The Lincoln-Way East girls track team revels in their second consecutive state title. | Brian O’Mahoneyfor Sun-Times Media
CHARLESTON, Ill. — Saturday was a day for coming back for Meghan Marias and Madeline Perez.
Completely healthy for the first time since her freshman season, Marias ended her prep career in memorable fashion in the Class 3A state finals at O’Brien Stadium. So did Perez, who spent much of her senior year on the sidelines before coming back to earn one more distance win.
Marias won the 100 meters and ran on two first-place relays as Lincoln-Way East successfully defended its title in dominant fashion with 72 points. Emma Spagnola swept the hurdles to lead West Aurora (39) to a runner-up finish and its first state trophy, while St. Charles East (38) took third.
Marias ran on a relay that won a state medal as a freshman, but missed her entire sophomore season recovering from back surgery. Another injury limited her to relay duty again last spring, but this year was different.
“One year ago, I never thought I’d be here right now,” said Marias, who’s headed to Michigan. “But I decided to myself six to eight months ago, ‘I’m just going to go for it. I’m going to work as hard as I can in the winter to get recruited.’”
Her college future secured, she could relax and enjoy what has been a memorable ride. It included a win in the 100 — “my favorite event” — in 11.87 seconds and legs on the 400 relay (with Asia Brown, Ololade Ayoola and Alexis Hyshaw) and 800 relay (with Alexis Pierre-Antoine, Brown and Sydney Barrera). The former set a meet record of 46.04 and the second ran 1:39.71. Marias also was fifth in the 200.
Hyshaw (second in the 100, fourth in the 200) and Julia Junkroski (second in the pole vault, eighth in the high jump) were also double medalists for the Griffins.
“Everyone has basically done what they were expected to do, under pressure,” Marias said. “There was a lot of pressure, [from] last year being state champs.”
Perez can relate to that, having won a state cross country title and the 1,600 and 3,200 in track as a junior. This school year, she has barely a handful of races because of injuries.
“This senior year definitely hasn’t gone as I’d hoped,” she said. “Unfortunately with this sport, injuries come up and I guess I learned that. It wasn’t fun, but I think in the long run it taught me a lot about myself.”
Perez, who will run at Georgetown next season, won the 3,200 in 10:34.60 and was ninth in a closely bunched 1.600 field that had the top six runners finish in a span of 1.77 seconds. “It was a good day,” Perez said. “Bittersweet, but overall I’m happy.”
So too was Spagnola, who won the 100 hurdles in 14.10 and the 300 hurdles in 42.45. She also was third in the long jump (18-9) and anchored West Aurora to third place in the 1,600 relay.
In the 100s, Spagnola edged Homewood-Flossmoor’s Jayla Stewart, who ended her winning streak in the event earlier this spring. “I wanted her to push me,” Spagnola said. “I wanted to run a good time, which didn’t really happen. But I won.”
Also among the individual 3A winners were Evanston’s Parker English (200 and 400), Minooka’s Janile Rogers (long jump), Jacobs’ Lauren Van Vlierbergen (800), Lyons’ Emma Haugen (high jump), Metea Valley freshman Courtney Morgan (shot put), Prospect’s Erin Reese (discus) and Hinsdale Central’s Anne Zaher in the 1,600. Jordan Shead anchored St. Charles East to victory in both the 1,600 and 3,200 relays.