Girls Track: Aaliyah Brown sprints toward finish of prep career
By Tim Tierney For Sun-Times Media March 3, 2013 6:16PM
Lincoln-Way East's Aaliyah Brown Wednesday, February 27, 2013. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Girls Track 2013
(in alphabetical order)
Bolingbrook: Defending SouthWest Suburban Blue champ. Top sprinters are Jessica Watkins, Asha Wallace, Annika Karim, Alexis Brooks and Lanisha Towner. Field event leaders could be Jhonnae Staggers (high jump) and Kayla Etherton (shot put).
Lincoln-Way East: Final year for sprinter Aaliyah Brown, a four-time individual state champion bound for Texas A&M. Griffins were second to East St. Louis in the 2011 Class 3A state meet, fourth last season and could go higher.
Lockport: Young team will be led by senior cross country standouts Kim Johnson and Courtney Correa, Lane Kadlec (discus), returning state qualifier Kate Reposh (triple jump) and high jumpers Jessi Wernsman and Carolyn Dietz.
Minooka: Plenty of experience back in Janile Rogers, Lucia Rossi, Bethany Bachmann, Moira McAsey and Haley Renison from Southwest Prairie Conference champion. That team set seven school records in the conference meet.
Plainfield North: Graduated elite sprinter Cessily Jones, but still has Jazmine Frank and Khristian Jones from 800 relay that was eighth in the state. Relay runner Catherine Crosson and Jackie Pasek in the jumps also should be top performers.
THREE TO SEE: Morris high jumper Haleigh Knapp; Plainfield Central sprinter Jenna Moody; Seneca pole vaulter Madisen Warning.
Updated: April 5, 2013 6:12AM
Aaliyah Brown is starting her final track season at Lincoln-Way East with four individual state championships, a scholarship to NCAA power Texas A&M and a down-to-earth demeanor unchanged by her high level of achievement.
That’s the part of the gifted sprinter — a welcoming, quick-to-smile personality — that’s just as impressive to East coach Caroline Gerritsen as the remarkable talent Brown shows on the track.
“She’s been a leader since the day she stepped on the team,” Gerritsen said. “Her teachers come up to me and let me know how well she’s doing. It’s always positive — from her peers, from her teachers, from administration or coaches.”
The following are conversations with Brown and Gerritsen as they prepare for what should be a very successful outdoor season for the Griffins, who also have Sydney Barrera and Dana O’Grady back from state runner-up relays:
Brown on being a senior: “Being a good leader because we have freshmen out here, sophomores, juniors. I want to be that role model for everybody.
“Not just for track, but sports in general and women in general, to show them that hard work does pay off. Be a good leader, not just in track but also in the classroom. Be a student-athlete, not an athlete-student.”
Brown on her approach this season: “My goal this year is to possibly get the Marion Jones all-time record. It’s 10.9. I’m running 11.4.
“I feel like I’m way stronger this year, way faster. I’m really hitting the weight room. I’m working 10 times harder my senior year. I’m going to college, a new chapter in my life. I want to make sure I’m ready to go there.”
Brown on her 2012 hamstring injury: “I’m 100 percent. At home I’m stretching every day. I’m in the weight room. Not heavy weights, but just enough weights to make sure my injury doesn’t come back. I’m 110 percent.”
Brown on college choices: “Clemson, Tennessee, Central Florida and Oregon. Texas A&M, I felt like I belonged there. I had a good connection with the coach, his philosophy about track. Also the girls at Texas A&M are really good. My goal is to get an NCAA ring.”
Brown on not looking too far ahead: “I’m a person who is looking at one goal, not 50 million — then you’re never going to be 100 percent toward one.
“My goal right now is high school season and to lower my times in high school season. Then I’ll think about summer track and all these other things.
“My goal is to help my team win that state title. That’s what we’re going for.”
Gerritsen on Brown’s personality: “When Aaliyah joined the team, the girls could have been scared and intimidated. But she’s so welcoming and such a positive person, that it was more ‘Let’s step up to Aaliyah’s level.’
“She’s magnetic. People just want to be around her. Her energy, they feed off of it. They become a closer team because of it.”
Gerritsen on Brown’s senior year: “I think she’s more relaxed. I think she feels the best she’s ever felt. She knows where she’s going to college, which is a big weight off her shoulders. Now it’s ‘Let’s run well, break some records and have fun.’ ”