CHARLESTON, Ill. • After finishing fourth in the Southwestern Conference and third in the Class 3A sectional, the Edwardsville girls track team captured the school's first state team championship Saturday afternoon in the 40th annual Illinois High School Association state track and field championship at O'Brien Stadium at Eastern Illinois University.
The Tigers totaled 51 points, while Belleville West was second with 48½ and Evanston ended third (47). Defending champion East St. Louis wound up sixth (27), and Belleville East finished in a three-way tie (22) with Plainfield North and Bolingbrook.
“We've really worked hard this season, and it feels really good that we accomplished something,” said 300-meter low hurdler Lauren White, who finished sixth on Saturday. “Everybody came together and as a team we stuck together. Everybody believed that we could do it.”
Edwardsville was able to bring home the top trophy thanks to Emmonnie Henderson's double win in the shot put and discus and the unexpected fourth-place finish by high jumper Deborrah Blackburn.
In the morning, Henderson had a shot heave of 48 feet, 2½ inches, making her a three-time state champion. Her 157-11 toss of the discus on Friday during the preliminaries stood up, making her a two-time titleist.
“It feels good to be in first and bring 10 points for my team,” Henderson said of her shot put win. “Winning it means a whole lot to Edwardsville. That's really what we've been trying to get for Edwardsville.”
Clearing 5-6 in the high jump put Blackburn in fourth, gaining six points for the Tigers and causing the team to celebrate wildly.
“I was pretty much the last one left,” Blackburn said. “So it was kind of on me and how many points I had and our team got. There was a lot of pressure jumping. After I cleared 5-6, I was so excited, and I tried to calm down.”
First-year Edwardsville coach Mikayla Tompkins, whose team had eight individual entries for Saturday's finals, said winning “means everything. I'm in disbelief. I am the proudest I could ever be. The girls were confident, and they said they would take care of it. I am so proud of them.”
In addition to Henderson's two firsts and Blackburn's fouth, Aaliyah Covington was fourth in the shot (42-6¼) and sixth in the discus (124-1), Kristen Dowell ended sixth in the 100-meter high hurdles (14.63 seconds) and Dowell (42.77) and White were third and sixth, respectively, in the 300 lows.
“We came together as a team (Friday), and we decided we were going to be silent but deadly,” Tompkins said. “That was our theme. You didn't see much action on the track but in the hurdles. Not everybody is watching the field (events), and here they come silent but deadly.”
Belleville West won its second trophy in four years — the Maroons won the state title in 2009 — thanks to a first-place finish by the 1,600 relay team of Jasmine Berry, Tatyana Lewis, Camelia Nicholson and Jessica Oranika, who ran 3:50.67 to beat Lincoln-Way East (3:52.45) and Evanston (3:53.22).
“Gosh darn, everybody who wins a trophy has to be happy,” West coach Paul James said. “We knew our back was against the wall coming out of the prelims (the Maroons had a meet-most nine entries in eight events for Saturday's finals). We said if everybody can step up and have a good day, then we have a chance. In a meet like this every little point counts.”
“I think everyone is a little mad that we didn't get first," said Maroon senior Sam Voegtle, who was fifth in the shot (41-10). "But after the girls think about it, second place is still really good. They'll be happy with second place.”