Scouting Fox girls track and field

  • Burlington Central's Paige Greenhagel is one of the top returning athletes this spring in the Fox area.

    Burlington Central's Paige Greenhagel is one of the top returning athletes this spring in the Fox area. Mary Beth Nolan/for Shaw Local

 
by Kevin McGavin
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 3/30/2022 6:02 PM

An old-fashioned sibling rivalry could very well pave the way for a historic season for the Huntley girls track and field team this spring.

Last year at the modified Class 3A stat meet in Charleston, Alex Johnson more than served notice as one of the top underclass athletes in the state by eclipsing 19 feet to win the long jump in the single-day competition.

 

A sophomore at the time, Johnson would later showcase her versatility by earning sixth place in the 100-meter dash at Eastern Illinois University.

ut as the outdoor season commences in earnest following the traditional spring vacation, Alex Johnson suddenly has newfound company -- from the same household.

Dominique Johnson has already staked a considerable claim to state-championship legitimacy.as an incoming freshman.

After her older sister captured the Top Times long-jump title last weekend in Bloomington, Dominique Johnson unleashed a triple jump of nearly 41-9.

Alex Johnson, in her full season of attempting to master the sub-discipline, had to settle for runner-up, six centimeters behind her little sister.

Astonishingly, the Raiders' Melissa Aninagyei-Bonsu was fourth in the event for Huntley.

Such is the riches of the Huntley program this spring.

The Raiders will enter the outdoor season ranked behind only the last two state champions -- Lincoln-Way East and Homewood-Flossmoor -- in their quest for a first top-three trophy in program history.

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"We talk about (the possibility) all the time," Alex Johnson said of a hot topic among team members.

More than half of the 18 events at a major track competition place a premium on sprinting and jumping.

The Raiders are both talented and deep in the mutually complementary areas.

The Johnson sisters could conceivably sweep both horizontal jumps as the state series concludes in May.

"I never tried (the triple jump) before this year," said Alex Johnson. "I started to get more confident with it. (Surpassing 41 feet) was way past my expectation."

"A lot of (the motivation to triple jump) was aspirations at the next level," Huntley coach Jason Monson said of Alex. "She is such a team-aspect player."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The triple-jump state title is ripe for the taking with the graduation of three-time Neuqua Valley champion Riley Amenhouser;

In the long jump, Alex Johnson is three inches shy of a foundational barrier with her personal-best effort of 19-9 at the unofficial indoor state championship last weekend.

"I really want to get to 20 feet," Alex said. "That's the magical threshold for long jump. I want to get it really soon."

Dominique Johnson, meanwhile, has also already firmly etched her name in the conversation not only for a triple-jump state championship before her first official outdoor meet; the ninth-grader breaking the state record is not out of the realm of possibility.

"I never expected to get past 37 (feet) at most (during indoor season)," said Dominique, whose middle-school-best jump barely exceeded 34 feet. "(In the long jump) I want to be in the same area as (Alex) was as a freshman."

Dominique was fourth in the long jump in Bloomington and enters the outdoor season looking to extend her best mark beyond 18-5.

On the track, the Raiders will also pose serious threats at the state level in the sprint relays.

In addition to the Johnson sisters, the Raiders have interchangeable lineups available in the three sprint relays between 400 and 1,600 meters with the likes of Aninagyei-Bonsu, Sophie Amin, Victoria Evtimov, Jessie Ozzauto and Sammi Campanelli.

"This is the strongest team we have had in years," Alex Johnson said. "We have really good sprinters."

"We could be really good," Monsoon said of the Raiders' potential in the sprint relays. "We as a coaching staff will have to make those decisions (regarding the girls' event sequencing)."

Two more Huntley sisters, Bre and Brittney Burak, anchor the Raiders' longer distances.

"They are extremely dedicated to their craft," Monsoon said of the junior twins.

Fox girls track scouting report

Top teams: Huntley, Batavia, South Elgin, St. Charles East, Rosary, Jacobs.

Top athletes: Sophie Amin, Huntley, so., sprints, hurdles; Melissa Aninagyei-Bonsu, Huntley, sr., sprints, jumps; Lili Bednarek, Batavia, jr., sprints, middle distance; Amelia Bellizzi, St. Charles East, sr., middle distance; Tia Brennan, Burlington Central, jr., sprints, pole vault; Jenna Buchanan, Bartlett, sr., middle distance, distance; Bre Burak, Huntley jr., distance; Natalie Buratczak, St. Charles North, sr., sprints, jumps; Sarah Caldwell, Elgin, sr., sprints, jumps; Kelly Carpenter, Jacobs, sr., middle distance, distance; Ashley Ciezadlo, Crystal Lake South, sr., sprints, jumps; Raven Collins, South Elgin, sr., sprints; Bella Dicrosta, St. Charles North, sr., distance; Heather Durrant, Larkin, jr., distance; Paige Greenhagel, Burlington Central, jr., sprints, jumps; Natalie Grimaldo, St. Charles East, sr. sprints, jumps; Cora Heller, Kaneland so., pole vault; Dominique Johnson, Huntley, fr., sprints, jumps; Alex Johnson, Huntley, jr., sprints, jumps; Naomi Jones, Hampshire, sr., sprints; Taelyn Kamp, Dundee-Crown, sr., throws; Katie Kempff, St. Charles East, sr., hurdles, jumps; Gia Klasa, St. Charles East, sr., middle distance; Olivia Kunio, Rosary, so., sprints, middle distance; Zoe Littlejohn, West Aurora, sr., sprints; Ava Meidema, St. Charles North, fr., sprints; Savannah Morgan, Cary-Grove, sr., sprints; Essie Newburn, Batavia, sr., sprints; Isa Orozco, Aurora Central Catholic, jr., sprints, middle distance; Jessie Ozzauto, Huntley, jr., sprints; Jessica Phillipp, Kaneland, jr., pole vault; Danielle Pouska, Jacobs, sr., sprints; Brooke Reynolds, Burlington Central, sr., sprints, hurdles; Angelina Romano, Geneva, sr., throws; Naomi Ruff, South Elgin, sr., middle distance, distance; Karolina Ryzka, Hampshire, sr., sprints, jumps; Libby Saloga, Rosary, jr., sprints, pole vault; Skylar Sandoval, Batavia, so., sprints; Sophia Scheider, St. Edward, sr., middle distance; Katrina Schlenker, Batavia, sr., middle distance, distance; Megan Schulhof, Batavia, sr., pole vault; Lianna Surtz, Rosary, sr., sprints, middle distance, distance; Pundit Tetteh, Dundee-Crown, sr., middle distance; Paulina Tinajero, Dundee-Crown. Sr., sprints, jumps; Devon Tomas, West Aurora, sr., distance; Nina Tomko, Burlington Central, jr., sprints, hurdles; Loreal Wilson, South Elgin, sr., sprints; Olivia Yarbrough, Kaneland, sr., sprints, jumps; Annie Zimny, Geneva, so., sprints.

Scouting report: Three years ago, Lianna Surtz and Katrina Schlenker began their track and field careers riding a wave of momentum after qualifying for the Nike national cross country finals following remarkably productive opening seasons in the state postseason series.

Surtz and Schlenker both made seamless transitions to track as freshmen as well; the two Batavia residents will now look for a closing flourish to cap their pandemic-altered high school eligibility.

The girls -- as well as their respective coaches from Rosary and Batavia -- will face difficult choices as the calendar inexorably moves toward the middle of May.

Surtz powered the Royals to their second state trophy in program history last spring during the modified Class 2A one-day state finals by placing fourth in the 3,200- and sixth in the 1,600-meter runs.

The Toledo-bound Surtz then ran an indispensable leg on the Royals' third-place-clinching runner-up 1,600 relay.

"It meant so much," Surtz said of the Royals' achievement last June. "It was our goal the whole season; we knew during (the 2020) cross country season we could get top three."

In the Class 3A finals the next day, Schlenker, bound for Liberty, was sixth in an extraordinarily-fast 1,600 final after narrowly being denied all-state status in the open 800.

The central question for Surtz and Schlenker is their sequencing of events at the sectional and state finals as each athlete has multiple options between 400 and 3,200 meters.

"I would love to win another state championship," said Surtz, who captured the 1,600 run as a freshman. "I would also love to win the 3,200 as I know I can do well in that."

Schlenker is also a viable state contender in the metric 2-mile, but potential state-scoring possibilities in the 3,200 relay, open 800 and metric mile and 1,600 relay also beckon.

"It's not so much of a challenging decision as it's more like a plan to see how the races line up and see how (the regular season) goes," Schlenker said. "Our four-by-eight could be really good. I also could have a really good chance at the (open) 32-hundred, too. Sticking in the present is something I am focusing on."

South Elgin senior Naomi Ruff is another area threat to duplicate her multiple-medal-winning performance from last season.

"It was such an honor to see the hard work pay off," said Ruff, an Arizona State triathlon recruit who was ninth in both the 800 and 1,600 last spring. "I am also hoping the four-by-eight can qualify."

Zoe Littlejohn enters her final season as the unquestioned finest sprinter in Kane County.

West Aurora has been the standard-bearer for girls track in the coverage area with its multitude of individual state champions, covetous team state finishes and county, conference and sectional championships over the last decade-plus.

Littlejohn is the lone returnee from the Blackhawks' fifth-place 800 relay; the senior was also in the hunt for all-state honors in the 100 and 200 dashes last season.

"I want to make it in both spots again this year," Littlejohn said of the two shortest races. "I want to try and beat (graduated teammate) Savannah Ming's times and medal at state. I feel like (the 200) is my race that I can take to college."

Essie Newburn was the breakout athlete for Batavia during indoor season as the sprinter swept three dashes to anchor the Bulldogs' one-sided DuKane Conference championship.

"It's going to be my last year, so I just hope I can push myself, reach for the (school) records and definitely be someone who can compete at state," Newburn said. "We are going to do great things: conference champs, sectional champs. We're doing it all."

In Class 2A, Aurora Central Catholic long sprinter Isa Orozco was sixth in the open 400 while also qualifying in the metric half-mile.

"I definitely want to get top three this year for both the four and the eight," Orozco said.

Among top returnees in the six field events, St. Charles' Natalie Buratczuk and Katie Kempff are poised for memorable final campaigns in the jumps.

Buratczuk was third in the Class 3A high jump for St. Charles North last year; Kempff is the St. Charles East workhorse.

Libby Saloga has only one spot to rise as the Rosary junior was runner-up in the Class 2A pole vault as a foundational member of the Royals' trophy-winning-contingent.

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