Girls Track: Lincoln-Way East’s Aaliyah Brown getting up to speedTF South's Valerie White gets 28' 7'' on the triple jump, at Thursday's track and field meet, hosted at Homewood-Flossmoor. | Paul Bergstrom ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 10, 2012 11:04PM
Few athletes have entered sectionals as a bigger wild card than Lincoln-Way East speedster Aaliyah Brown.
The reigning state sprint champion in the 100 and 200 meters, Brown was unavailable for a portion of the season because of a hamstring injury, missing most of the SouthWest Suburban Conference as a pre-emptive measure and making her participation at Thursday’s Class 3A Homewood-Flossmoor Sectional uncertain.
But Thursday night, Brown showed she had plenty of answers.
“I’ve been training, training, training,” Brown said. “Missing those meets is just for my benefit; a precaution.”
Brown ran the 100 in a sizzling 11.72 seconds, beating Crete-Monee’s Taylor Whittler (12.15) and H-F’s Shayna Nwokenkwo (12.32) and Taylor Farley (12.33). All four ran fast enough to ensure their spot at state.
“I love the competition (here). I do track and field because I’m a competitor,” Brown said. “I’m looking forward to defending my state titles in the 100 and 200, hopefully setting the meet record in both.”
Brown also won the 200 (24.89), helping Lincoln-Way East win the sectional title with 86 points over runner-up H-F (64).
Seventh place at state a year ago, Thornton’s Ladonna Caston navigated a rugged 100-meter hurdles field to capture top honors with a time of 14.21.
“I’m faster and feel more prepared as a senior,” Caston said. “I think I have the right mind-set to win it this year; I want to go out with a bang.”
H-F’s Jayla Stewart finished third in the event, qualifying with a time of 14.73.
Four teams qualified in the 400 relay, with H-F (47.14 seconds) surviving late push from Brown and Lincoln-Way East (47.28) for first place. Thornton (48.65) beat out Danville (48.77) for third place.
Rich Central’s Aliyah Harmon, a state placer in the long jump a season ago, proved she’ll again be a force to be reckoned with at the state meet. Harmon jumped 18 feet, 81/4 inches for top honors, besting the second-place finisher by nearly a foot. She also finished second in the triple jump (38-73/4).
“Every meet I’ve gotten better,” Harmon said. “I’ve been weightlifting, eating right, and really working on my form and technique. My goal for state is to go over 19 feet.”
Lincoln-Way East freshman Julia Junkroski was a dual-event champion in the field. Junkroski hit 5-2 in the high jump to win a tiebreaker over Lincoln-Way Central’s Bri Tomnitz (5-2). Junkroski then posted a 10-6 for top honors in the pole vault.