Girls track: Batavia races away with DuKane Conference crown
Katie Kempff was unquestionably the individual MVP of the DuKane Conference girls track and field championship Saturday afternoon at St. Charles North.
The St. Charles East senior is equally gifted academically as she will attend MIT in the fall as a prospective aerospace engineer.
Her wisdom was on full display afterward.
"It's the sectional all over," Kempff said. "A preview."
The 15 schools headed to Roselle on Thursday night for the Class 3A Lake Park sectional will undoubtedly be seeking to unseat Batavia.
The Bulldogs remained undefeated on the season with yet another convincing triumph with 162.5 points to win the league title in the first contested conference championship in three years.
Just like the Kane County championship, St. Charles East -- despite Kempff winning three individual events -- had to settle for runner-up with 115 points.
Traditional state power Wheaton Warrenville South was third at 111 points, followed by Wheaton North (80), St. Charles North (66), Glenbard North (65), Geneva (50.5) and Lake Park (49).
The Bulldogs' sprint relays have been almost invincible this spring.
At the county meet, senior standout Essie Newburn led the way as the fulcrum of three championships.
But Newburn, the 100-meter champion in 12.46 seconds who also was runner-up in the 200 and 400 dashes, let sophomore Izzy Taylor have the spotlight in the latest Batavia run of supremacy in the sprint quartets between 400 and 1,600 meters.
Taylor, a sophomore, was the principal actor on all three championship quartets for the Bulldogs on Saturday in St. Charles.
"People (on the sprint relays) are doing so well; it's inspiring," Taylor said after anchoring the Bulldogs' four-by-one, four-by-two and the first leg of the final event of the day, the mile relay, in respective times of 49.32, 1:45.81 and 4:08.43. "It was amazing. I ran like it was my last race."
The Bulldogs began the day with a cushion as Bridget Kosky energized the six field events for Batavia with a triumph in the long jump at 17 feet, 8 inches.
Moving to the track, the highly anticipated showdown between two of the finest distance runners in the state lived up to the advanced billing.
Katrina Schlenker, after taking it on the chin against Grace Schager in the 3,200 run, looked like Jesse Owens over the final 100 meters to deny the Glenbard North junior a second title in open metric mile to win in 5:02.18.
Schager was denied twin titles in 5:03.17.
"Some days feel better than others," Schlenker said after running slower than her historic Kane County time at 3,200 meters on Saturday. "(Schager) kind off took off (in the 3,200). I have been doing a lot of speed work."
"I had a feeling (Schlenker) was going to come back and nip me for that," said Schager, like Schlenker, a reigning all-state distance runner.
Kempff was the talk of the meet in the early going, underscoring the eight league members' participation at the Lake Park sectional by claiming individual titles in the high jump (5-4.25), triple jump 36-1.25 (literally by one centimeter over Lake Park senior Martina Latoria) and the 100 hurdles in 16 seconds flat.
"I knew what the number was that I had to beat," Kempff said of her second official win in the triple jump. "I was hoping (returning St. Charles North all-state high jumper Natalie Buratczuk, out with the flu) was going to be there. I really wanted to race (Lake Park top-seed Paulina Lucer in the 100 hurdles, who scratched with a back injury). You always want to run against someone faster than you."
The Saints' 3,200 relay repeated their county title in 9:44.65 behind state veterans Amelia Bellizzi, Gia Klasa and Laci Chivari.
The host North Stars received their lone title from thrower Jocelyn Kane in the discus (106-1).
Geneva snared the other weight champion as senior Angelina Romano threw the shot put 36-4.75.
At the other end of the class spectrum, freshman Bridget Heckler put herself in unquestioned state contention for a medal with a 400-winning time of 58.8 for Geneva.
"I'm pretty sure that's the fourth-fastest time in school history, regardless of class," Geneva coach Peter Raak said.
"I can't believe it," Hecker said. "I am still processing it right now."
Schager more than placed her stamp on the extraordinarily deep distance class in the state.
The junior took command in the 3,200 in the fifth lap and only extended her lead over Schlenker to win in 10:34.21.
"It was a lot of fun going into next week," Schager said of the looming sectional after a final regular-season tuneup. "It was nice to know where we will be next week for the sectional. "(Schlenker and I) kind of made a pact to stay together for the first mile."
"I was like, 'You go girl,'" Schlenker of the metric 2-mile.
For WW South, on the 10-year anniversary of its 3,200-meter relay becoming the first and only quartet in state history to break nine minutes, still dominate the program.
Annie Macabobby was the sole track champion for the Tigers as the senior claimed the open 800 in 2:19.43 while also placing fourth -- one spot behind freshman teammate Nikki Poglitsch -- in the metric mile.
Macabobby also anchored the Tigers' 1,600 relay to runner-up behind Batavia.
"I had to get out there fast," Macabobby said of the open 800. "I was running by myself a little bit. I ran the race I wanted to run."
In the pole vault, senior Sam Nepras cleared 11-2.5 to become a second conference champion for the Tigers.
"I thought our girls really stepped up and cleared a lot of obstacles today," WW South Hall of Fame coach Rob Harvey said. "They turned a lot of possible negatives into some season and lifetime bests."
WW South certainly welcomed back star sprinter Nora Fieweger.
The junior, hobbled all outdoor season with injuries, is a returning all-state sprint-relay contributor with fellow runner-up four-by-one mates Celia Huelskoetter and Annie Macabobby.
Riya Chaudhari had an underclass moment never to be forgotten.
The Wheaton North sophomore captured the only conference championship for the Falcons by overcoming Newburn in the closing meters to win the 200 dash in a personal-best time of 25.73.
"It was a one-second PR," Chaudhari said. "I was not expecting to win the 200. But the 200 is my specialty event. I was trying so hard to stay in front. I was pushing so hard at the end."