AURORA – Allison Chmelik grinned and gritted her teeth Thursday night as the IHSA Class 3A Metea Valley Sectional concluded.
While celebrating with her St. Charles East girls track and field teammates provided warmth amid a chilly night, so, too, did the reason behind the Saints' shouting.
Chmelik will be among the busiest East athletes next weekend when the program descends on the state meet at Eastern Illinois' O'Brien Stadium in Charleston. Her qualifying efforts in the triple jump and as part of the 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 meter relays helped the Saints to a second-place finish among teams, 13 points behind West Aurora.
"Doing four events is sometimes a lot, but it's a lot of fun and I was feeling good," Chmelik said.
Chmelik collaborated with her twin sister, Elizabeth, as well as Casey McNichols and anchor Jordan Shead to close the night with a winning run of 3:57.85 in the 4x400.
The Saints return three members of last year's state champion quartet and qualified each of the four relays overall.
A few weeks ago, the team was scuffling to get a full lineup back from illness and injury. These days, the program is all but firing at full strength. Right on time.
"Yeah, I'd say everyone's coming back strong," said Shead, a Notre Dame-bound senior. "So we definitely were ready to go today. … The team atmosphere, we were just all really excited to be here and really ready to go."
Some freshmen enjoyed success on par with their veteran counterparts. Geneva's Kristin Higgins won the high jump by clearing a personal best 5 feet, 3 inches.
Batavia's Hannah Schlaman earned a sprint sweep, winning the 100 (12.73) and 200 (25.82)
"Honestly, this is just an amazing win," Schlaman said. "I'm proud of myself. Proud of my teammates, and I'm very lucky for today."
St. Charles North senior Ashley England qualified for the 3,200 for the second successive season after taking up track as a junior.
She lay resting on the Metea Valley artificial turf shortly after crossing the finish line in a runner-up 11:08.54, and later said she would rather recover in cooler temperatures than the traditional mugginess of Charleston in late May.
"I like running in this weather, personally. I like the rain. I like cross country more than I like track, truthfully, so those elements of nature, I guess, they really don't bother me," England said. "So I like running in that better than heat, definitely."
A cross country and track recruit at Illinois State, England is anticipating another enjoyable state trip with a North contingent that includes jumper Hannah Schilb and pole vault champion Jessica Grill.
The roster was streamlined for the county meet and state series, and here comes one last round.
"We're really close with everyone, but the varsity team just over these past three weeks, we've gotten really close because our team has shrunk from a bunch of kids down to 20," England said. "So it gave us a lot of time to be together."
Running it back – as in repeating a state berth – was a theme in several other places, including for Batavia's 4x800 relay. Jenny Muehlbauer, Dakota Roman and Alicia Grant helped the quartet downstate in 2013.
On Thursday, Hannah Ullberg stepped in for Miranda Rea (health issue), but the Bulldogs still arrived at the same destination.
"Hannah did amazing filling the spot," Grant said.
Geneva, which will join Batavia and East in the event, fulfilled one of its objectives by returning the 4x800 downstate after a recent hiatus.
McKenzie Altmayer, Kathryn Adelman, Mary Grace Neville and Brooke Nusser comprised the Geneva quartet.
"It's been fun to kind of get that focus back on the 4x800," Vikings coach Peter Raak said. "It was a goal this year to get them downstate with some individuals, too."
AREA STATE QUALIFIERS
St. Charles East (Torree Scull, Anastasia Honea, Krista Fitzmaurice, Corrin Adams), 9:26.23
Batavia (Jenny Muehlbauer, Hannah Ullberg, Dakota Roman, Alicia Grant), 9:28.60
Geneva (McKenzie Altmayer, Kathryn Adelman, Mary Grace Neville, Brooke Nusser), 9:30.00
St. Charles East (Kim Abels, Jordan Shead, Allison Chmelik, Elizabeth Chmelik), 49.15
Batavia (Taylor Stieve, Hannah Schlaman, Catie Ross, Audrey Jonke), 49.79
Ashley England, St. Charles North, 11:08.54
1st Hannah Schlaman, Batavia, 12.73
Kathryn Adelman, Geneva 2:18.21
St. Charles East (Kim Abels, Keeley Flanigan, Elizabeth Chmelik, Allison Chmelik), 1:45.66
Jordan Shead, St. Charles East, 56.75
Foster Ignoffo, Geneva, 57.83
Taylor Stieve, Batavia, 46.60
Torree Scull, St. Charles East, 5:08.38
Hannah Schlaman, Batavia, 25.82
Jessica Grill, St. Charles North, 10-0
Hannah Schilb, St. Charles North, 17-7.75
Kristin Higgins, Geneva, 5-3
Allison Chmelik, St. Charles East, 36-2
Hannah Schilb, St. Charles North, 36-1
St. Charles East (Casey McNichols, Allison Chmelik, Elizabeth Chmelik, Jordan Shead), 3:57.85
Geneva (Kathryn Adelman, Bella Medina, Janie McCloughan, Foster Ignoffo), 4:00.96