CHARLESTON – Even though she was a two-time defending state champion in the high jump, Haleigh Knapp was still nervous about her chances heading into Saturday’s IHSA Class 2A girls track and field finals at Eastern Illinois University.
That’s because the Morris senior realized that she was up against a quality field in the event. But after matching last year’s title effort, Knapp went 5-feet-8 inches to assure herself of a third trip to the top of the awards stand, prevailing by an inch over Bloomington’s Molly McGraw.
She joins Adrianne Leschewski (1998-2000, shot put) as the only three-time champions in the same event for their program. In addition, Knapp became just the fifth athlete statewide to win three or more titles in the high jump.
“This year feels the most exciting because the competition was so good,” Knapp said. “I knew that I had to do what I had to do to win, but I was so nervous and I had absolutely no clue about what the outcome would be. At first, I was really nervous and I kind of let that take over, but I pulled through and did it. I really couldn’t have asked for a better day.”
Minooka’s Janile Rogers capped her career by winning the title in the Class 3A long jump (18-10.75), beating Lake’s Brittany Griesbaum by an inch and a quarter, to join Manette Cheshareck (discus, 1987) as that program’s only state champions. She also placed fourth in the 100 (12.01) and ran on the fifth-place 4x400 and sixth-place 4x200 relays.
“This feels amazing,” Rogers said. “I’ve just been working on getting the height and the form and it all came to me. This is very exciting, especially coming from Minooka, where we haven’t had many state champions. It’s really been an honor to compete for Minooka.”
Joining Rogers on the 4x200 relay (1:42.02) were Latricia Dean, Megan Caldwell and Emma Tonelli, while in the 4x400 relay (3:58.65), Ashleigh Wilson, Moira McAsey, Tonelli and Rogers made up the lineup. Those two placing relays equalled the program’s total of medals won in relays prior to this year’s meet, seventh-place efforts in 2012 and 2013.
Those performances resulted in Minooka posting its best-ever state showing. The Indians scored 25 points to tie Belleville West, Edwardsville and Metea Valley for fifth place.
“Janile is a tremendous athlete and competitor and she set the standard for us,” Indians coach Kevin Gummerson said. “I’m so proud of her and the entire team. We brought a lot of kids down and they all competed at a high level. To get four all-state performances and a fifth place finish was tremendous. It was just a great day for Minooka track and field.”
In the Class 1A meet, Seneca’s Willow Stuedemann had a big day, finishing second in the 100 (12:42), taking fourth in the 400 (58.49) and placing sixth in the 200 (25.85). She joins Alyssa Applebee (2011) as three-time Irish medalists at one meet.
“I’m proud of how I did,” Stuedemann said. “ Last year, I didn’t make it to the finals so my goal was to get on the podium. They say there was a Stuedemann curse since my brother was always injured and my sister (Aspen) broke her arm in sectional and had one of the best 100 hurdles times last year and false-started. So I can say that I broke the curse.”
The Irish also got a fifth from Lexi Wilkinson in the triple jump (36-3.5) while Rylee Anderson tied for eighth in the high jump (4-10), the second state medal for both. Also, Dwight’s Daly Galloway was third in the 3200 (11:07.61) and sixth in the 1600 (5:13.22).