SPC Championship, 5.3.2017

Post date: May 5, 2017 2:07:38 AM

The Minooka girls track and field team was only in its sixth season in 1979 when it won its first conference team championship.

Women’s athletics in high schools were in their early stages. In 1972, President Nixon signed into law educational legislation known famously today as Title IX. It states:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

This opened the door for women’s athletics, which had largely been regulated to intramural sports within high schools. After Title IX, Minooka had its first women’s team in the fall of 1973 when volleyball players stepped onto the court. The spring of 1974 saw the first girls soccer team and the first girls track and field team.

In 1979, the Minooka girls track and field team won its first conference championship.

When Minooka girls track won its first championship at a conference meet — the Northeast Conference meet — in 1979, they were coached by Lyn Andracke, a woman largely responsible for bring women’s athletics to Minooka. Coach Gummerson and I taught with her in the social studies department during our first years here. She would tell us about Becky Schaller, Minooka’s star long jumper in 1979, who today is the 4th best long jumper in MCHS history. Schaller jumped 17 feet, 8.5 inches that year, and finished 13th in Class A at the IHSA State Finals. Jan Wacaster of Edinburg, a small town southeast of Springfield, won Class A that year with a jump of 18-feet, 6 inches. The Class AA winner jumped 20-feet, 7.5 inches. That was Jackie Joyner of East St. Louis, who went on to win 6 Olympic medals.

In 1979, Minooka ran on a cinder track. They would still be running on that track 12 years later when they won their second conference championship in 1991 — this time at the Little 7 Conference meet — when a freshman distance runner named Tammy Schmidt, who would later become the head girls track coach at Plainfield North, was on the team.

Girls practice starts on the cinder track at MCHS in 1979.

It would be another 20 years before Minooka won its third conference championship when it captured the SPC title at Oswego East in 2011. Minooka won the next three years, as well.

A conference championship is not easy to win, as evidenced by only 6 victories in 43 years. The last couple years Minooka has been beaten by better teams. Last night, in our 44th year, we won our 7th.

There was a feeling of satisfaction knowing that so many athletes on the team had contributed not only to a varsity win, but also a JV win. It was the first time 10 teams competed for a conference title, and the first time it was held at Memorial Stadium with Joliet Central as the host.

The varsity scored 121 points, with Plainfield South following in second with 73. The JV tallied 133.5, and Oswego East was next with 94.

JV runners won 6 events in taking home the title. The list includes

    • Lauren Larsen, 100m Dash
    • Julia Dames, 1600m Run
    • Amanda Wilson, 3200m Run
    • Meghan Marchio, Pole Vault
    • Karlee Cox, Discus
    • Julia Dames, Olivia Kics, Angelica Leal, and Nina Shanahan, 4x800m Relay

The top five varsity individuals in each event would earn All-Conference honors. Thirteen times this happened for Minooka. The impressive list:

SPC Champion

Sydney Andreano, Discus

Brooklyn Bachmann, Pole Vault

Emily Shelton, 3200m Run

Mackenzie Callahan, 800m Run

Kylie Wissel, 300m Hurdles

Mackenzie Callahan, 1600m Run

2nd Place

Harley Graham, Discus

Ashley Tutt, 800m Run

Emily Shelton, 1600m Run

3rd Place

Vivian Van Eck, 3200m Run

Katelyn Gall, Pole Vault

4th Place

Jenna Roberts, 100m Hurdles

5th Place

Sydney Andreano, Shot Put

In addition, the top 3 varsity relay teams also earned All-Conference honors. The first varsity relay on the track — the 4x800m of Ali Mondrella, Gwen Barnes, Emily Ellis, and Ashley Tutt — pulled this off with a 3rd-place finish. So did the last varsity relay on the track, but the finish was different.

If you look back at the SPC Championships Minooka won in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, they all had one thing in common — Minooka won the last race on the track.

There’s something about crossing the finish line in first place in the 4x400-meter relay that punctuates a team victory. You win the last race, you win the meet. Something just seems right about that. Back in 1979, there was a string across the finish line for an athlete to lean into. In 2017, you run into open air.

A runner from Minooka breaks the string at the finish

of a relay in 1979.

Going into the SPC championship, Minooka had not won a 4x400-meter relay in a big meet all year. Wednesday night, things looked to change. All four runners ran great. Cierra Bachmann ran a strong leadoff, followed by great second leg by Emily Johnson. Minooka continued to move up in the race when Ashley Tutt got the baton, and Mackenzie Callahan finished the job by passing runners in the final 200 meters. There was no string to break, but lots of smiles broke out.

It was a subtle nod to the 4x400 teams of the past, and a perfect way to connect to the history of Minooka girls track and field program.

Go Minooka!

— Coach Thomas