CHARLESTON – Jordan Shead twice found a way to bring the Saints home during the final lap of relays in Saturday's IHSA Class 3A State Track and Field Meet.
The senior first helped her St. Charles East teammates win the 4x800 when she caught a runner from Loyola Academy on the back stretch of her second lap. She then pulled away and then kicked it in on the final curve to hand the Saints the Class 3A state title.
“I haven't run that many 800 meters,” Shead said. “I kept thinking that this championship isn't just for me, it's for everyone, and I can't let everyone down.”
She replicated this performance in the 4x400, the final event of the day, when she used her long strides to catch a runner from Lincoln-Way East on the same backstretch before accelerating a few steps ahead on the final straightway to enable East to defend its state title by clocking in at 3:49.33.
Shead was among several local state champions in Saturday's meet held at Eastern Illinois University's O'Brien Stadium.
Aurora Central Catholic's Karina Liz set a state record in winning the 800 in Class 2A, sprinting the final 150 yards to a time of 2:10.73 seconds. Liz extended her lead on the final lap's backstretch, creating a 10-yard lead.
“Everyone started out really fast,” Liz said. “I wanted to lead from the beginning, but I didn't want to cut my energy.”
Liz, undefeated in the 800 this season, wanted to break 2:10 but she says she hit a mark that was good enough for her.
“When I turned around and looked at my time, I was so excited I started jumping around – as much as I could jump,” Liz said. “It's a good feeling because I've wanted to win state since I was in eighth grade.”
Aurora Christian captured the Class 1A team title with 49 points behind first-place finishes from Natasha Brown, who ran 25.37 in the 200, and second-places finished from Peyton Wade in both the long jump (18 feet, 2.5 inches) and high jump (5-7) and from its 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams of Alyssa Andersen, Meghan Hagerty, Hope Montalbano and Natasha Brown, which clocked in at 49.47, and 1:43.29, respectively.
St. Charles East finished third overall in Class 3A with 38 points, one point behind West Aurora, while Kaneland took 11th overall in Class 2A with 21 points.
But one of the biggest surprises was East's victory in the 4x800. East had led for much of the race after Anastasia Honea took an early lead of about 30 yards during the second leg. Torree Scull kept the Saints near the front before passing to Honea, who handed off the lead to Corrin Adams, who battled to remain near the front before Shead took over to bring the team home in 9:08.03.
“I tried to run my first lap conservatively,” Honea said. “I just tried to stick with the person in front of me.”
In the 4x400, Allison Chmelik took the baton for the second lap, padding the lead given by her twin sister, Elizabeth. By the time she handed off to Casey McNichols, East led by about 20 yards. When Shead started her final lap, the Saints trailed by about five yards.
“I knew that I was in second and I had a little work to do, but I knew I could rely on my kick,” Shead said.
The lead runner for the relay, Elizabeth Chmelik, says that watching her teammates was unnerving.
“It was really terrifying to watch, but the girls ran so well,” she said. “It feels so amazing and I am relieved. I'm going to have a lot of motivation for next year.”
East coach Tim Wolf said that putting Shead as the anchor for the 4x800 was a strategic move.
“We turned some heads this morning with the win in the 4x800,” said Wolf. “You could tell people looking at us. I'm speechless. People stepped up today above and beyond. We knew what was at stake and that we had to win the 4x400 to solidify a trophy.”
Several other East athletes placed in the top six. Shead placed fourth in the 400 in 56.53, as did Scull in the 1,600 in 5:01.6, while Allison Chmelik took fifth in the triple jump in 36 feet, 9.5 inches. The 4x100 team of Kim Abels, McNichols, Keely Flanigan and Elizabeth Chmelik took ninth in 49.83.
Kaneland's Nicole Sreenan took third in the Class 2A 400 by finishing strong to clock 56.34, and she took eighth in the 100 in 12.5 seconds. Teammates Olivia Galor, Sreenan, Sydney Strang, and Allie Heinzer placed seventh in the 4x400 with 4:01.60, while the 4x200 relay of Galor, Becca Richtman, Heinzer and Carly Elliott finished eighth in 1:45.25.
Elliott, Heinzer, Sreenan and Lauren Zick placed sixth in the 4x100 in 49.03.
Among other local athletes, Rosary's Sarah Nyaeme went 36 feet in the triple jump for fifth in Class 2A, and the 4x400 relay of Emily Bakala, Molly Stefanski, Shea Vero and Abby Hammer took seventh in 4:01.80.
Geneva's Foster Ignoffo placed sixth in the 400 in Class 3A with a time of 57.41.