CHARLESTON -- It was the ultimate act of redemption for Lincoln-Way East sophomore sprint standout Aaliyah Brown.
One year after leaving a trail of tears from the start line of the 200-meter dash to the finish line after false starting in the preliminaries, Brown answered the bell with a resounding flurry of upper cuts and left hooks at the Class 3A girls track and field state finals Saturday afternoon at Eastern Illinois’ O’Brien Stadium.
The end result was the Griffins placing second as a team in the large-school competition.
“I don’t want to be known as the girl who false-started in the 200,” Brown said.
Brown, the defending champion at 100 meters, denied Waubonsie Valley junior Morolake Akinosun--the indoor state champion--to retain her crown at 100 meters in a personal-best 11.46 seconds.
Earlier, Brown, with the Griffins’ 400-meter relay in fourth place, anchored the last 100 meters with a scintillating burst to win the first relay state championship in program history for East.
“I’m happy to have those two freshmen (Meghan Marias and Dana O’Grady),” Brown said of the quartet that also featured junior Maria Perozzi. “We were pretty far back (when I received the baton).”
But Brown barreled past three runners to seal the victory.
It was at 200 meters, however, that Brown set the table for the Griffins to win their first state hardware in program history.
Pitted against reigning state runner-up Cherise Porter, Brown made sure the Willowbrook junior would suffer the same fate as a year ago. Brown was a blur down the backstretch to win in 24-seconds flat, three-tenths in front of Porter.
“I am a competitor,” Brown said of the third individual sprint title in her first two years at East.
Brown was far from finished, even though the 200 dash is the next-to-last race in high school track meets.
The Griffins’ 1,600 relay had made immeasurable strides in recent weeks, and Brown anchored the quartet--on minimal rest--to a third-place result. The seven points gave the Griffins 37 points, one better than Hoffman Estates’ 36.
East's runner-up finish to East St. Louis (46 points) had been secured.
“I knew I had a target on my back,” Brown said of the notoriety she has earned since bursting on the state scene following a national-championship middle-school career.
“Phenomenal,” Brown said when asked to summarize her day.
“We knew we had top (seeded) qualifiers," East coach Caroline Cunningham said. "They left their hearts out on the track. (Brown) lives track.”
The only other area all-state performers were Lincoln-Way North half-miler Mobola Rotibi (fourth at 800 meters) and Providence Catholic 300 hurdler Mandy Coglianese (eighth).
Parade, Trophy Presentation
The Lincoln-Way East girls track and field team will be honored with a parade at 1 p.m. Sunday. The parade begins at Lincoln-Way East and will wind through Frankfort and Mokena.
After the parade, there will be a trophy presentation ceremony back at Lincoln-Way East. The ceremony will begin at 2 p.m.