CHARLESTON – Elizabeth Chmelik, her sister, Allison, and Jordan Shead stood near the finish line and yelled words of encouragement toward Britney Williams, the final leg of the St. Charles East 4x400-meter relay.
Williams was trying to hold on to a lead with Belleville West's Ni'Jia McNamee coming up behind her in the final race of the day at the Class 3A girls track and field state meet. In a matter of seconds, the feeling of the four Saints went from nervousness to euphoria, with Williams crossing the finish line in 3:50.07, 12 hundreths of a second ahead of the Maroons.
"It hasn't’ really hit me yet," Elizabeth Chmelik said after the race. "This is like the best day of my life. I’I've just kept imagining if this happened. I’m just so relieved. ’I've been so nervous this whole month leading up to state thinking of it.”
East's state title capped a solid weekend that saw the team finish eighth with 25 points. Lincoln-Way East won the 3A title with 79 points.
In the 4x400, Williams grabbed the baton with a solid lead, but felt McNamee coming up on her at the end. Williams wanted to keep her legs from tightening up and get through the finish line.
“I was pretty confident, but you never know. Especially, some of those girls have fresh legs and I was kind of tired," Williams said. "I just tried to hold on. I was just glad they got me that lead.”
Shead and Williams also earned medals in the 400-meter dash, where Shead took fourth at 55.56 and Williams was seventh at 56.77. The Saints' 4x800 relay of Torree Scull, Corrin Adams, Anastasia Honea and Krista Fitzmaurice took eighth at 9:23.63. Allison Chmelik was seventh in the triple jump (37-00.75).
East's 4x100 relay of Kimberly Abels, Monika Stoskute, Jess Glas and Lauren Towne was ninth at 50.10.
All in all, it was a banner day for the Saints.
“I am so proud of my girls. We’ve been working so hard all season," Williams said. "To see it pay off in such a big way, it’s amazing and it just proves hard work pays off.”
Geneva's Kathryn Adelman finished sixth in the 800 with a time of 2:17.94, and was the Vikings' lone medalist.
Kaneland had two medalists in Class 2A – the 4x800 relay of Amanda Lesak, Aislinn Lodwig, Jessica Kucera and Sydney Strang took ninth at 9:40.76, nearly eight seconds ahead of 10th-place Bloomington Central Catholic, while freshman Brianna Bower took seventh in the 3,200 (11:19.33).
“It’s pretty awesome," Kucera said. "Last year we weren’t even close and this year we got it so it’s pretty awesome.”
Other area Class 2A medalists were Burlington Central's Katie Trupp, who took second in the pole vault (12-00) and high jump (5-06). The Rockets' Kayla Wolf was sixth in the 800 (2:15.29), while Aurora Central Catholic freshman Karina Liz was four spots ahead of her in second (2:13.93).
Trupp went over and finished her high jumping right after taking second in the pole vault.
“It was pretty hectic," she said. "But I’ve been doing it all season. I just couldn’t let state be like a mental block for me. It was hectic and I was tired.”
In Class 1A, Aurora Christian took home a trophy, finishing third with 52 points. Mowequa Central A&M won with 60.
The Eagles had seven medalists and four first-place finishers – Peyton Wade, who won both the high jump (5-7) and 100 hurdles (14.86), Taylor Knauf (pole vault, 12-1) and the 4x200 relay of Alyssa Andersen, Meghan Hagerty, Natasha Brown and Wade, which had a time of 1:43.51.
The Eagles' 4x100 relay of Andersen, Hagerty, Teresa Murray and Natasha Brown took second (49.71), while Brown took sixth in the 100 dash with a time of 12.87.