BELLEVILLE — Terry Mitchell is pretty excited about the future of his Alton girls' track team.
“I can see some good things happening and with that in mind, I’m hoping we’ll have an opportunity to do some things as we get closer to state,” the Alton coach said.
With junior LaJarvia Brown leading the way, the Redbirds picked up their second top-five finish of the season on Monday at the Belleville West Invitational. Alton finished in a tie for fifth with Freeburg with 65 points in the 12-team Belleville West meet.
Brown earned four medals after placing first in the long jump in 19 feet, 0.5 inches, the triple jump in 39-9.5 and the 300-meter hurdles in 46.23 seconds. She also helped the 400-meter relay team — which also included seniors Rylee Davis, Jalisa Casey and sophomore Tyriss Holloway — place fourth.
“She's a good athlete,” said Mitchell, whose team finished second at the Southwestern Illinois Relays last week. “She works hard, she practices hard and she sacrifices. She's a good person and a good team person. She works hard for herself and she works hard for the team as well.”
Also on Monday, the Granite City Warriors finished eighth with 45 points. A year ago, the Warriors placed 11th.
Senior Fonda Clark earned three medals, finishing fourth in the long jump in 16-1.75 and the 300-meter hurdles in 49.83 seconds and placing fifth in the 100-meter hurdles in 16.27 seconds.
“She did really good in the 300 hurdles,” Granite City coach Becky Cook said. “This is only the third time she ran it and she ran a 49, so she's getting stronger and stronger as she runs the race.”
Both Alton and Granite City will compete in the Jerseyville Relays on Friday.
The Redbirds have just three seniors — Davis, Casey and Rebecca Adney — and the rest of their roster is comprised of mostly juniors and sophomores.
“I think the program is on the rise,” Mitchell said. “We've got a good middle school program right now. Some of our girls who are with us now were part of a middle school team last year that did well at state.”
One of those girls is freshman Katie Mans. In 2014, she won a state championship in the high jump at the Illinois Elementary School Association state championship meet in East Peoria.
On Monday, Mans placed second in the high jump, seventh in the 400 and eighth in the triple jump.
Also, junior Taylor Carpenter finished fourth in the 100 hurdles and fifth in the 300 hurdles and sophomore Kimbreon Knight placed sixth in the 100 hurdles. The 800-meter relay team of Davis, Casey, Holloway and Knight finished fifth.
Davis, who plans to attend Lincoln College on a track scholarship next year, said she’s optimistic that her young team will turn in a successful season.
“Hopefully, we'll have more than one person go to state and place in every meet,” Davis said.
Granite City’s roster is also comprised of mostly underclassmen. Clark and Catherine Jakich are the only seniors on the team.
“We've got a young team, so hopefully we can build on that and get better and better,” said Cook, who took over the program in 2010.
Jakich finished third in the discus with a throw of 113-3. Last week, Jakich won the discus title at the Southwestern Illinois Relays.
“Things didn't go right today,” said Jakich, who was a state qualifier in the discus last year. “My technique was a little off. I didn't feel strong finishing in my throw. I'll keep practicing hard and keep working on my technique. My technique is the thing that I need to practice most right now. I'll just get my technique down and that will increase my throw.”
Also for the Warriors, sophomore Robyn Pointer finished second in both the 100 and 200 and junior Andrea Hyde placed fourth in the 100.
“We brought only 10 kids with us today, so I don't think we had a very bad day with as many medals as we came out with,” Cook said.