Tarter looking to leave bad luck behind her

  • St. Charles East's Lizzy Hynes looks to qualify for state one more time Friday night at Streamwood.

    St. Charles East's Lizzy Hynes looks to qualify for state one more time Friday night at Streamwood. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  •  Geneva's Allie Pace easily clears during the pole vault competition at Kaneland's 32nd annual Holmes Invitational meet on Saturday, April 11.

    Geneva's Allie Pace easily clears during the pole vault competition at Kaneland's 32nd annual Holmes Invitational meet on Saturday, April 11. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

Published: 5/14/2009 12:04 AM

Area girls track and field junkies will have to wait a week for the latest installment of a rivalry without peer.

With class expansion impacting traditional sectional assignments, Natalie Tarter and Shakeia Pinnick will not tangle for the first time in their glorious careers at the state preliminary on Friday night.

In the previous decade of the two-class system, Batavia was a fixture in the far west suburban sectional that featured the seven combined high schools from Aurora and Naperville.

"We've never gone anywhere else in the time I've been here," Batavia coach Chad Hillman said. "We have always maintained that if you want to be the best you have to beat the best."

Last year at the Class AA Waubonsie Valley sectional, Tarter and Pinnick, the Warriors' Arizona State-bound superstar, were the headline attraction in a talent-laden field that produced an astonishing 95 relay and individual state qualifiers.

But Tarter, who turned back Pinnick in the 300-meter hurdle finals for her first state championship, and her Batavia teammates are going north to the Class 3A Streamwood sectional.

Upstate Eight Conference champion Waubonsie Valley and DuPage Valley Conference victor West Aurora headline the field at Plainfield Central.

"It would have been fun," Waubonsie Valley coach Jim Braun said. "I think they're going to collide eventually. They'll get their chance."

For Tarter, who is also the two-time reigning state runner-up in the 100 hurdles who will continue her career at Wisconsin, her senior campaign has not unfolded as anticipated.

"I wish I could go back to the beginning of the season and re-do the whole season, but I can't," said Tarter, who has nine career state medals. "You just have to deal with it."

After a sensational indoor season, Tarter was sidelined by a nagging knee injury in April.

Tarter made her outdoor debut at the Bulldogs' eight-team invitational, only to miss the Kane County and Western Sun Conference meets in successive weeks due to illness-related causes.

"(Not facing Pinnick) doesn't matter as long as there is someone (at Streamwood) to push me," Tarter said. "I feel like it's been hard to stay focused this year. I don't think I have any times to compare to (state leaders) because I have only run once (outdoors). (But) I don't think I'll ever lose my competitiveness."

Hillman is not worried about his star.

"As a senior who has been in the state finals ever since her freshman year, I'm really not concerned about (her lack of outdoor appearances)," Hillman said.

After securing its first state trophy in program history last spring, Batavia was anointed by several coaches and observers as a legitimate state-title contender in the inaugural three-class finals.

But the Bulldogs' hopes have been upstaged by injuries to key performers Kathryn Warner and Alexis Sampson.

Warner, a versatile junior with state experience in the pole vault, long hurdles and mile relay, was lost for the season with a hip injury.

The ramifications for the Bulldogs' indoor state-champion mile relay group was particularly impacted.

"It makes you count your blessings for what you have," Tarter said. "It stinks, though, for (Warner) and us."

Sampson, fifth in the open 800 meters last year, returned last week at the conference championship.

Hillman refused to make excuses.

"The next day is going to come, and we're still going to compete," he said.

The Bulldogs will also count heavily upon Melissa Norville, who was sensational at conference with two titles and two second-place results, as well as junior sprinter Julia Gross.

With Batavia operating at less than capacity during the outdoor season, Geneva has filled the vacuum with its deepest and most talented team in program history.

The Vikings have yet to lose an outdoor team competition this year, anchored by their first conference title in school history last week at home.

"I think the girls are coming into their own and realizing how special this year could be," Geneva coach Peter Raak said. "We're definitely looking forward to Friday."

Depth has been the Vikings' bread and butter this season, and Raak has every intention of establishing new postseason standards for his club.

The Vikings' interchangeability has sustained event freshness during the virtually semester-long sport, and the mile relay is one of many events with elite aspirations.

Taylor Wickware, Alyssa Dappas, Sammi Hill and Erica Miller shattered the school record with a 3-minute, 56.13-second posting in their lone appearance this spring.

The quartet will seek to finalize the team trophy in the final event on Friday night.

"You'll definitely be seeing those girls run (together)," Raak said. "That's one of the focuses we're looking to (gauge)."

St. Charles East and St. Charles North round out the local entrants at Streamwood.

The Saints' Lizzy Hynes is preparing to end her career with a compelling double.

"(Hynes) thinks the (state finals 1,600-, 3,200-meter run) double is a feasible goal," St. Charles East coach Denise Hefferin said.

The Saints also feature state veterans Maya Rittman (long and high jump), senior thrower Allie Devor and half-miler Dayna White.

Upstate Eight champion 400-meter runner Jenna Loynachan seeks a third career state berth for St. Charles North.

Taking a page from Geneva, West Aurora has been rewriting its program record book as well this season.

The Blackhawks' conference title was also a first last week, and the team has several state-tested warriors in Shanice Andrews (long jump, short hurdles), Markesha Davis (sprints) and Char Smith (high jump).

"They certainly have had a wonderful season," West Aurora coach Teresa Towles said. "I think the girls are ready. It's all up to them. This is the most confidence they have ever had going into the sectional."

"West Aurora is right there to be an elite team at the state level," Naperville North coach Chuck Hoff said after the Blackhawks demolished their conference foes last week.

In the two Class 2A sectionals featuring local programs, Rosary, which was unstoppable in winning the Suburban Catholic last week, and neighborhood rival Aurora Central are at Glenbard South.

Kaneland, and its 10-time state qualifier, Northern Iowa-bound Lindsay Gierke, travels to Sterling.

Aurora Christian, the only Class A local entrant, is off to Rockford Christian.