Aaliyah Brown, Lincoln-Way East capture Class 3A team crown

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CHARLESTON, Ill. — Aaliyah Brown had been on the award stand five times in the past three years as a state track champion.

Saturday afternoon at Eastern Illinois, the elite sprinter was joined on the podium by all of her Lincoln-Way East teammates after the talent-rich Griffins rolled up 79 points to win the Class 3A state title at O’Brien Field.

Defending 3A champion Edwardsville had to settle for second place with 68.5 points, followed by Glenbard West (31) and a fourth-place tie between Homewood-Flossmoor and West Aurora (30).

“My day was very successful,’’ a winded Brown said shortly after she won the 200-meter dash, the final race of her high school career.

“Four-by-100 [relay], we did our thing, got those 10 points. Four-by-200, broke the record. I was so, so happy my team got that record. … I was so proud of my girls.’’

Brown won the 100 and 200 dashes in 11.42 seconds and 24.03, respectively. Teammate Alexis Hyshaw was second in the 100 (11.86) and fifth in the 200 (24.99).

“We all put our sweat, our hard work and our tears into this and we accomplished it,’’ Hyshaw said. “We can finally say, ‘State champions.’ ’’

Hyshaw, a junior, transferred from Naperville North after her sophomore year.

“It was a great move,’’ she said. “I’m happy I got down here to be with these girls.’’

Those girls included sophomore Julia Junkroski, who contributed valuable points with a third-place showing in the pole vault (12 feet) and fifth place in the high jump (5-5).

“I did excellent in high jump, I thought,’’ Junkroski said. “It’s the best I’ve jumped in a long time. And pole vault is an outdoor P.R., so I’m pretty excited about how I did.’’

East’s other winners were the 400 relay of Hyshaw, Brown’s sister, Asia, Alexis Pierre-Antoine and Aaliyah Bown (46.48) and the 800 relay of Hyshaw, Asia Brown, Pierre-Antoine and Aaliyah Brown (1:36.86, meet record).

Pierre-Antoine contributed five more points with a fifth-place finish in the 100 hurdles (14.66).

Alyssa Vogt placed eighth in the 800 and the Griffins’ 1,600 relay of Dana O’Grady, Sydney Barrera, Meghan Marias and Asia Brown finished third (3:50.86) in the final event of the meet.

It was a special month for East coach Caroline Gerritsen, who also gave birth to her first child.

“This has been the best May of my life,’’ she said. “It started May 1st with the baby and I’m ending it with a state championship. And we had a conference championship and sectional championship in between. It’s been awesome.’’

As he waited for the team trophy presentation on the track, East athletic director Mark VanderKooi had the right description of Aaliyah Brown:

“She’s our superstar.’’

“I’m just happy I’ve been able to stay healthy and be strong for winning all these titles,’’ the Texas A & M-bound Brown said. “That’s crazy.’’

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