CHARLESTON — LaJarvia Brown padded her resume Saturday and the Alton Redbirds enjoyed their best state finish ever.
The junior Brown went 41 feet, 2 inches to win her second consecutive state title in the triple jump. She added a fifth place medal in the 300-meter hurdles and a sixth place in the long jump, while AHS junior Jewel Wagner was sixth in the shot put and freshman Katie Mans was eighth in the high jump.
The Redbirds accrued 24.5 points to finish eighth in the Class 3A state meet at Eastern Illinois' O'Brien Stadium. It was the best finish in state history for the Alton girls' program and the top finish Saturday for a Southwestern Conference school. Lincoln-Way East tallied 51 points to win the team state title.
Granite City's lone representative at state, senior Catherine Jakich, had a great day too, finishing third in the shot put.
But it was Brown becoming the first Redbird to win back-to-back state titles in the same event since Larry Perry won consecutive long jump titles in 1974 and 1975, that stole the show. John Enos also won two straight pole vault titles in 1907 and 1908 for Alton. Brown remains the only female state champion for the Birds.
Her jump of 41-2 was the third longest in state history. Brown owns the best triple jump in the annals of the state at 41-6.25, which she set earlier in the year.
“It hasn't really hit me yet,” Brown said of being a two-time state champion. “But it's a great feeling. It feels great to join the group with those people that did that and now my goal is to win it a third time.”
She ran 44.31 seconds in the 300 hurdles for her fifth place medal and her jump of 18-3 carried over from Friday's prelims to earn her sixth place finish in the long jump. Brown's three medals made her the first Redbird to win three individual titles in the same season in school history, too.
Brown was down on her long jump performance a little bit.
“I didn't hit the board on any of my jumps (Saturday),” she said. “I was jumping from way behind it, I just couldn't get on. At least I got an 18 yesterday and it carried over.”
The soft spoken Wagner was pleased with her showing in the shot put. Her throw of 40-9.75 carried over from the preliminaries on Friday and led her to sixth. It was her first experience at state.
“I had a load of butterflies in my stomach,” Wagner said with a smile. “I couldn't even focus.”
Wagner hadn't even been to state as a spectator before this season, so she embraced the experience. She had a simple response when the subject of returning for her senior season was broached.
“Oh yeah,” she said with an ear-to-ear smile.
The freshman Mans was at the high school state tournament for the first time, but she is no rookie when it comes to state competition. Mans won state in the high jump as an eighth grader with a jump of 5-3.
Saturday was disappointing for her, as she cleared 5-4 in the high jump to tie for eighth. Her jump of 5-5 in Friday's prelims didn't carry over and she had cleared 5-7 during the regular season.
Mans said the high jump is primarily mental and the distractions at prep state far outweighed the ones she encountered in middle school.
“I am disappointed,” Mans said. “It's not what I wanted, but I guess as a freshman it's good.
“In middle school it's different. It's not prelims and finals, it's just a one day thing and you're over with it and there are not as many people that show up. It's so different. I want (a state title) for high school, too.”
Jakich, the senior for Granite City, was happy to close out her senior campaign with a medal. Her preliminary throw of 41-8.75 carried over to Saturday to garner her third-place finish. She was in second entering Saturday.
Jakich made it into the prelims of the discus as a junior, but didn't qualify for the finals, so earning her first state medal as a senior was gratifying.
“I'm really excited,” Jakich said. “I was hoping for a better day today, but yesterday I got it on the third throw. I was really nervous coming in. My first two throws I threw 35 and 37 and those would not have gotten me into the finals, so my mentality was, 'I have to get it to get into the finals.' So I threw it 41 feet and I was pretty excited.”
Being the lone representative for the Warriors was an honor for Jakich, too.
“Definitely, it's a great honor,” Jakich said. “Coach (Jake) Janek has been a great coach the last four years. He's worked with me every single year, so being her to represent Granite is an absolute amazing feeling.”
The SWC was represented well on Saturday. East St. Louis' Aaliah Herron brought home the state championship in the shot put (43-1), while Miya Dorsey of Belleville East won the 300 hurdles (42.94) to join Brown as individual state champs. O'Fallon's 4x2 relay team took second (1:40.23), too.
In 2A, the Cahokia Comanches compiled 61 points to win the state championship as a team. It's the second straight team title for Cahokia.