Girls track and field: Local powers flex muscles at state prelims
CHARLESTON - Katrina Schlenker and the Batavia sprint relays have been the heart and soul of the Bulldogs' impeccable track and field team this spring.
Friday at the first Class 3A state preliminaries in three years, virtually nothing changed in that regard.
Schlenker, the LIberty-bound senior, not only won her heat with the fastest 1,600-meter time among the 12 finalists but also anchored the Bulldogs' metric-mile-relay to another heat-winning triumph.
Fellow Batavia senior Essie Newburn will also compete in three events on the final day of the season on Saturday as the Bulldogs' top sprinter - with sophomore Izzy Taylor as an able wingman - powered two other sprint relays to the sixth- and eighth-fastest times at 400 and 800 meters.
Schlenker was intent on leaving no doubts for her final Saturday as a track athlete as she will begin her day as a leading contender in the 3,200 run.
"I did want to win the (open 1,600)," said Schlenker, who guaranteed her spot in the finals with her triumph in 5 minutes, .48 seconds. "I knew the second heat was stacked. I didn't want to give up anything to chance."
In addition to the meet-ending 1,600 relay, Newburn and Taylor will be joined by Mariah Wilson in the former and Maddie Wilson and Skylar Sandoval in both the 400 and 800 relays.
"(Batavia coach Justin Allison) said that at the beginning of the year," Newburn said of qualifying in all three sprint relays. "I didn't believe him. I had to make it a reality."
The Bulldogs' Megan Schulhof and Meagann Hartmann extended their seasons in the pole vault and high jump with their respective clearances of 10 feet, 9 inches and 5-3.
But Huntley is in a prime position to make program history behind the indomitable Johnson sisters.
Alex Johnson, the Raiders' defending champion in the long jump, not only uncorked the best effort of the day at 19-7 to take a four-inch lead over Naperville North senior Denise Hernandez; the junior is also the first-day leader in the triple jump at 40-5.
Dominique Johnson, her freshman sibling, stands in second in the event at 39-10.5. Alex Johnson also qualified in both the 100 dash and 400 relay.
"I think we need to score between 40 and 45 points to be in position for a trophy," Huntley coach Jason Monson said. "We have the luxury of monitoring the triple and maybe saving legs in the sprint relays."
In a first, the Raiders have initial state-finalist relays in their history as the 800 quartet also made the Friday cut.
There will undoubtedly be a keen sense of ambivalence for South Elgin senior Naomi Ruff.
For a second straight year, Ruff, who posted the third-quickest 800 time (2:17.39), will join Schlenker in the open 1,600.
Ruff will pursue a triathlon career at Arizona State in the fall.
"I wanted to take it out with the lead girls and hold onto my spot," Ruff said of her 800 run. "(The metric mile) was a tough race with heat and everything. It will definitely be sad to take the spikes off for the final time (on Saturday)."
In Class 2A, Paige Greenhagel (high jump, long jump, 800 relay) and Isa Orozco (400, 800) qualified in five total events for Burlington Central and Aurora Central Catholic.