For many athletes, just making an appearance at the IHSA State Track and Field Meet in downstate Charleston is enough to make the season complete. For others, earning a spot is just another step toward something larger in a historical sense, but smaller in the physical.
The latter, that’s the little medal with the red, white and blue ribbon they hope to bring home.
Sandwich’s Kayla Schiera, already the possessor of three such medallions, leads a large and talented contingent from The Times area into Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium for three days of rigid competition, all with the hopes to bring a little piece of hardware back home.
The Class 1A preliminary round, in which the area will be represented solely by a huge contingent from Seneca High School, will be first up on Thursday, while Class 2A and 3A step into action on Friday, all hoping to earn a spot in Saturday’s state finals.
Schiera, who claimed fifth in the 800 meters two years ago and fourth in the 3200 and fifth in the 1600 last spring, has the best chance of all locals by virtue of the sectional-winning 11:19.89, giving her the third seed in the 3200, which has no prelim only a final on Saturday. She is also the 12th seed in the mile with a 5:21.95, making her a good bet to make the 12 advancing to finals.
Just one step behind with another good opportunity is Seneca’s Grace Alley, who scored a leap of 36-5 ½ in the triple jump to net her the No. 4 seed in today’s prelim. She also has experience on the medal stand, having been part of the fifth-place 1600 relay and taking eighth in the triple jump, both last year as a sophomore.
The best shot at the finals in 3A is with the Ottawa Lady Pirates’ Maddy Smith. The junior is tied with eight others for 9th in the pole vault 10-9, just three inches off a tie for second seed.
Also in a good spot in Class A, Seneca freshman Brooklyn Giertz is the 8th seed in the 100 hurdles after her time of 16 flat at sectional, and the No. 14 seed in the 300 hurdles at 48.19 seconds.
The same could be said for teammate Mara Bruno in the dashes. Her 26.14 time in the 200 is ranked 10th, a mere 1/100th of a second off ninth, and her 12.76 clocking in the 100 is rated 11th, just 8/10th of a second off the top nine who will advance.
The 400 relay of Alley, Bruno, Giertz and Lexi Greve ran a time of 51.38 seconds is ranked 15th, but just a half-second off ninth, while the 800 relay of Alley, Bruno, Eve Odum and Greve posted a 1:49.46 and is seeded 16th, only a second off the top nine.
Those who will need a break or to post a personal best to make finals are many. Odum of Seneca marked a 10-3 in the pole vault and is seeded 8th, though teammate Kenzi Empson is tied for 17th in that event and will need a big improvement on her 9-0 to advance.
The remainder face a much more difficult task making it to Saturday. In the shot put, Lady Irish teammates Alexandra Draves (34-8) and Erica Techmanski (33-8 ¾) are seeded 25th and 28th, respectively. Draves has a better chance in the discus, where her 115-1 is seeded 18th.
Seneca’s other relay teams in action will need some help. The 3200 relay of Maggie Cade, Natalie Carajohn, Lauren Silvola and Amber Vroman is seeded 23rd and will need to be better than its 10:52.65 to advance, while the 1600 relay of Alley, Carajohn, Justine Ursua and Vroman is rated 30th 4:23.27. Also, Vroman ran a 2:32.82 at sectional and is seeded 32nd, as is Carajohn with her 1:03.55 in the 400 meters. The Lady Irish’s Carissa Simon notched a 15-9 in the long jump, leaving her 37th.
Schiera has two teammates with her in Class 2A. Maddie Dawson is ranked 15th in the 400 with a sectional clocking of 59.95 seconds, while Sarah Ness is rated 20th in the 110 hurdles after her 16.79 last Friday.
The lone Streator competitor will vie with Schiera in the 3200 on Saturday. The Lady Bulldogs’ Rebecca Neaterour had the 17th best time last week and is on the edge between the fast and slow heats.
Joining Smith in the 3A prelims are two teammates in one event, Grace Reinhardt and Jessiy Zebrauskas, who are both tied for 15th in high jump 5-2; and one Lady Pirate in two events. Sam Satterfield is tied for 19th place in both the shot put at 38-3 and in the discus at 118-10.