The quality of the state championship is going to be interesting on many fronts this season with major team and individual implications on the line. As it is frequently mentioned, team championships are often won in the field. Springfield Southeast is the three-time defending champion. The Lady Spartans gave the newcomer Melrose Park Walther Lutheran a whipping 63-46. Walther Lutheran, up from Class A last season, now has the seasoning and returning athletes to compete against Southeast.
Let’s take a look at each event in detail:
2012 State Champion: MaShayla Kirksy (Sr., Melrose Park Walther Lutheran) 19-3 [+1.3]
Key returners: Kirksy, Krysten Crites (Sr., Marion), Lexy Duncan (Jr., Dixon), Mackenzie McClintock (So., Chatham-Glenwood), Brion Portis (Sr., Springfield Southeast), Allison Tran (Sr., Vernon Hills), Isimene Edeko (Sr., Melrose Park Walther Lutheran), Sarah Goodale (Sr., Carbondale), Ladaisha Steen-Yates (Jr.) Peoria.
Outlook: Kirksy moved up from the Class A ranks just in time last year to win the first a title in four years since the legendary Alexandria Harden (Springfield Southeast) graduated. Now, there will be a large field returning- eight to be precise- gunning to take out the defending champion. It would be almost inconceivable to believe that anyone could beat Kirsky since she has been a consistent 18-8+ jumper. Crites and Steen-Yates are the only other athletes that have jumped above 18-0 in prime time situations. Steen-Yates didn’t make the final last year. Portis hails from the storied Southeast program that has produced so many great leapers. With another state title on the line, don’t expect anything less than great performances at the end of the season.
2012 State Champion: Sarah Bell (Sr., Bloomington Central Catholic) 12-0
Key returners: Bell, Hannah Swift (So., Canton), Kristin Hammel (Sr., Champaign Central), Lindsey Murray (Jr., Harrisburg), Jessica Melchi (Sr., Mahomet-Seymour).
Outlook: Sarah Bell is the real deal. She is one of the most diverse athletes in the state male or female. She can sprint, she can play golf and she can… vault. The multi-talented phenom was co-US#1 13-0.25 during the indoor season that led to an unofficial state title. The outdoor season was just as fruitful with a US#2 13-3.5 that yielded IHSA state and USATF Junior Olympic game titles. So it would be easy to say that anything but being the nation’s best vaulter this season would be disappointing right? But there is no pressure right? Watch for possibly the next great vaulter in Swift from nearby Canton. She nearly eclipsed the 12-0 mark last season as a freshman. After her the field will be clear of fresh challengers.
2012 State Champion: Haleigh Knapp (Jr., Morris) 5-7
Key returners: Knapp, Molly McGraw (Jr., Bloomington Central Catholic), Danielle Griesbaum (So., Lake Villa Lakes), Danielle Neisendorf (Sr., Genoa-Kingston), Abi Sowash (Sr., Troy Triad), Addison Ely (So., Bloomington Central Catholic), Sarah Goodale (Sr., Carbondale).
Outlook: Knapp enjoyed a great state meet in ’12 that produced an unlikely champion after only leaping 5-4 at sectionals. She was able to bulk up and defeat one favorite McGraw who faded to 5th. These two will duel again down the road at the Top Times Indoor Championships and hopefully in the state rematch. The multi-talented Griesbaum will throw her hat in the ring as well. The overall field is evenly matched with seven finalists returning.
2012 State Champion: Lena Giger (Jr., Highland) 43-5
Key returners: Giger, Gabi Jacobs (Jr., Normal University), Claire Nolan (Sr., Taylorville), Bryn Buckwalter (Sr., Freeport), Lashonda Brewer (Jr., Cahokia), Abby Lealaimatafao (Jr., Freeburg), Christina Meinhardt (So., Wauconda), Abby Horn (Sr., Herrin), Monica Voudrie (So., Peoria Notre Dame).
Outlook: This event has been very lean for the middle classification ranks since the days of Dani Bunch (Mahomet-Seymour). Don’t look for matters to improve much competition-wise for Giger. She should motor on as the best of the lot and shoot to hit above 45-feet this season and cop another state title. Jacobs and Nolan will be there as quality opponents too. Discus champion Buckwalter placed sixth at state and will look to move up the charts.
2012 State Champion: Brion Portis (Sr., Springfield Southeast) 39-2.5 [NWI]
Key returners: Portis, MaShayla Kirksy (Sr., Melrose Park Walther Lutheran), Isimeme Edeko (Sr., Melrose Park Walther Lutheran), Kayla Kitt (Sr., Peoria Manual), Shaneice Bufford (Sr., Carbondale), Claire Buck (So., Troy Triad), Roxanne Kelly (Sr., Richmond-Burton).
Outlook: It was a little unfortunate that the wind gauges weren’t co-operating enough to produce an official national ranking for Portis. But the odds were she was more than happy to walk out of O’Brien Field with a gold medal last May. The state runner-up Mackenzie Bollinger (Sr. Aurora Christian) moves down to Class A setting the stage for a Portis-Kirsky battle. Both young ladies will be scraping for major team points in their schools quest for a state title.
2012 State Champion: Lindsay Herra (Sr., Rockford Boylan) 135-1
Key returners: Herra, Bryn Buckwalter (Sr., Freeport), Gabi Jacobs (Jr., Normal University), Lena Giger (Jr., Highland), Samantha Howard (Sr., Glen Ellyn Glenbard South), Shaniera Wilson (Jr., Springfield Southeast), Morgan Young (Sr., Mahomet-Seymour).
Outlook: The state’s top two throwers Herra and Buckwalter are intense foes. They compete against one another in the NIC-10 Conference during the regular season. They also battled in the same Huntley Sectional where Herra took top honors. But it was at state prelims held on Friday where the pressure hit the hardest for the hurlers. Herra fouled on her first two throws before unleashing a lifetime best throw that toppled Buckwalter and eventual third placer Jacobs. There were no improvements in the final and the rest is history. All three standouts will be back to duel again and it will interesting to see how things shape out during the spring.