Girls track and field: Warren's Ditangkin, Lake Zurich shine at NSC meet
Flying is kind of Alyla Ditangkin's thing.
She's a flyer for the cheerleading team at Warren.
So it's no wonder she simply flew over the hurdles Wednesday night at the North Suburban Conference meet at Mundelein High School.
Ditangkin, a senior for the Blue Devils who will be flying for the University of Illinois cheer team next year, won the 100-meter hurdles (15.67) as well as the 300-meter hurdles (47.84) as Warren finished fourth (70 points) in the meet, behind champion Lake Zurich (137 points), Libertyville (88) and Lake Forest (88). Stevenson took fifth with 65 points.
"Being a flyer helps me stay lean, because I like to eat a lot and being lean helps (with speed)," Ditangkin said with a laugh. "My best event is the 100 for sure because it's fast."
Ditangkin is fast, too. But she's also become strategic with how she covers ground.
At just 5-foot-4, Ditangkin somehow takes just three steps between hurdles in the 100 meter race while many of her competitors take as many as five steps.
"She's been training to do that for so long, with us and in the summertime with her club track team," Warren hurdles coach Cheryl Anderson said. "She's worked at it a lot but she is also such an all-around athlete and if you look at her body type, it's very defined. And in cheerleading as a flyer, she just knows how to operate every part of her body."
Ditangkin also has the mental side of hurdles covered. She studies tape of herself, and of top hurdlers across the country for fun.
"I watch over those videos a lot and I reach out to coaches in other states and they've been helping me, as well as my track coach at Deep Impact Performance Training."
Stevenson junior Ella O'Neall covers all the bases, too.
She was also relentless with all facets of her workouts, even during the long COVID layoffs.
O'Neall saw her persistence pay off with victories in both the discus (124 feet, 8 inches) and the shot put (40 feet, 3.5 inches).
"She works harder than anyone I know," Stevenson head coach Emma Degen said. "She's one of the few kids I know of who were in the gym constantly during COVID, lifting and working and doing drills, every day. She's constantly trying to perfect her craft and you don't see that in a lot of kids, especially during COVID.
"She works harder than a lot of kids."
O'Neall, who has broken the shot put record at Stevenson, could work her way into a Division I scholarship someday. She's already getting offers.
"It's a lot of practice and repetition," O'Neall said. "I didn't want to have any limitations during COVID. I have a lot of goals, regardless of COVID, so I put a lot of work in because I want to hit those goals.
"I just want to keep progressing and hopefully make some big strides at state next year and this year."
Junior Dakota Lyons of Libertyville has certainly made big strides, especially considering that track isn't even her first sport.
Lyons, a soccer star who committed to Ohio State after a well-played showcase her freshman year, won the 400 meters (59.17) and the long jump (18-feet, 3.25 inches).
She does both club soccer and track in the spring.
"Track is my second sports, but I've always loved it, and I was working up to today for the last week, trying to do really well," Lyons said. "I just went for it and I got first. I don't know what got into me but I did pretty well.
"I put a lot of work into it just like soccer. It's a lot of repetitive hours and training. I was always the fast girl in soccer growing up and it kind of stuck."
Sophomore Brooke Johnston led champion Lake Zurich with a pair of wins in the 800 meters (2:16.87) and the 1600 meters (5:07.07). Fellow Lake Zurich sophomore AJ Burk won the pole vault (11 feet, 2.5 inches).
Senior Annika Bynum of Warren won the high jump at 5 feet, 7 inches.