by Tony Jones
2012 State Champion: Lake Villa (Lakes) 9:24.02
Key returning teams: Lakes, Lombard (Montini), Mattoon, Washington, Chatham-Glenwood, Glen Ellyn (Glenbard South).
Outlook: It is not certain if the defending champion can make another run at a title because they lost two legs in Hanna Wittman and Grace Dean to graduation. But they return the key third and anchor legs in twins Brittani and Danielle Griesbaum. The Eagles may be back in business if freshman standout Kortney Schardt is deployed into action. Montini should enjoy another year despite the graduation of Erica Laviste. The Lady Broncos ran a season best 9:32.09 in 2012. Glenbard South could be a team on the rise from the 11th rated spot if freshman star Diane Lipa vacates a chance at an individual medal.
2012 State Champion: Springfield Southeast 47.53
Key returning teams: Springfield Southeast, Melrose Park Walther Lutheran, Champaign Centennial, Carbondale, Freeport, Chicago Brooks, Peoria Manuel, Chicago Morgan Park, E. St. Louis Sr.
Outlook: The record setting Spartans will need to replace the graduated Shawnise Stelivan, but there may be an option. Brion Portis (Sr.) would be the logical choice because she ran the leadoff leg of the top rated 4×2 relay last season. It doesn’t hurt that she happens to be the returning triple jump champion. The Lady Bronchos should be in the running for this spring’s title as all four legs return for Walther Lutheran. Anna Strong and MaShayla Kirksy will lead the way in hopes of a title and another school record (48.01). Champaign Centennial is the third best returning unit based on what they accomplished last year in Charleston. The Chargers hopes of a better standing could be dashed if traditional powers E. St. Louis Sr. and Morgan Park return to normal. For the first time in IHSA history the storied programs will be competing together in a lower division. They also happen to own numerous top marks including the first and second fastest times ever: ESL- 46.25, Morgan Park- 46.28. Still, the team to beat will be Southeast until further notice.
2012 State Champion: Springfield Southeast 1:40.38
Key returning teams: Springfield Southeast, Champaign Centennial, Carbondale, Vernon Hills, Geneseo, Kankakee, Melrose Park Walther Lutheran, E. St. Louis Sr., Chicago Morgan Park.
Outlook: Defending champion Springfield Southeast is going to have some trouble on their hands with E. St. Louis Sr. dropping in from 3A. The Flyerettes ran a chilling 1:39.81 last year. That time would have been good enough to overtake the Spartans with ease. Guess what? ESL will have three key legs returning and the possibility of finding a solid fourth leg from a sprint power is great. Morgan Park did not field a team in the state series for whatever reason. Don’t expect the Mustangs who ruled this event for many years to be dormant. The legendary coach Derrick Calhoun will find a way to get this team back in the limelight. Centennial will have to be content to be in the middle of a land full of speed merchants. The Chargers placed second last year in 1:41.87.
2012 State Champion: Richton Park (Rich South) 3:52.64
Key returning teams: Rich South, Vernon Hills, Melrose Park (Walther Lutheran), Champaign (Centennial), Plano, Mahomet-Seymour, Glen Ellyn (Glenbard South), Galesburg, Dunlap.
Outlook: This may be the first time in IHSA history that a complete cast of runners return. All nine finalist teams return at least three-fourths of their units. And we haven’t even discussed E. St. Louis Sr. and Morgan Park yet. The two superpowers shall emerge as party crashers. The Flyerettes ran 3:52.12 to win their 3A prelim last year. Three of those legs are back including the super 300m hurdler Markita Rush (Sr.)… well, Morgan Park did run sub-4:00 prior to the state series. But let’s give respect to two-time defending champion Rich South led by twins Cierra and DeAsia Garrett. They love this event and will not let anyone come in and take their top dog status away- especially newcomers on the block.