FLOSSMOOR | Watching the high jump at Thursday's Class 3A Homewood-Flossmoor Sectional, a southwest suburban coach grimaced as one of his athletes crashed into the bar on the way up.
"They're in her head," he said. "Girls. Everything gets in their heads."
Minutes later, Bloom Township's Angela Cates seemed to confirm the hypothesis, accepting congratulations for her sectional high jump title and a state berth not with a smile, but two tears, one escaping each eye.
Why so sad?
"I don't know. I'm overwhelmed," the senior and first-time state qualifier said. "I didn't eat breakfast. I didn't eat enough at lunch. My ex-boyfriend is here — I feel like that kind of got to me.
"Just everything. College. The weather. Doing good at state."
Cates should have spoken with her coach, Huey Johnson, who was smiling midway through a meet conducted mostly in a steady drizzle.
"Last year we had nobody, zero," he said. "The third week of May last year, I was sitting at home, watching on a computer."
Next week, he'll be in Charleston, watching Cates and several other local competitors.
Lincoln-Way East dominated the sectional, winning nine events and the team title with 153.5 points.
But, the host Vikings took third, led by Chardae Greenlee, who won the triple jump (38-2), took second in the long jump (17-11) and ran legs on the second-place 800- and 1,600-meter relays. H-F also qualified Shayna Nwokenkwo in the 100 (12.23) and its 400 relay, on which she ran; and Antoinette Broughton in the 200 (25.40) and a pair of relays.
"Our day had a lot of ups and downs, we lost Jayla Stewart after the 4x100 - she hurt her hamstring, and could have been a qualifier in the hurdles," H-F coach Rob Assise said. "Still a lot of good things — we finished strong with the 4x4, and I'm happy for Chardae. She's a great kid."
Bloom advanced Cates, triple jumper Ivory Cassell and its 400 relay, while Thornwood's Janeah Stewart captured the shot put.
In the 300 hurdles, Marian's Imani Hayes finished second in 45.76, just ahead of third-place Tineja Foy of Crete-Monee, whose 45.88 also earned a state berth. The Warriors also got their 1,600 relay to state — Foy anchoring a contingent including Loureasha Smith, Chasity Powell and Latris Daniels to a third-place finish.
Cates won with a jump of 5-3. She missed three attempts at what would have been a season-best 5-5.
"I went 5-4 at conference. I wanted 5-6," Cates said. "My coach says I can go 5-8."
Cassell, despite entering the meet with a leap a full foot beyond the state qualifying standard of 17-3, failed to advance in that event. But, she regrouped, going 36-1 to advance in the triple jump, and taking the Blazing Trojans from sixth to fourth with her anchor leg in the 400 relay.
"After the long jump, she got a renewed interest in the (triple) jump," Johnson said. "I think it might be her best event."
Justice Howard, Jamillah Jackson and Brittany Thomas joined Cassell on the relay.
H-F's 400 relay included Nwokenkwo, Broughton, Christin Salley and Stewart. The Vikings' 800 quartet was Broughton, Salley, Greenlee and Stewart. In the 1,600, their runners were Salley, Cortney Cross, Ima Eno and Greenlee.