Glenbrook South's Willits wins 3 events at CSL South girls track meet; New Trier takes title
Sometimes you've got to pick your spots.
Glenbrook South girls track coach Danny Zapler felt he'd rather load up his lineup for the sectional meet now upon us than for the Central Suburban League South meet May 27 at Glenbrook North.
"Obviously we want to do well at conference, but we have a team that has an opportunity to have state qualifiers. Having state qualifiers for us is more important than winning conference," Zapler said.
Titans star senior Sidney Willits entered -- and won -- three events rather than the four she will run June 3 at the Class 3A Loyola sectional.
Junior Abbey Millott, seeded first in high jump and among the leaders in both horizontal jumps, got her second COVID vaccination, felt terrible, and couldn't go.
Not a huge deal. Not this week.
"I think our goal was just do our best, with the short season, and treat any muscle soreness or any injuries that have started to hurt, just come in and do our best," said Willits.
Despite her success and teammates Hayden Nelson winning the 400-meter dash and sophomore Maggie Jortberg taking the 3,200, New Trier would have been hard to beat no matter the strategy.
The Trevians racked up 237 points to win the meet over Maine South (137), Glenbrook South (121), Glenbrook North (82), Niles West (53) and Evanston (45).
New Trier won 10 of 18 events and double-scored in 13 to win their conference meet for the 14th time since 1999. Their junior varsity won for a 26th straight season.
"We've been fortunate because of our depth, fortunate that we have the numbers. We're able to fill 18 events," said veteran Trevians coach Bob Spagnoli.
One family alone basically covers the hurdles. Senior triplets Vita, Emma and Ava Kovacevich did that nicely, Ava running on junior varsity and Vita and Emma finishing 1-2 in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles.
It seemed mere minutes between New Trier's Emma Braband crossing the finish line to cap a winning 3,200 relay and her winning the open 800. Braband finished ahead of teammate Clare Finnigan, who led off that relay.
"Once the 4x8's done, no matter how it went, I kind of forget about it and start focusing on my next one. So the fact that it was a faster turnaround, I think it's good to get used to," said Braband, headed to Cornell University.
"You never know when a race is going to come up quicker than you expect, so the ability to just be ready to go is definitely a good one to have. You want to be ready."
Braband also was willing and able to help New Trier win its third relay, the 1,600, with Michelle Lu, Bridget Vito and lead runner Abbey Ryan, who then hustled to discus for her final throws. That is not a common combination.
New Trier had to dig to win the 800 relay. Running anchor, sophomore Callista Chong received the baton a good 15 meters behind Glenbrook South. She and her flouncy, magenta-colored hair made up the margin to win in 1 minute, 55.95 seconds.
"It feels so much better starting from a deficit like that because it feels so much more accomplishing when you finally pull through. That's my favorite place to be," Chong said.
The one relay New Trier didn't win was the 400-meter relay. Glenbrook South won that handily with Hayden Nelson, Gabby Des Roberts, Daphna Gerber and Sydney Willits clocking 49.80 seconds, nearly 4 seconds faster than Maine South.
Willits looked strong in the relay, and just as dominant in the open 100 dash, winning that in 12.24 seconds, currently 10th in state on Athletic.net.
Willits won long jump as well. To avoid rain, the horizontal jumps, pole vault and high jump moved inside Glenbrook North's field house, where athletes can't wear spikes. That limited' Willits' winning mark to 5.43 meters, or about 17 feet, 10 inches.
"It was just weird, the conditions," said the Iowa State recruit.
"Especially with the rain, we were all like, 'Oh man, this is going to be rough.' But we're happy that the rain cleared up and I think we did the best we could," Willits said.
Milott's absence opened the door in high jump and Maine South freshman Reese LaBorne walked through with the Hawks' sole varsity victory.
As assistant coach Teresa Gulo yelled encouragement -- "In with the confidence, out with the doubt" -- LaBorne soared 5 feet on her third and final try to win the event.
"It makes me really happy," said LaBorne, also part of a second-place 1,600 relay that closed the meet. "I've just got to remember to be more confident in myself and kind of push the stress away when I'm jumping and running."
Glenbrook North freshman Briana Owen set the stage for a rosy future with junior varsity wins in both the 100 and 200 dashes.
On the varsity level, Natalie Sandlow ran a strong 400 and Maddy Zerlin placed second in pole vault to New Trier's Sophie Garrou.
Spartans junior hurdler Audrey Gottschild mentioned the strong team support within the girls' program, which senior teammate Lucy Traub fed off in her 100 hurdles race.
"My goal was just to finish strong and not worry about anything else, not overthink anything and take all the energy that's around us and just run," Traub said.