Naperville Central ends 20-year DVC championship drought
There would not be another heart-wrenching girls track and field conference-championship loss for Naperville Central on Thursday night at Metea Valley.
"Our whole team has been working hard to win conference, especially after losing by a point to Naperville North at indoor conference," said Naperville Central junior pole-vaulter Kait McHale, who soared 11 feet to win her specialty event in Aurora. "This is really about the team, not so much individuals."
The Redhawks used a balanced attack, double-scoring in multiple events to capture their first DuPage Valley Conference championship since 2002 with a 163-150 victory over Naperville North.
Neuqua Valley won five events on the track to turn back Metea Valley 108-102 for third; DeKalb (23 points) and Waubonsie Valley (9) rounded out the six-team field.
Brooke Sawatzky had to settle for runner-up in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles to fellow sophomore Inara Ukawube, a returning all-stater from Neuqua Valley, but nevertheless scored 34 individual points with her triumph in the triple jump (35-3) and second-place finish to Naperville North senior Denise Hernandez, a three-event champion, in the long jump.
"I knew (Ukawube) had faster foot speed than me as you could tell in the 100," Sawatzky said of Ukawube winning the two hurdles races in 15.5 and 47.94 seconds. "I was catching up with her as the race was going on (in the longer hurdles). I just missed passing her."
Sawatzky ran a 48.15 in the longer hurdles.
The Redhawks' Liv Phillips and Ava Hendren swept the 3,200 run as the former won in 11:12.94.
The sophomores returned to place third and fourth in the 1,600, which Neuqua Valley sophomore Carissa Hamilton captured in 5:19.94.
Anna Schmidt also prevailed for the Redhawks' final win in the discus.
"None of these kids were alive," Naperville Central coach Phil Allen said of the last conference title for the program. "We talked about competing as a team; we did that tonight."
Hernandez was the outstanding individual performer on the dreary night in Aurora.
A former transfer from Oak Park-River Forest, the Naperville North senior dusted the 100 and 200 fields with consecutive sprint titles in 12.56 and 26.17 seconds after earlier dominating the long jump with a 18-5.75 winning effort.
"I'm not really a 100-meter runner, so it felt great to win," Hernandez said. "I am super excited that I am so consistent with my jumps around 18 feet. Hopefully with some good weather, I can get to 19."
The Huskies' Christina Gu anchored two championship relays -- the 1,600 and 3,200 quartets -- while also placing runner-up to Metea Valley sophomore Kyla Harris in the open 400.
Harris' night for the host Mustangs also included third-place finishes in the 100 and 200 dashes.
The sophomore ran a 59.79 in winning the 400 dash.
"I think I am close (to being ready for the Class 3A Hinsdale Central sectional next Friday)," Harris said. "I think I conserve my energy when I get worked up for my next race."
Freshman Gabi Karvelis -- with Ukawube running the third leg in the former -- anchored Neuqua Valley sprint-relays to victory at 400 and 800 meters.