Kayley Burke remembers the message that Coach Greg Geyer delivered to the Evergreen Park (EP) girls track and field team when he took over the team three years ago.
He told the girls that he could see their potential and wanted to build the team from the ground up.
Geyer was proved right again when the Mustangs won the South Suburban Red Conference title in rainy and chilly conditions on May 2 at Shepard High School.
EP beat Oak Lawn 151-135 for first place. It was EP’s second straight conference title.
The 2018 title was the first in school history for either track and field team.
“This one, oh my goodness, I’m so happy with my team and myself for just how far we’ve come,” said Burke, a senior team captain. “We’ve worked so hard to accomplish such big things. Our goal when Coach Geyer came in was to win conference and keep on growing from there.”
EP won 7 events, including 2 relays, on its way to the team title.
Star junior Tiera Robinson-Jones powered the Mustangs, winning the 200-meter dash (:26.32) and triple jump (39.01 feet). She also ran with the championship teams for the 4x100 relay (:51.26) and 4x200 (1:50).
Robinson-Jones said that defending last year’s title motivated the Mustangs.
“It makes us better because we know people really want to beat us,” she said. “It makes us work a little bit harder knowing we have a target on our back.”
Robinson-Jones finished second in Class 2A last year in the triple jump.
With senior team captain Kayla Carpenter out with a leg injury, Robinson-Jones stepped in to run the first leg of the 4x200 relay, and she set the tone early.
“The 4x200 was especially strong,” she said. “We didn’t have our captain, so I knew I had to get out of the blocks really fast so that I could get the lead for my teammates.”
The 4x200 relay includes Heidi Burke, Tia Walker and Briana Parker. The 4x100 relay includes Parker and Ananda Raya.
Carpenter is a fixture in the relays for EP and is also a force in the 100-meter dash.
“It was tough running without her, but we were doing it for her,” Kayley Burke said. “Hopefully Kayla is back for the sectional and state competition. She was rooting for us from the sidelines. We won it for her.”
Kayley Burke finished second in the 800-meter (2:35.81) and 1,600-meter (5:54.46).
Parker (16-07.50) and Walker (16-04) provided a nice one-two punch in the long jump, finishing first and second, respectively.
The long-jump duo wanted to go out early and pick up some points.
“Today we expected to go out and do our best,” Parker said. “We were expecting to go first and second.”
Walker said the pair works well off each other in competitions.
“We all wanted to do our best and come together as a team,” Walker said. “In the long jump and working with Bri, she motivates me, and I try and motivate her to be better.”
Walker also won the 100-meter dash (:12.84).
Rounding out EP’s champions was junior Chloe Sader, who won the 300-meter hurdles (:50) and finished second in the 100-meter hurdles (:17.52).
Other top-three finishers included Stella Akueche in the shot put (2nd, 31 feet), Heidi Burke (2nd, 4-10) and Akirah Fort (3rd, 4-06) in the high jump, the 4x400 relay (3rd, 4:29.20) and 4x800 relay (3rd, 10:44.02).
The 4x400 relay includes Heidi Burke, Taylor Jones, Gabriela Flores and Kayley Burke. The 4x800 relay includes Jones, Grace Huneck, Ariana Martinez and Kayley Burke.
EP is scheduled to compete on May 8 at the Class 2A Thornridge sectional.