Girls track and field: Neuqua Valley's Brown, Ukawuba star at state prelims
CHARLESTON -- Inara Ukawuba already has state hardware from her freshman year at the Class 3A girls track and field finals.
But the Neuqua Valley sophomore has a dynamite classmate in Zawadi Brown.
Ukawuba and Brown collaborated in advancing out of the preliminaries at Eastern Illinois University on Friday in the 400-meter relay.
It was a joint coronation for the two underclassmen who also qualified in two individual events as well for the Wildcats.
Brown has taken a circuitous route in making the final nine in the 200- and 400-meter dashes.
"I didn't have a freshman track season," said Brown, who spent the majority of her season toiling for the Wildcats' lacrosse team. "I only had two real meets. I plan to commit for lacrosse (in college), but if the right school hollers at me I will definitely consider track instead."
Brown earned automatic inclusion into the 200 finals by winning her preliminary heat in 26.38 seconds; the sophomore had earlier posted a 57.93 clocking to post the seventh-fastest 400.
Ukuwaba has expanded her horizons; the reigning 100 hurdles all-stater not only advanced in her customary event but also made the cut in the 300 variety.
"It's pretty cool. Surreal," Ukuwuba said of making three championship events.
"It feels great to diversify (in the longer hurdles). I feel like the 300 hurdles have helped me in the 100 hurdles."
Ukuwaba turned in the fifth-fastest 100 hurdles (14.33) and is the No. 7 seed in the longer hurdles race with her 47.31 clocking.
Lake Park senior Paulina Lucer also made the field in the 100 hurdles after earlier claiming one of 12 berths in reigning her all-state event -- the pole vault.
The 3,200 relay state championship could very well reside in the county as York -- behind its cross-country-champion contingent -- posted the fastest time: 9:30.73.
But storied power Naperville North also won its heat in posting the second-lowest time of 9:31.70.
"Cross country and track are very different," said York stalwart Katelyn Winton, the lone senior on the quartet.
Denise Hernandez had a state-title-like mark of 19 feet, 3 inches in the long jump.
But the Naperville North senior, who energized the Huskies' 800 relay to the fifth-fastest time, trails Huntley defending state champion Alex Johnson by four inches in the event.
The West Suburban Conference divisions showed their mettle as usual.
Hinsdale Central junior Catie McCabe had the finest 800 time in 2:16.82; Brooke Berger, who anchored the Dukes' 3,200 relay, sits in the fourth slot at 2:17.89 for York.
In the open-metric-mile, Downers South Tulane-bound senior Sophia McNerney held off a determined effort by Audrey Allman, the Vanderbilt-headed star for Glenbard West.
"There are so many great athletes on top of each other," said McNerney who defeated Allman, 5:03/2-5:03.61.
"Prelims is all mental," Allman said. "It's all about what the pack is going to do."
Louisa Diamond (1,600, 3,200) and Gianna Huerta (100 and 300 hurdles) headlined the area Class 2A programs for Benet and Glenbard South.