Girls Varsity Track
Game Summaries & Headlines.
Belleville West's La'Qwasia Stepney finished third in the 100-meter hurdles during the girls IHSA State Track and Field Championships at O'Brien Field on Saturday, May 19, 2018 in Charleston, Ill. Paul Halfacre | STLhighschoolsports.com
- Paul Halfacre
Belleville West's La'Qwasia Stepney leaps over the hurdles in the 300-meter hurdles during the girls IHSA State Track and Field Championships at O'Brien Field on Saturday, May 19, 2018 in Charleston, Ill. Paul Halfacre | STLhighschoolsports.com
- Paul Halfacre
Belleville West's La"Qwasia Stepney leaps over the hurdles during the 12th Annual Belleville West Lady Maroon Invitational at the Belleville West High School on Friday, March 30, 2018 in Belleville, Ill. Paul Halfacre | STLhighschoolsports.com
- Paul Halfacre
Belleville West's La'Qwasia Stepney leaps over the hurdles during the 2018 O'Fallon Girls Invitational at O'Fallon High School on Friday, April 13, 2018 in O'Fallon, Ill. Paul Halfacre | STLhighschoolsports.com
- Paul Halfacre
Maroon hair braided down her back, La'Qwasia Stepney climbed atop the podium and made a promise to herself.
“I'm not going to cry.”
It wasn't an easy promise to keep. The view in that moment was better than she imagined. All eyes in the stadium were on her as she was announced as a state champion for the first time.
It won't be the last.
A junior jumper and hurdler for the Belleville West girls track and field team, Stepney is the Post-Dispatch All-Metro girls track and field athlete of the year.
Stepney, 18, is the first track athlete from West to earn the distinction. Had life not thrown her family a curveball, she wouldn't even have been at West. A standout at Cahokia as a freshman and sophomore, Stepney had to move last year. Her mother, Angela Horton, was given notice that the house they were renting in Cahokia had been sold. They had 30 days to pack up, clear out and find somewhere else to live.
“It was stressful,” Horton said.
The 5-foot-4 Stepney wasn't keen on moving. She'd established herself as a track standout for one of the premier programs in Illinois. She was successful and happy. Moving would throw all that out of whack.
“She was kind of scared that she was No. 1 in Cahokia and it wouldn't follow her,” Horton said. “At one point she did talk about going back to Cahokia. It all worked out. It was a blessing in disguise.”
Stepney's personality smoothed her transition at West. Outgoing, friendly and quick to crack a smile, she ingratiated herself at her new school.
“She's well-liked. She gets along with lots of kids. She makes new friends,” West coach Sally Stephens said. “She fit in right away.”
Stepney took that same approach with her new track team. Stephens pulls no punches at practice. The workouts are grueling. Even when it was bitter cold the Maroons were outside getting it in.
“At Cahokia we didn't train like that,” Stepney said. “I was up for the challenge and went with the flow.”
No matter what Stephens and West assistant coach David Searcy threw at Stepney, she never blinked. She just kept working.
“We train hard. We train a very long time. We start early and we go the whole time and we train in a way to peak at the right time,” Stephens said. “She wasn't really used to that, but she jumped in with both feet and never complained, never missed practice, never dogged a workout. She just took all of it and ran with it.”
Stepney was open to whatever Stephens and Searcy could do to help her improve.
With six all-state finishes on her resume, including consecutive fourth-place finishes in the 300 hurdles, it would have been easy for Stepney to retreat to what worked before. Instead she made the adjustments Searcy suggested.
“The easiest part was her working with me and being able to accept the transition,” Searcy said. “Sometimes when you get hurdlers that have been doing it for years they have a tendency to be stuck in their ways. I know what I'm doing, absorb it, let it sink in and you'll see the changes later. That's what she did.”
The small changes brought big rewards. Stepney became the Maroons' first field event state champion when she won the Class 3A long jump with a leap of 19 feet, 4.25 inches, the best by an area athlete this season. She was the runner-up in the 300 hurdles in 44.67 seconds and took third in the 100 hurdles (14.16) by a tenth of a second. It was her best showing at the state track meet and helped the Maroons score 39 points to finish third in the team standings. It was West's highest finish since it was the runner-up in 2012.
Stepney kept the momentum of her first season at West rolling. She competed for Team Illinois at the Great Southwest Classic in New Mexico last week and long jumped 20 feet, 3.25 inches. The distance left Stepney's jaw hanging open.
“I never thought I could hit a 20. I was surprised myself,” she said. “When I jump I don't feel like I'm jumping far, but then I hear the number and I'm like, 'I just jumped that?' ”
By hitting that personal best, Stepney qualified to compete at the United States of America Track and Field Junior Outdoor Championships next week at Indiana University's Haugh Complex in Bloomington, Ind. A good showing could land Stepney on the youth national team as it travels to the Junior World Championships from July 10-15 in Tampere, Finland.
Stepney never imagined track could give her a chance to travel the world. She didn't think it could help pay for college, but it can. Stephens said Stepney's performance at the state meet has caught eyes, turned heads and put her on the radar.
“It was just something to do for fun because I liked running,” Stepney said.
Stepney still has a hard time wrapping her head around her accomplishments. Should she make the trip to Finland, she would be the first West track athlete to represent her country in international competition. It almost doesn't seem real.
“She's just so humble. I don't think she realizes all the time what her capabilities are,” Stephens said. “I think it helps her be successful. She doesn't get in her head. She's very humble about what she does and she works very hard to achieve the things that she does.”
All-Metro First Team
Athlete of the Year: La'Qwasia Stepney, junior, Belleville West
Won the Class 3A long jump with a leap of 19 feet, 4.25 inches, the best long jump in the area in the spring season. Finished second in the 300-meter hurdles in 44.67 seconds and took third in the 100 hurdles (14.16).
Newcomer of the Year: Sydney Juszczyk, freshman, Trinity
Won Class 3 javelin state title with throw of 142 feet, 3 inches. Had the fourth-longest javelin throw in the nation this spring when she posted a 161-8 at Ladue’s Brusca/Strohbach Invitational on April 21. Second at state in the 100 hurdles in 14.93 and sixth in triple jump (35-4). Anchored Trinity’s 800 relay to a runner-up finish.
Sprints: Jada Moore, junior, Pattonville
The Class 5 100-meter dash champion in 11.93 seconds, the third-fastest time in the state this season. Finished second in the 200 (24.23) and fifth in the 400 (56.97). Anchored Pattonville’s 1,600 relay to a runner-up finish.
Middle: Courtney Williams, sophomore, Nerinx Hall
Young speedster claimed the Class 5 400-meter title with a thrilling victory in 55.43 seconds. Took second in state in the 100 (12.09) and third in the 200 (24.57). Posted the fastest 100 in the state this spring when she won in 11.85 at the sectional meet at Kirkwood.
Distance: Mikayla Reed, senior, Washington
One of three area girls to ever sweep the distance events at state as she won the Class 4 800 (2 minutes, 15 seconds), 1,600 (4:58) and 3,200 (11:10). Anchored the 3,200 relay to victory in 9:32. Scored enough points to help Washington to a runner-up finish, the best in school history.
Hurdles: Michelle Owens, sophomore, McCluer North
Won the Class 5 state championship in the 100-meter hurdles in a state-best 13.86 seconds. Ran a leg on McCluer North’s state champion 400 relay (47.9). An all-state performer in the long jump with a sixth-place finish (17 feet, 9.5 inches).
Horizontal jumps: Diamond Riley, senior, Ritenour
Broke the overall state record in the triple jump when she won the Class 5 title with a leap of 40 feet, 10 inches. Was second in the long jump with a leap of (18-10.25). Posted the state's longest triple jump when she leaped 41-11.5 at the Great Southwest Classic, which is the eighth best triple jump in the country this year.
Vertical jumps: Katie Mans, senior, Alton
An all-state performer in the high jump four years, finished fifth in the Class 3A meet with area-best 5 feet, 5 inches.
Throws: Evangeline Harris, senior, East St. Louis
Won the 2A state championship in shot put with an area-best put of 46 feet, 1.25 inches. Finished as the state runner-up in the discus with a throw of 133-5.
Multi-event: Zionn Pearson, senior, MICDS
The Class 4 state champion in the long jump with a leap of 18 feet, 6.25 inches, took fourth in the triple jump (36-7) and fifth in the 100 (12.42). Ran on the Rams state champion 400 relay.
All-Metro Second Team
Sprints: Jhordin Galmore, junior, MICDS
Won Class 4 state titles in the 200 (24.66 seconds) and 400 (57.68). Ran legs on MICDS’s state champion 400 (47.22) and 800 (1:41.88) relay teams.
Middle: Claire Ayers, junior, Washington
Finished second in the Class 4 800 in 2 minutes and 16 seconds, the seventh-fastest 800 in Missouri this season. Ran on Washington’s state champion 3,200 relay team (9:32). Finished third in the 1,600 (5:08).
Distance: Jenna Schwartz, senior, Waterloo
Won the Class 2A 3,200-meter championship in 11 minutes and 1 seconds, the best time in the area. Earned all-state honors with a seventh-place finish in the 1,600 (5:11).
Hurdles: Anna Heacock, junior, Jefferson
The Class 2 100 hurdles champion in 15.36 seconds and the 300 hurdles champion in 45.56. Earned all-state recognition with a sixth-place finish in the 200 (26.89) and long jump (16-7.75).
Horizontal jumps: Bria Ward, senior, John Burroughs
Took home Class 3 state titles in long jump (17-11.5) and triple jump (36-8.25). Anchored John Burroughs’ 1,600-meter relay to a second-place finish in 4:04 to help the Bombers win the team championship.
Vertical jumps: Caitlin Reed, senior, Festus
Finished third in the Class 4 pole vault by clearing an area-best 11 feet, 9 inches. A four-time state qualifier who earned all-state recognition three times.
Throws: Abigail Green, senior, Francis Howell Central
A two-time Class 5 discus state runner-up. Took second this spring with a throw of 147-6, the third-best throw in the state this spring.
Multi-events: Cara Johnson, senior, MICDS
Won Class 4 100 in 12.06 seconds and finished second in the 200 (24.71). Anchored the Rams 400 and 800 relays to state championships. MICDS had the fastest 400 relay (47.2) and second fastest 800 relay (1:40.04) in Missouri this spring.
All-Metro Third Team
Sprints: Deja Ingram, senior, Hazelwood Central
Among the best sprinters in the state before injured hamstring at district meet ended her season. Her 200-meter dash time of 24.08 at the Suburban XII Conference meet was the fastest in Missouri this spring. Her 100 time of 11.87 was the second-fastest.
Middle: Jessica Coughlin, junior, Belleville West
Finished sixth at the Class 3A state meet in the 400 in 56.75. Her preliminary qualifying time of 56.24 was second-best in the area this spring.
Distance: Mercedes Schroer, freshman, O’Fallon Christian
Rolled to a pair of Class 3 state championships with victories in the 1,600 (5 minutes, 9 seconds) and 3,200 (11:26). Was the 800 runner-up in 2:18. Also played midfield for the Eagles' state championship soccer team this spring.
Hurdles: Valarie Whitted, senior, Cardinal Ritter
Two-time Class 3 100 hurdles champion. Defended her title by winning in 14.87 seconds.
Horizontal jumps: Jordyn White, junior, Lutheran North
An all-state performer in three events, White was third in Class 3 triple jump (35-8), fourth in long jump (17-1.75) and fifth in 100 hurdles (15.69).
Vertical jumps: Mora Boatman, senior, Fort Zumwalt West
Finished second in Class 5 pole vault by clearing a personal best 11 feet, 3 inches. Finished first or second in all her competitions this spring.
Throws: Diamond Richardson, junior, Pattonville
A two-time Class 5 all-state honoree with third-place finishes in shot put (42-9.25) and discus (130-8).
Multi-events: Aisha Southern, senior, Hazelwood Central
Second in the Class 5 100 hurdles in 14.08 seconds, sixth in the 100 in 12.21 seconds and ran on the Hawks state champion 800-meter relay team that finished in 1:39.8.
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More in 2018 Girls Track and Field All-Metro (1 of 1)
- Sally Stephens
- David Searcy
- Angela Horton
- La'qwasia Stepney
- Track And Field