Girls Track: Aurora-area teams gear up for sectionalsWaubonsie Valley's Morolake Akinosun powers through a curve in a 200-meter dash preliminary of the Valley Invitational Saturday at Metea Valley in Aurora. Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 9, 2012 7:25PM
Better safe than sorry.
That’s how Waubonsie Valley girls track coach Dave Gowing played it last week with his star sprinter Morolake Akinosun at the Upstate Eight Valley Conference Meet. After qualifying for the finals in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, the University of Illinois recruit anchored the Warriors’ winning 400-meter relay.
“But after that race, she didn’t feel right,” said Gowing, knowing full well that his powerful senior sprinter has had problems in the past with hamstring injuries.
Knowing his team wasn’t likely to challenge for the team championship at conference and that sectional and state were looming this week and next, Gowing had Akinosun scratch from the finals of her two sprint specialties.
“(Hamstrings) can always be nagging things,” Gowing said. “I was just playing it safe so she could be ready for the big tamale.”
That quest for the state meet begins Thursday for athletes from Waubonsie Valley and five other area Class 3A schools at the 16-team Joliet West Sectional that begins at 4:30 p.m. with field event preliminaries, followed at 5 p.m. by the running prelims.
It’s one of eight sectionals in which area teams will be competing on Thursday or Friday.
West Aurora coach Teresa Towles used a different approach at the DuPage Valley Conference Meet with her top sprinter, junior Anita Saffa.
Pedal to the metal, or words to that effect, were the instructions Towles gave Saffa. She was going head-to-head with Naperville North sophomore standout Alexis Hyshaw, who had had the West standout’s number this season.
Saffa edged Hyshaw to win both the 100 and 200. Saffa was second and Hyshaw fifth in the 400.
Saffa was surprised by the win in the 100 because Hyshaw “has such a fast start. (Coaches) said my start tonight was just as good.”
“That was big,” Towles said after Saffa won the 100. “You can not be afraid to compete. (Saffa) truly doesn’t know how good she can be.”
She may be on the road to finding out.
Strength in the sprints
Gowing thinks the Joliet West Sectional will have an exceptionally strong field of sprinters.
“I think one through five in both the 100 and 200 could be in the top nine (medalists) at state,” he said. “The qualifying mark in the 100 is 12.5. I bet all eight finalists in the 100 (at sectional) make it to state and they could in the 200, too.”
Saffa also anchors the Blackhawks’ 400-meter relay that features juniors Monique Dunum and Tykia Neal as well as senior Cynthia Smith. They beat the state qualifying mark of 49.44 with their winning time of 49.15 seconds.
“That’s probably the best four-by-one we’ve run all season, we’ve been struggling,” said Smith, happy to finally run in a meet without having to wear Under Armor to keep warm. “First meet in a whole year we haven’t had to wear those .”
Saffa thinks the time can get better.
“The handoffs can improve,” she said. “I left too soon.”
Waubonsie Valley is also strong in the event, with a team that includes juniors Deirae Ellis and Tinamarie Fratantion, sophomore Alyssa Post and Akinosun as the anchor.