Girls track and field: Stevenson's O'Neall, Grayslake Central's Morello win state titles
Stevenson's Ella O'Neall made her final state appearance a memorable moment.
But O'Neall said her journey to becoming a state champion started with a vision. Three years ago, O'Neall said she gained the motivation to make a mark at the Class 3A state meet via another source.
"For me, this has been a dream since I got here," O'Neall said. "I missed state in my freshman year, and came here with a teammate to just watch it. I knew from day one that this is where I wanted to be: Number one on that podium."
O'Neall achieved her goal on Saturday.
The Iowa State recruit won first place in the shot put with a top toss of 13.68 meters to make her dream a reality at Eastern Illinois University. On a cold and rainy afternoon, O'Neall walked away with a smile, adding a fourth-place medal in the discus (39.59).
"I've been working for this for awhile, and came in with a pretty good seeding in the shot put, so I was feeling pretty confident but I had to work for it," O'Neall said. "I threw some good ones on the first day in prelims. I think it was my second throw.
"I worked for it, through COVID and now and was able to get there. I just trusted the process and myself. These are special throws in state, but I've done it thousands of times in practices and other meet."
O'Neall, who placed third in the shot put last season, credited her state title and two-medal performance to tirelessly working on her craft during the last year.
"I'm more technical and consistent with my throws this year," she said. "I think, for me, last year a 45-footer was the outlier, but this year I made it more consistent. I worked really hard for this, and it paid off."
Grayslake Central's Mia Morello added her name to the program's rapidly growing state track history following in the footsteps of double state champion, Julia Reglewski. Morello won the state championship in the pole vault (3.75) on Saturday.
Grant senior Aly Negovetich capped a storied track and cross country career by putting together an outstanding performance in the 3,200. She led for most of the race, finishing in second place in a time of 10:24.65. She finished her career with three cross country medals and two track medals. Lake Zurich's Brooke Johnston earned third in the 3,200 in a time of 10:26.67, while also notching fourth-place medal in the 1,600 (4:57.41).
"I knew that I had a chance to come in and win this thing and do something really impressive," Negovetich said. "I felt good through the first 2,200, but it was all grit from there. For the most part, I gave it the most I had. The last 400 I knew it was mine, and wanted to finish really good and memorable."
Grayslake Central's Bella Domier earned a top-three placing for the second year in the 800, as she earned third in the 800 (2:14.21).
"My legs were burning, but it was all about who could take the most pain in the last 100 and that pain is temporary, so I just tried to give it all I got," Domier said.
Lakes had a number of quality showings, led by a second-place medal in the 3,200-meter relay in Class 2A, the foursome of Madison Twarling, Madison Perez, Paige-Elicia Caruth and Becca Runyan clocked a runner-up time of 9 minutes, 39.84 seconds. The Eagles' 1,600 relay earned eighth place (4:07.15).
"It's a super good feeling that this whole (relay) is coming back next year," Runyan said. "I'm so proud of them and everything we've accomplished. This is a great end to our track season. We're going to come back harder and faster next year."
Joycelyn Crum had Lakes' best individual effort with a ninth-place showing in the pole vault (3.10).