CHARLESTON, Ill. — West Aurora’s Emma Spagnola and Metea Valley’s Courtney Morgan and Holly Julifs keep raising the bar.
All three were at it again Friday at Eastern Illinois University, turning in chart-topping performances during the prelims of the Class 3A Girls State Track Meet.
Senior standout Spagnola helped put the Blackhawks in position to contend for a top three finish and team trophy by posting the best qualifying times in both the 100 high hurdles (13.90 seconds) and 300 low hurdles (42.95 seconds).
Morgan, who is just a freshman, improved her personal record in the shot put by 14-and-a-half inches with a throw of 45-3.5 to top all qualifiers for Saturday’s finals. Friday’s distances carry over to the finals.
Julifs, the ninth ranked qualifier in the shot put, then posted the top throw in discus with a heave of 144-6 on her final throw. It allowed her to surpass Morgan, who had been first at 139-1.
“It will feel even better if they’re still ranked that way after tomorrow,” Mustangs coach Jim Braun said. “But that’s a great day.”
Spagnola’s was even better. It started with the third best long jump (18-6.5), which trails Minooka’s Janile Rogers (18-9) and Neuqua Valley’s Maya Neal (18-7).
“My first two jumps were in the 17s,” Spagnola said. “I just wanted to get to finals.”
She’s been knocking on the door for the state title in the high hurdles race the past two years, finishing second both times, by .08 of a second as a sophomore and .04 of a second last year when nobody finished under 14 seconds.
Friday’s prelim was her second time this season breaking the 14-second barrier.
“I hit two hurdles, too, so I can run it better,” she said. “A 13.70 is do-able.”
Spagnola then joined Elise Zinn, Kyla Walton and Tamia Rayford, anchoring the 1,600 relay to an event-best 3:50.06. Spagnola caught Lincoln-Way East anchor Asia Brown with 40 meters left in her lap around the track and the Blackhawks cut 10.34 seconds from their sectional time.
Lincoln-Way East remains the favorite to capture the team title with 10 qualifiers in the Saturday’s finals (3 relays, 7 individuals), but West has six qualifiers (5 individual, 1 relay) to tie for second with Edwardsville, Prospect and St. Charles East.
The other West qualifiers are senior Maya Marion (6th in the shot put) and freshman Rayford (8th in the 400). Rayford, seeded 14th based on sectional times, improved by 1.52 seconds to finish in 57.78.
Sophomore Foster Ignoffo, Geneva’s lone finals qualifier, ranks sixth in that 400 with a time of 57.71.
Also advancing in 3A from the area were Yorkville’s Rachel Augius (high jump) and Skyler Bollinger (1,600) and Waubonsie Valley’s Allison Wilson (800) and the Warriors’ 800 relay team of Tatiana Moore, Alyssa Post, Dana Dwyer and Brion Hughes.
Biggest surprise and disappointment Friday was Yorkville’s 3,200 relay team coming up short of qualifying for the finals after finishing in 9:28.84, well behind the Foxes’ third-ranked sectional time of 9:22.19.
“We didn’t have a very good day,” said Bollinger.
It marks the first time since 2009 Yorkville’s 3,200 relay will not bring home a medal. The Foxes took first, second and first from 2009-2011 in Class 2A and seventh and third each of the past two years.