the 1,600. Senior Meadow Ptak (1.42 meters) tied for third place in the high jump competition.

Lakes: After winning the NLCC and sectionals last year, the Eagles will face a huge challenge this season moving up from Class 2A to Class 3A without graduated state relay qualifiers Becca Runyan, Madison Perez, and Shelby Stall. State pole vault runner-up Joycelyn Crum was another big loss to graduation. Tulsa University-bound senior Paige-Elicia Caruth placed 10th at state in the 3,200 while Colorado Springs-bound Josie Gates was seventh in pole vault. Senior Madison Twarling (state qualifier in 1,600) was on Lakes' fifth-place 4x800 state team along with junior Bri Gara. Sophomores McKayla Williams and Diksha Guganathan ran on the Eagles' ninth-place 4x200 team at state. Guganathan also ran at state in the 4x400. Senior Jillian Ellenwood reached state in the triple jump while teammate Ava Bullock returns in the high jump.

Lake Zurich The Bears lost state qualifiers Brooke Johnston (800, UCLA), Emilia Kubik (pole vault, Murray State), Allie Dicanio (discus, Grand Valley State), and A.J. Burk (pole vault) to graduation. Lake Zurich is aiming for its sixth straight NSC crown, its third sectional in a row, and a top 10 finish at state. Riley Betz, Sydney Lappin, Anya Farb, and Baelyn Zitzmann (state runner-up in high jump) reached state in the 4x100 while Betz also qualified in the 100. Senior Olivia Verden qualified for state in the 100 and 300 hurdles while teammates Kendall Flournoy (long jump) and Polina Krupsky (800) also reached state. Zitzmann was also a part of the Bears' 4x200 team with Betz, Lappin, and Flournoy that placed sixth downstate. Junior Avery Cooper (15th in 100 hurdles in 2022) is back from an ACL injury with great support from Anna Garrow (high jump), Celia Blaylock (800), Abby Sprawka (throws), Hope Rothas (pole vault), and Lindsey Bitzer (distance). Coach Jeremy Kauffman's team will be looking to break school records in as many as nine events.

Libertyville: The Wildcats tied for fifth at sectionals as junior Rosemary Inga qualified for state in the 400. Libertyville lost state qualifier Sheila Tucker (1,600) to graduation, but senior state qualifier Ally Humbert (long jump) is back. The Wildcats placed fourth in the NSC indoor meet as senior Lou Matulenko (11.39 meters) was the shot put champion. Sophomore Dejahnae Billups placed second in the high jump while freshman Lily Causemaker placed third in the 60 dash, and fifth in the 200. Senior Margo McGormley placed fourth in the 800 while Humbert placed third in the long jump.

Mundelein: The Mustangs lost some big-time performers to graduation as Praise Oyebanji (fourth in 800, UIC) waved Goodbye along with Sharron Kagan (seventh in discus, Miami University). It was the first time since 1979 that Mundelein had two state medalists. Sophomore Paige Prochnow was all-conference in the high jump last year while senior teammate Abbie Shifley (Sr) was honorable mention all-conference in the 100-meter hurdles. Sophomore Brooklyn D'Ambrosio was a sectional qualifier last fall in cross country and she is off to a strong start to the track season. Coach Jonathan Mahoney said Mundelein has seen a nice increase in the number of athletes joining the program, the team is hoping to see continued growth as they transition from the indoor to the outdoor season, and they want to be as competitive as possible in a very strong NSC.

Stevenson: The Patriots tied for 12th with Buffalo Grove at the powerful Class 3A Palatine sectional as senior Adeline Gobble qualified for state in the 800. State qualifier Nenge Fon-Ndikum (discus) graduated while Stevenson placed sixth in the recent NSC indoor championships. Sophomore Meg Arne (200) placed fourth in the indoor meet while Gobble was third in the 800. Senior Stella Plendl was fourth in the 3,200 while sophomore Hailey Cho (shot put) placed fifth.

Round Lake: The Panthers will be facing an uphill struggle in the powerful NLCC as they will have to contend with perennial powers like Grayslake Central and Antioch. Round Lake's inexperienced squad took seventh place at the NLCC indoor championships in Lake Villa as junior Leila Davila took sixth place in the triple jump with a distance of 9.03 meters.

Vernon Hills: The Cougars lost state qualifier Anna Todd (3,200, UMass), state qualifier Rebecca Tran (pole vault), and Reina Hill (Tufts University) to graduation. Vernon Hills was the CSL North champions last spring, and state qualifier Julia Rausa (high jump) is gearing up for a strong sophomore season. Miya Malfait (200/4x200), and Jori Ellen (3,200) bring experience to the squad while teammate Anna Lester is a newcomer to watch in the 800 and 1,600. Coach Jared Gustafson is hoping that the Cougars can defend their CSL North title this year and get more individuals to advance to the state meet May 16-18 in Charleston.

Warren: The Blue Devils lost state qualifiers Mia Pasha (distance, Georgetown), and Maddie Hecker (400, UW-Lacrosse) to graduation, as well as Morgan Vawter (WIU), and Kylie Florance (Carthage College). Warren's entire state qualifying 4x200 team of Carolina Martinez (also reached state in 4x400), Faith Gaston, Sanaii Vaughn, and Heaven Adams are back. Senior Maddie Hauder won the state shot put title (wheelchair division) with a record throw while finishing as the state runner-up in the discus. Sophomore Addison Filipowicz ran on the 4x400 state meet team while teammates Sara Kachurik and Anna Iwuagwu both have a chance of qualifying for state in the triple jump. After placing third in the NSC last year, Warren coach Tom Malkowski believes his team has a great chance of unseating five-time defending NSC champion Lake Zurich. Malkowski said his squad is also looking to take a larger group of individuals and relays to state with everyone coming back stronger now than how they ended their seasons last year.

Wauconda: It looks like new head coach Joe Renguso's team is going to be led by eight individuals who were all-conference at the NLCC indoor championships as the Bulldogs head into the outdoor portion of the season. Junior Ruth Okedina (200) took first place in the long jump at the NLCC meet with a leap of 16-3.75 while teammates Reagan Bodden and Emily Karecki placed fourth and fifth in the pole vault respectively. Senior Lorelai Lewis placed third in the 60-meter hurdles while junior teammate Abigail Plage took third in the high jump. Senior Aubrey Gunn added a sixth-place finish in the 60 hurdles while freshmen teammates Lily Schubert (fifth in 400), and Isabella Renguso (fifth in 3,200) were also all-conference.

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