Scouting DuPage County girls track and field
Top local teams: Naperville North, Glenbard West, Hinsdale Central, Lake Park, Glenbard East, Downers Grove South, Naperville Central, Downers Grove North, Wheaton Warrenville South, Neuqua Valley.
Top athletes: Addison Trail: Alex Nava (jr., sprints), Viviana Sanfilipo (fr., distance), Julia Swierzb (so., sprints, hurdles), Katerina Surjanciv (sr., sprints); Benet: Jessica Jugovich (jr., sprints, distance), Lizzy McDonnell (jr., sprints), Catherine Meehan (jr., sprints, pole vault), Mia Nolan (jr., sprints), Emily Spellman (fr., distance), Ashley Tyburski (sr., sprints, distance); Downers Grove North: Celeste Bonga (so., sprints), Kim Brent (jr., sprints), Naomi Boyd (sr., throws), Isabel Maletich (sr., sprints, jumps), Kessie Olekanma (sr., sprints), Sarah Rogoz (jr., sprints, jumps); Downers Grove South: Brenna Cohoon (so., distance), Kelley Hackbarth (jr., distance); Maddie Manganiello (sr., jumps, pole vault), Erin Ready (so., distance); Fenton: Katerina Krebasch (sr., jumps, pole vault), Sarah Mason (sr., sprints, jumps), Hannah Matuszewski (jr., sprints, jumps); Glenbard East: Cailyn Biegalski (sr., sprints, distance), Claire Biegalski (so., sprints, hurdles), Lauren Huber (fr., sprints, distance), Emma Ludwig (jr., jumps), Brenna Peters (sr., sprints), Briana Raysby (sr., jumps), Kionnah Weaver (sr., sprints, hurdles), Lexi Weltin (sr., sprints, distance); Glenbard North: Hannah Ivy (sr., sprints), Alyssa Laherty (sr., sprints), Lauren Mahoney (sr., sprints, jumps), Brenda Nguyen (jr., sprints), Christy Nguyen (jr., sprints, hurdles, jumps), Jasmine Stokes (sr., throws); Glenbard South: Maggie Bair (jr., throws), Julia Clingen (jr., distance), Ania Gniatczyk (jr., sprints, distance), CeCe Jackson (jr., throws), Katie King (sr., distance), Emma Taylor (sr., sprints, hurdles, jumps), Savannah Williams (sr., sprints); Glenbard West: Chloe Arduino (sr., sprints), Katelynne Hart (so., distance), Katie Hohe (jr., distance), Claire Kenwood (sr., distance), Lindsey Payne (sr., distance), Ashley Samuta (so., sprints, jumps), Maddie Schrauth (sr., sprints, jumps); Hinsdale Central: Elle Geier (jr., sprints), Grace McCabe (sr., distance), Bella Pisani (jr., distance), McKenna Revord (so., distance), Reilly Revord (sr., distance); Hinsdale South: Rachel Arellano (sr., throws), Natalie Axelrod (fr., distance, jumps), Raquel Blumenstein (sr., sprints, jumps); IC Catholic Prep: Frankie Chaidez (fr., distance), Alia Johnson (fr., sprints, jumps), Kiersten King (sr., sprints), Jaida Smith (jr., sprints, hurdles, jumps); Lake Park: Joie Allen (sr., sprints), Andie Granskog (sr., sprints, hurdles, jumps); Izzy Kennedy (sr., sprints, jumps), Stephanie Montenegro (jr., throws), Kelly Zehnder (sr., jumps, pole vault); Lisle: Rachel Laning (so., distance), Liz LaScala (sr., sprints, middle distance, jumps), Shamiria Williams-Epps (jr., throws), Emily Woltmann (jr., distance); Metea Valley: Laurel Roney (sr., sprints), Terri Scarlett (jr., distance), Jacquia Slaughter (sr., sprints), Keely Weber (sr., distance); Montini: Joslyn Boyer (jr., sprints, jumps), Maggie Connelly (so., sprints, hurdles), Erica Holloway (jr., sprints), Andy Munoz (sr., sprints, jumps); Naperville Central: Naomi Egharevba, (jr., sprints), Rose Fitz (jr., jumps, pole vault), Tikia Harris (sr., jumps), Natalie Sarris (sr., distance), Emily Scott (so., distance); Naperville North: Saffilla Allie (jr., sprints, jumps), Annie Bieber (jr., sprints), Halle Bieber (jr., sprints, hurdles), Jill Fitz (sr., sprints, distance), Allison Grady (sr., sprints), Claire Hill (jr., sprints, distance), Alex Morris (jr., distance), Hannah Ricci (sr., distance), Sarah Schmitt (sr., distance), Sarah Wastek (sr., throws); Neuqua Valley: Riley Ammenhauser (fr., sprints, jumps), Corinna Pena (sr., distance), Maggie Bender (sr., sprints), MiKenna Robinson (jr., sprints, distance), Autumn Rosales (jr., sprints); St. Francis: Anna Bauer (jr., throws), Haley Garvy (sr., sprints, distance), Taylor Gerard (jr., sprints, jumps), Claire Kolker (so., distance), Minnie Rolston (fr., distance), Allie Woods (sr., sprints, distance); Timothy Christian: Hope Clark (distance), Val Hoekstra (sr., sprints, distance), Priscilla Nartey (so., sprints), Gabi Silvia (jr., sprints), Rachel Stoll (sr., sprints, distance), Elise Terpstra (sr., distance, jumps); Waubonsie Valley: Itzel Garcia (fr., sprints, jumps), Ashley Heinenrich (so., distance), Julia Holstead, (jr., distance), Emma Kittridge (jr., throws), Cami Robinson (sr., sprints, jumps); West Chicago: Maddie Brotnow (sr., distance), Brooke Eidol (so., sprints, jumps), Dipali Patel (jr., sprints), Avalon Smith (sr., sprints, jumps); Wheaton Academy: Karyn Best (sr., sprints, hurdles), Stephanie Gregersen (jr., distance), Julia Robleski (sr., distance); Wheaton North: Sophie Daigle (so., distance), Malia Humecke (sr., sprints, pole vault), Christie Macris (jr., sprints, jumps), Ally Serbick (sr., sprints, jumps), Sarah Stair (jr., sprints, pole vault), Leeya Zander (so., sprints); Wheaton Warrenville South: Mykaila Gentry-Humphrey (jr., sprints), Jenna Holze (sr., sprints), Sarah Kulkarni (jr., distance), Melissa Marcheschi (so., jumps, Ariana Miller (sr., sprints, hurdles, jumps), Laurel Moneysmith (jr., distance), Sam Poglitsch (fr., distance), Tonjalaya Yarbar (sr., throws); Willowbrook: Miani Blackwell (jr., throws), Gianna Irion (so., sprints, hurdles), Daylee Braden (fr., sprints), Victoria Palma (jr., distance); York: Molly Evans (sr., sprints, jumps), Lydia Hickey (so., distance), Sarah May (jr., distance), Katherine Tomaska (sr., distance).
Scouting report: In track and field the 300-meter hurdles is as mentally and physically taxing as any high school event. But in consecutive heats on the final day of the girls season last spring at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Karyn Best and Halle Bieber were not to be denied. In the Class 2A championship heat Best put the Wheaton Academy program on the map by becoming the first girls state champion in school history. She outlasted Vernon Hills' Jordyn Bunning with her winning time of 43.49 seconds.
"It was definitely one of the greatest moments of my life," Best said. "There are no words for it." Moments later in the Class 3A finals race in the 300 hurdles, Bieber, then a Naperville North sophomore, decimated the field in claiming a 1.84-second victory over Thornton senior May Robinson with her personal-best time of 43.16 seconds. "We would not have expected that margin of victory," Naperville North coach Dan Iverson said of his star underclassman. "I was definitely happy but surprised at the end," Bieber said.
Best and Bieber return in what should be yet another onslaught of local athletes parading to the two-day state finals in late May. "Every time you think it can't get any better, it does," Benet coach Scott Brooks said of the depth of talent in the county.
Best is almost an accidental state champion for the Warriors. "My first year as head coach was two years ago when (Best) was a sophomore," Wheaton Academy coach James Houck said. "When I introduced myself to her, I asked what she did. She told me that she was a 100-meter runner. She then said, 'I want to be a state champion.' I said, 'It's not going to happen in the 100 (dash).'" Under the tutelage of renowned summer track coach Abe Jones, Best experimented with the hurdles. Best had earlier finished sixth in Class 2A in the 100 hurdles. The uncommitted senior has yet to be vanquished, however, at 300 meters since her introduction last spring.
Wheaton Academy and Naperville North knock heads at the Sue Pariseau Invitational at Glenbard West in late April but Bieber, then out with an injury, missed Best making a name for herself at the distance. "I went up to Illinois No. 1 (in Class 2A after winning at Glenbard West), and that was really exciting," Best said. "It was a dream come true for me."
Bieber, meanwhile, returned with a vengeance from her injury last April with a dominant late-season string of performances. The Huskies won their first track state trophy in history last spring by finishing behind Glenbard West and Homewood-Flossmoor. The junior could very well be the difference for the Huskies to achieve an unprecedented feat in IHSA history. No largest-division girls program has ever backed up a cross country state championship with a team title in track. The Huskies enter the season with an edge over Glenbard West at the state level as the result of their returning firepower. "We had 12 all-staters last year (between individuals and relays)," Iverson said.
"They are an all-around team," Waubonsie Valley coach Dave Gowing said of the Huskies. Bieber was the difference for the 800 sprint relay in Naperville North securing eighth place last spring. Bieber, twin sister Annie, Allie and Grady all return. "We are feeling pretty confident in the four-by-two," Halle Bieber said. Naperville North also returns an all-state thrower in shot-putter Wastek.
With multiple choices to make -- trying Halle Bieber in the 100 hurdles is one option -- Iverson will have delicate decisions to make where to slot his galaxy of stars. The Huskies' cross country pack of Schmitt, Morris, Ricci and Hill all made podium trips at state track last spring as well. "We have strengths about everywhere," Iverson said. "We will try to make some good decisions." Indiana-bound Schmitt was third in the 3,200 run last spring, but the Huskies' distance leader is equally encouraged by the team's balance in the sprints and hurdles. "(Halle Bieber) has been a powerhouse," Schmitt said. "Our sprinters have improved tremendously. It's really exciting to see what we can do this season."
But there is a monumental roadblock in the Huskies' quest for a state championship. "Katelynne Hart rewrites all the rules," Iverson said.
The Glenbard West sophomore continues to defy all expectations in seeking to bring a second straight state championship to Glen Ellyn. After winning the distance-racing Triple Crown last year (cross country and the 1,600 and 3,200 runs), Hart defended her cross title in Peoria last fall. Hart then made headlines across the land by winning an indoor national championship in the mile. But Glenbard West coach Kelly Haas also has thorny decisions to make with the sophomore wunderkind. With only the 400 relay between the 3,200 relay and open 3,200 run, Hart was invaluable to the Hilltoppers' 47-43 victory over H-F last May. "We're going to be selective and smart in what we do," Haas said.
The historical powers of the sport -- East St. Louis, Evanston, Morgan Park and, in recent years, Lincoln-Way East -- used electrifying speed to capture state titles. But the Hilltoppers went a different path. Payne was runner-up to Hart at 3,200 meters and later also placed in the mile. Payne is bound for Stanford. "That (team state championship) was better than any individual feat I have ever had," said Payne, who won the 3,200 run as a sophomore. "There is more longevity to a team title. There is something really collectively special about that." Haas said, "It was the pinnacle."
The 800 run and 3,200 relay have been an almost personal domain for DuPage County individuals and schools since Wheaton North luminary Sammie Polock to start off the new century. Hart, Payne, Schmitt and Morris all finished in the top five last spring in the 3,200 run. Hinsdale Central has a state championship and runner-up finish the last two years in the relay; the Red Devils return all four relay members this spring, McCabe, Pisani and the two Revord sisters. Third-place Glenbard West and No. 4 Naperville North have six combined returnees in the event. York is another program to watch in the longest relay behind the top-notch May.
But Glenbard East is a program that bears watching this spring at the state level. Cailyn Biegalski qualified for the open 800 finals last year. Weltin, Peters and Huber -- a leading candidate for the ever-present freshman sensation on the track this spring -- could surprise in the 3,200 and 1,600 relays as well. Weaver is on the cusp of potential state-finals appearances in both hurdles races. Claire Biegalski gives Glenbard East coach Molly Gstalter even more flexibility in the two longest relays. "It's all about the process and enjoying the process," Cailyn Biegalski said. "I want to train harder this year so that I can place (in the open 800)." The field in the open 800 may be as deep as any event in the Class 3A finals. Three girls from outside the area eclipsed the 2:12 barrier at the Top Times meet last weekend. Hinsdale Central distance coach Mark McCabe has four potential finalists in his relay alone to choose his two candidates for the state series. Naperville North junior Hill and Neuqua Valley junior Robinson are certainly in the finals discussion as well after a scintillating duel last month at the DuPage Valley Conference indoor meet.
The Lake Park girls will be looking to steal the playbook of their male counterparts this season. The Lancers boys captured one of their multiple state titles by not scoring any points on the track. "(Coach Thomas Kaberna) thinks there is a chance we could place with our field-event athletes," said Lake Park senior Kennedy, the indoor leader in the triple jump with her DVC-championship effort of 39 feet, 3½ inches. "I like outdoor a lot more than indoor. I hope to go into conference, sectional and state with a lot of confidence. (Breaking 40 feet in the triple) is the big number I want to hit." In addition to Kennedy, who also excels in the long jump, Lake Park has high hopes for pole vaulters Allen and Zehnder, Granskog in the short hurdles and long jump and thrower Montenegro. Multitalented Maletich from Downers North is another leading contender for top honors in the triple jump.
Returning all-state sprint-relay members Bonga, Brent and Olekanma of Downers North will have plenty of company from the likes of Hinsdale Central and Naperville North in the 800 relay. In addition to Glenbard West all-state 1,600 relay runners Schrauth and Arduino, Neuqua Valley, Glenbard North and Glenbard East could very well make strong bids in the event. In the final year of the DuPage Valley Conference as a nine-team entity, Pena and Ammenhauser cannot be overlooked in the 1,600 run and two vertical jumps, respectively, for Neuqua Valley.
Downers Grove South will once again be the team to beat in the West Suburban Gold. The West Suburban Silver will be tight at the top with Glenbard West, Downers North, Oak Park-River Forest, Lyons Twp. and Hinsdale Central. Glenbard East has made tremendous strides in becoming more balanced -- notable this year with the emergence of high-jump threats Ludwig and Raysby -- but state power West Aurora will be a prohibitive favorite in the Upstate Eight.
Among the smaller-school hopefuls, traditional Class 2A local power Glenbard South will bank on returning state qualifier Taylor not only in the state series but also in defense of the Metro Suburban Blue championship. But Best could single-handedly derail such hopes by skipping hurdles -- as she did last year -- and again sweeping the three sprints at the conference meet. IC Catholic Prep could very well be represented on the final day of the Class 1A season as Smith is a former all-stater; freshman Chaidez was third in cross country last fall.
Top meets: April 6: Prospect; April 8: St. Charles North Invite; April 13: Downers Grove North Ritter Invitational; April 14: Geneva Vandever Invitational; April 19: Batavia Carlson-Anderson Classic, April 20: Glenbard East Ram Invitational, Lockport Invitational, Neuqua Valley Invitational; April 21: Glenbard North Weber Invitational, Glenbard West Sue Pariseau Invitational; April 27: Wheaton Warrenville South Tiger Invitational; May 2: East Suburban Catholic Conference, Loyola; May 3: DuPage Valley Conference, WW South; Interstate Eight Conference, Seneca; Upstate Eight Conference, St. Charles North; May 4: Metro Suburban Conference Blue, Glenbard South; West Suburban Conference Gold, Proviso East; West Suburban Conference Silver, York; May 5: Girls Catholic Athletic Conference, Loyola; May 10-12: IHSA sectionals; May 17-19: IHSA Finals, Charleston.
-- Kevin McGavin