Members of the Lyons Township High School 3,200-meter relay team show off the eighth-place medals they won at the IHSA Class 3A state track and field championships on May 21, earning them all-state honors. | Bill Stone/Contributor

Waiting to receive their top-nine, all-state medals, the Lyons Township High School girls track and field team’s 3,200-meter runners already were anxious about their upcoming seasons.

“Hopefully we’ll be back and better than ever,” junior Scarlett Lestina said.  

Lestina and sophomores Anna Bylsma, Kristina Findley and Shannon Cranny finished an all-state eighth (9:32.05) on May 21 at Eastern Illinois University with the relay’s second-fastest time this season.

Junior all-stater Catherine Sommerfeld broke her 3,200 school record again for seventh (10:35.21) and advanced to the 1,600 finals (12th, 5:11.58).

Catherine Sommerfeld (Photo by Paul Nickoley)

With Sommerfeld focusing on individual distance events, the Lions still responded with their two fastest 3,200 relays, beginning with a season-best 9:27.72 for the fourth-fastest 3A sectional time.

Among the Lions’ other three state entries, Ava Kuhlman was the lone senior.

“We never ran state before so it’s really exciting to have a team of no seniors and we can come back again,” Bylsma said. 

A cross country all-stater last November, Sommerfeld continues making progress from just missing 2021 state in the 1,600. She never ran the 3,200, but her focus altered when she debuted April 23 with a school-record 10:37.74. 

Still, Sommerfeld was disappointed in being more than five seconds from a top-five state finish.

“The time was fine but the race wasn’t how I wanted it to go,” Sommerfeld said. “I didn’t really know what I could do with it so I’m proud of myself for that. At the beginning of the season, I wasn’t thinking about [the 3,200] at state.” 

In the 1,600, Sommerfeld ran her second sub-5:10 in the May 20 preliminaries (5:07.51). Saturday’s race was a struggle.

“I definitely felt not too good. I knew going into it I wasn’t going to be right,” Sommerfeld said. “Not having the day I wanted here will just motivate me to have better momentum going into cross country.” 

Lestina, who led off the 3,200 relay in the finals with a personal-best 2:21.2 split, sees fortunes changing. She was the only returnee from the 3,200 relay that came one place at 2021 sectionals from reaching state.

“It’s a real good group to run with. We’re all so encouraging,” Lestina said. “It’s just amazing to see everyone progress, especially since they’re all sophomores.”

Findley shared her first state experience with her twin sister. Cranny’s sister Maddie and brother Ben were all-staters with LTHS 1,600 relays in 2019 and 2017, respectively.

Cranny became the Lions’ anchor at sectionals.

“It’s definitely been super nerve-wracking,” Cranny said. “It’s not something I saw coming at the beginning of the season. It definitely really challenged me to up my times and run my best, but it’s been fun and really exciting.” 

Junior Becky Phillips was 18th in the 400 (1:01.01). The 1,600 relay of Phillips, Kristina Findley, Madison Findley and junior Claire McVady was 18th (4:10.79) and the 400 relay of junior Emma Kwak, Kuhlman, junior Nora Gannon and Phillips was 19th (50.12).

Nazareth Academy

In IHSA Class 2A, Nazareth Academy was 20th in the 1,600 relay (freshman Clare Sandoval, sophomore Neeve Olson, senior Maddie Bent, freshman Alayna Plahm in 4:31.69), Plahm was 21st in the 400 (1:04.15) and senior Bella Brunke scratched her three long jumps.

Brunke is the school-record holder in long jump (5.08m/16-8), 100 (13.08) and 200 (27.68).