To hear Shepard girls’ track coach Verline Gaddis tell it, her athletes enjoy the feeling of success.
To be sure, the Lady Astros experienced plenty of that at Saturday’s 15-team Stagg Invitational, where they took first place in their initial appearance in the Palos Heights meet.
Behind senior captain Courtney Dalton, who won the 300-meter low hurdles race and anchored three first-place relay units, Shepard scored 109 points.
That allowed the Lady Astros to easily outdistance runner-up Rockton Hononegah (88 points). Joliet West (66½), Romeoville (46) and Reavis (45) rounded out the top five.
“I saw hard work from the girls at Stagg and they wanted it,” Gaddis said. “They like success. We have a good combination of seniors and underclassmen — 10 seniors and a lot of sophomores and juniors — and I was very proud of their performance Saturday.”
Dalton ran the last leg of the 1,600-relay, following Katrina Tillman, Jameria Stennis and Chasz Wells, and put the final touches on a winning time of 4 minutes, 8.29 seconds. She joined Daysha Tillman, Zipporah Allbritton and Anila McFadden to establish a 51.36 winning pace in the 400-relay, and then comprised a quartet along with Daysha Tillman, Wells and Allbritton that finished first in the 800-relay with a 1:47.90 clocking.
Dalton completed her hurdles event in 46.78.
“Courtney Dalton is one of our captains [for the second year], and she knows what our expectations of her as coaches are,” Gaddis said. “She knows what the team needs in order to win. Courtney has no problem expressing to her teammates what they need to do.
“A lot of the [other] upperclassmen look up to her, and they see that she’s not going to complain at practice and will do whatever is necessary at practice. Her goal is to qualify for state in all three relays, as well as in the 300-hurdles.”
Katrina Tillman, Kelli Callahan, Kayla Cody and Stennis made up the Lady Astros’ 3,200-relay foursome that won in 10:18.29. In addition to being part of two winning relays, Stennis contributed a first place in the 400-dash (1:02.09).
Shepard claimed the team title without contributions from Khalia McIntyre, Mariah Terry and Alondra Delfin, three of its top individuals who are sidelined with injuries.
As the Lady Astros seek to build on the success of the Stagg Invitational, Gaddis is very aware of her team’s need for continued development.
“We’re fine-tuning some things to help our relay teams become even better because there’s always room for improvement,” she said. “And we don’t want to get to the point where we think we have, but we really don’t. Every day at practice is meaningful.”
Shepard will compete next in the Andrew Invitational, where it placed first on the varsity level last year and was second among freshman squads.
“We are excited about the Andrew Invite,” Gaddis said. “There’s real potential with this team. All of our coaches are excited. We have a really good group of young ladies [and] they really jell together.
“I’m honored to coach this group. We also have our parents, and they back us up. I’m also grateful for that.”
Ellie Mannix’s second places in the triple jump (36 feet, 2 inches) and 100-high hurdles (17.07) represented Stagg’s strongest efforts at its own meet.
Shepard started last week on the wrong end of a 25-6, 25-15 outcome against Lincoln-Way West on Tuesday. Richards handed down a 25-16, 25-20 South Suburban Conference Red defeat on Thursday before the Astros were able to gain a four-match split at Saturday’s Argo Invitational.
Hussein Al-Rashdan totaled 13 assists, one kill and one service ace for Shepard (4-9, 0-1) against the Bulldogs. Doug Nelson, Candelario Delfin, and Brian Wendling each put down four kills and Edgar Madrigal had 16 digs.
The Astros took second place in the Silver Division at Argo, as Nelson registered 27 kills and seven aces on the day. He was selected for the all-tournament team. Steve Szajek added 12 blocks for Shepard and Al-Rashdan distributed 63 assists.
The Astros defeated DeLaSalle (26-24, 25-21) and Hinsdale South (25-17, 26-28, 25-18), but lost to Benet Academy (25-10, 25-16) and South Elgin (25-22, 25-21).
Brother Rice beat Sandburg 25-13, 25-23 in a clash of south suburban powers.
Dan Tynski put down nine kills for the Eagles (5-1), Paul Chmura had seven and Ian Zalewski passed out 18 assists. Sandburg trailed 14-9 in the second set before rebounding to take an 18-17 lead. However, the Crusaders then bounced back to win the match.
BOYS’ WATER POLO
Stagg went 2-0 last week, with its victories being registered against Lyons Township (12-6) on Tuesday and SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue rival Sandburg (10-8) on Thursday.
Nick Amendola scored four goals to lead the Chargers (7-6, 1-1) past the Lions and then added five more against the Eagles. Stagg was also helped on Thursday by having a full roster of available players for the first time — some key individuals had been participating in the out-of-state swimming nationals.
Evan Johnson and Connor Kaufmann contributed two goals apiece for the Chargers versus Sandburg.
Up 3-2 after one period, Stagg outscored the Eagles 5-2 in the second quarter. Amendola and Johnson each tallied twice in the latter period, with Johnson’s second goal coming just one second before the break.
The Chargers were ahead 9-4 following a Kaufmann marker early in the third quarter, but had to hold on while operating without one of their stars. Zack Amendola, who didn’t score, picked up his third ejection to foul out with 3:48 left in the period.
Sandburg (5-2, 2-1) eventually narrowed the gap to 9-7 before Nick Amendola gave Stagg some breathing room with his goal at the 3:05 mark of the final stanza.
Zach Roper led the Eagles with three goals. Ben Crnich added two goals and Sean McNicholas made six saves for Sandburg.
Behind a plethora of scorers, Shepard defeated Taft 15-8 last Thursday.
Jerry Zachary paced the Astros with five goals, but Christian Reyes, Lucas Souza and Zach Sierzega all offered him two-goal support. Scoring once apiece were Nick Kamba, Mike Jokubauskas, James Steele and Sanders Yu.
On defense, Shepard received solid performances from Julio Martinez in the nets and Zach Segina.
Shepard scored a 10-5 victory over TF North on Thursday as it collected eight singles wins and two in doubles play.
Triumphing in singles encounters were Katelyn Paulsen (No. 2), Robyn Folk (No. 3), Gaby Juszczak (No. 4), Nancy Lesnicki (No. 5), Abbey Linnert (No. 6), Kendall Yerkes (No. 7), Vicki Castro (No. 8) and No. 10 Marquise Owens (No. 10). Doubles winners were the teams of Juszczak-Yerkes (No. 2) and Lesnicki-Alexis Pezdek (No. 5).
Shepard improved to 3-2-1 on the season with a 2-1 SSC Red victory over Reavis last Tuesday night. It was the Lady Astros’ second 2-1 decision over the Lady Rams this season.
Tiffani Kotas’ two goals lifted Shepard. Her first was set up by Aubrey Quick, while the second came compliments of Christina Kotas.
Stagg (1-2-1) edged Reavis 1-0 on Friday for its first win of the year. Kellie Senese’s goal, which was assisted by Hannah Yandel, gave the Lady Chargers their margin of success.
Sandburg battled Lemont to a scoreless draw on Saturday in Orland Park. Lady Eagles netminder Emily Furmanek was credited with the shutout.