Girls track and field: Batavia captures its home invite
The landscape for Illinois distance runners is a wide-open affair for track and field this season.
Katelynne Hart, who never lost an individual race to a girl from the state while compiling seven Class 3A state championships in three years at Glenbard West, is plying her trade in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Katina Schlenker certainly has designs on ascending to the top of the podium at O'Brien Stadium at Eastern Illinois University next month in Charleston.
"Hart was a great competitor," said Schlenker, a Batavia junior who finished runner-up to Hart at the last contested cross country state finals in 2019. "I think it's like any other year. The seniors go off to college and new girls come up. New talent always emerges. That's the beauty of track. It gives other girls opportunities to be just as good as her."
At the Carlson-Anderson Invitational at Batavia on Saturday afternoon, Schlenker was well below her seed time in the 1,600-meter run but came home in front of teammate Jenna Schifferer in five minutes, 8.59 seconds to win one of only two contested individual races.
Liliana Bedarek was fifth in the event for the Bulldogs, who eased past Burlington Central 85-79 to win the eight-team invite.
Geneva was third with 57 points, followed by Kaneland (57), West Aurora (53), St. Charles North (46), Glenbard North (45) and Hoffman Estates (12).
West Aurora had the greatest collection of wins as Tori Spagnola, like her celebrated older sister Emma, was the class of the 300 hurdles.
Spagnola also led off victorious relays in the 400 and 1,600 for the Blackhawks.
Spagnola is continuing the family tradition by committing to Minnesota; the senior is one of the most decorated local athletes with four state medals in the two hurdles events as an underclassman.
"It was a blessing and a curse," Spagnola said of the entire outdoor season being canceled from a year ago. "I always think that everyone is faster than me. We knew if we ran our best it would work out."
Spagnola denied Burlington Central Class 2A returning all-stater Brooke Barkocy 44.44 to 46.29 in the 300 hurdles.
Savannah Ming anchored West Aurora to every sprint-relay title at 400, 800 and 1,600 meters.
"We were pretty excited about this meet, having so few open events," the Drake-bound Ming said. "We were coming in on fresh legs. We were excited to be on a track we are all familiar with."
Daizy Lustrup, Sydney Atkins, Lauren Walrath and Devon Tomas brought West Aurora a fourth relay title in the 3,200 variety.
St. Charles North jumper Kaylee Hopp is ironically coached by a Neuqua Valley product.
Riley Ammenhouser, a two-time state champion in the triple jump for Neuqua Valley, is the No. 1 girl in the nation in the event.
But Hopp is not far behind after busting the magical 40-foot barrier in the event recently.
Hopp skipped the event Saturday to ease to the long-jump title in 17 feet, 5.5 inches to deny Spagnola a fourth title in the process.
"That was a good milestone," Hopp said of her 40-1 effort in a dual meet. "That's been my goal ever since I began the triple jump."
Carolina Hintz also has unfinished business.
The Burlington Central senior, headed to Illinois in the fall, was fifth in Class 2A in the discus as a sophomore.
Hintz was a little below a season-best throw in winning the title at 135 feet, 9 inches.
"Last time I checked it was second place," Hintz said of her current standing among 2A discus throwers in the state. "We are getting the best experience we can. I am really hoping for 150 (feet). I think I can get it."
Kaneland was led by pole-vaulters Cara Heller and Jessica Phillipp; the former tied for first with Batavia senior Mackenzie Benkers at 10-9, while Phillipp was third at 10-3.
"I knew from my eighth-grade experience that pole vaulting was going to be much different in high school," said Heller, a freshman.
"I am very happy with how Cara and I did," Phillipp said.
Geneva had two champions in shot-putter Angelina Romano (38-10.5) and triple-jumper Kelly McCloughan.
Glenbard North was the only school other than West Aurora to win one of the five relays as the quartet of Cameron Guy, Taylor Finke, Taylor DeStefano and Grace Schager captured the medley relay (200-200-400-800) in 4:27.7.