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Sprint to state : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Sprint to state
Harris, Shodipo win sectional races while Simmons advances in 200

by Kristin Sharp


The Class 3A Minooka Sectional was an emotional night for members of the Oswego and Oswego East girls' track and field team.

While seniors ended their high school careers and others came close to state-qualifying marks, in the end three athletes emerged as state qualifiers for District 308.

Oswego East sophomore Morgan Harris was a sectional champion in the 200-meter dash, while Oswego junior Natajah Simmons placed second to send both athletes to Charleston for Friday's state meet at Eastern Illinois' O'Brien Stadium.

Oswego junior Princess Shodipo was also a sectional champion, winning the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 15.19 seconds to qualify for state.

Shodipo did not have the fastest prelim time last Friday in Minooka at 16.01 seconds, but it was enough to send her into the finals with seven other competitors. She bettered her time by nearly a full second to cruise to state.

"Princess had an excellent start to the first hurdle at sectionals and that just locked her in," Oswego head coach Jamie Bechina said.

In the second-to-last event of the night, Simmons turned in the fastest prelim time at 25.62 seconds and bettered that time in the finals, but Harris' time was just five-tenths faster to give her the win.

"We didn't have a qualifier until the second-to-last event and we thought her chances were better in the 200 than the 100, but every race is it's own situation," Oswego East head coach Lisa Cook said.

"She felt good after prelims and felt like she still had something left to give. We hoped she had what she needed left in her legs to run a decent 200 and she ended up winning it. Morgan is a competitor and an athlete and she just went after it and beat some girls she hasn't beat before and just had a really good race."

The trio will head to Charleston today, Thursday, in advance of Friday's semifinals. The 100-meter hurdle prelims are set for 2 p.m. with the three heat winners plus next six best times advancing to finals on Saturday.

The 200-meter dash prelims are slated for 3:53 p.m. with the three heat winners and next six best times advancing.

"We are working on tweaking the technical aspects of each girls' race this week so they can perform well at Charleston," Bechina said. "Last season was a near miss for Natajah, so it will be exciting to see her compete this weekend. Princess qualified last season in the 100 hurdles, but did not qualify for finals. It is her goal to not only qualify for finals but also to place in the event. Both girls are focused and ready to race."

For Oswego East, the 4x100-meter relay team narrowly missed a qualifying opportunity, placing third with a school-record time of 49.61 seconds behind the efforts of senior Nicole Buado, sophomore Sade Akinfe, senior Brooke Marshall and Harris.

"Our 4x1 was a few hundredths off of second place and we knew we were on the bubble and would have to have really great days. The 4x1 was the one we definitely wanted to get down with Brooke Marshall and Nicole Buado as seniors," Cook said. "They weren't on the team as freshmen and weren't the most talented as sophomores and juniors, and the fact that they worked so hard this year and we were so close. It's tough to be that close and not get there."

Harris was also close in the 100-meter dash, placing third in 12.74 seconds, but needed a 12.54 or faster to advance.

Akinfe was seventh in the long jump at 16-1 and freshman Cassidy Osborne-Butler placed seventh in the shot put at 34-9 1/2 while taking fifth in the discus at 105-10. Sophomore Tara Schumacher placed sixth in the 300 hurdles with a time of 49.19 seconds.

Cook also had aspirations of sending junior Morganne Jones downstate, but the timing didn't work to her advantage last Friday. Jones clipped a hurdle during the prelims to finish with a time of 16.96 seconds and fall just two spots short of the finals.

"Morganne had a rough day. She had the prelims for the 100 hurdles right before she was supposed to go in at high jump," Cook said. "She clipped the fifth or sixth hurdle, which she's never done before, and finished the race, but eight-tenths to a second off her usual time. She had to go immediately over to high jump, and she didn't even have time to collect herself before her first attempt at 4-11. Her whole sectional meet was over within a matter of 15 to 20 minutes.

"She has a whole lot of ability and things just didn't come together and we feel awful for her. It's heartbreaking to watch. As a junior, hopefully that gives her an added chip on her shoulder for next year. She's one of the top hurdlers in our area and one of the top high jumpers in the state."

Oswego's 4x800-meter relay team of sophomore Kayla Wooten, sophomore Maddie Kammerer, junior Alyson Simon and sophomore Julia Manzano placed fourth in 9:47.36. The top three relays all hit the state-qualifying time, with Naperville Central taking third at 9:28.

Simmons almost had a state bid in the 100-meter dash, placing fourth in 12.74 seconds, but needed a 12.54 or faster to advance to state.

"Natajah was just two-tenths away from qualifying in the 100; it was a tight race through the finish," Bechina said. "We knew the 200 was the more favorable of the two races though, and she ran well to qualify.

Shodipo also had another opportunity in the 300-meter hurdles, but finished third in 47.02 seconds. The state cut was 46.94.

"I was really expecting Princess to qualify in the 300 and Natajah to qualify in the 100 dash as well. Either way, it is exciting to see them secure a place down state in their respective events," Bechina said. "Both girls will have some work to do in the semifinals, with fast fields in both events."

Wooten was eighth in the 800 with a time of 2:23.

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