It has often been said there is calm before a storm. It couldn’t have been more true Friday when the rain and wind outside turned into loud thunder that permeated the inside of the cozy Shirk Center on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington. From that moment, just after the dash and hurdles prelims, it was all busy on the track and in the field.
GCMS duo shines bright
The biggest fireworks inside would come later in the meet. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley coach Erica Kostoff has a wonderful problem on her hands. She has two of the most prolific middle-distance runners in the state in Angel Gaesser and Sydni Meunier. Kostoff knew her girls were workhorses, but the rest of the state may not have been paying attention. The first event of the evening for the duo was be the 800. Gaesser and Meunier set the tone immediately with a 32-second first 200. After that the two teammates were glued together like Siamese twins. They negotiated the 400 in 67.7, well ahead of the field.
Maddison Zimmer of Delavan did her best to be in the discussion but she could not keep pace, nor could Stacie Hall (Reed Custer). The duo up front rolled past 600 in 1:43.4. They were in full sprint mode with just one turn left. Gaesser finally got a step or two on Meunier and held on for a tough win over her good friend since the sixth grade. The final margin: 2:16.43 to 2:16.77.
Gaesser went on to place second in the triple jump with a leap of 33-2 and fourth in the 400 with a solid time of 1:01.47. She also anchored her team to a meet record in the 4x4 relay (4:08.45).
Meunier one-upped her teammate when she came back for the 1,600. Meunier wasted no time taking the lead and it was Chelsea Blaase on her heels. Meunier controlled the race through each 400 with splits of 74.3, 2:30.3, 3:45.0. Finally, she had enough of the pedestrian pace and took off. Meunier bolted hard and put herself in position to break the 5:00 barrier with the bell lap remaining. The University of Notre Dame-bound senior charged home hard and crossed the line amid a throng of cheering admirers in a state-leading 4:57.91.
She would add a leg on the winning 4x400 and earn Athlete of the Meet honors.
Too close to call
Earlier, the 55 dash featured list leaders Danielle Crawley (Sherrard) and DeJanae Terry (South Holland Seton Academy) starting in the prelim round. Crawley ran 7.25 to earn the fastest seed in the final; Terry jumped into second spot. The final was about as even as it could get with both girls pushing hard on the homestretch. The verdict was too close to call with the Daktronics board reading 7.30 for both. However, it was Crawley that earned the slim 7.293-7.294 victory. It was the closest margin between first and second place in meet history.
XC champs win the 4x800
Decatur St. Teresa wasn’t even remotely satisfied with their previous season best in the 4x800 relay. As anchor Ivy Handley put it “we wanted the meet record.” The meet record of 9:46.7 set back in 2006 has been called soft by some pundits but the fact is that very few teams have touched it. St. Teresa was capable. The school won the state cross country championship with ease and four members of that team were part of the relay effort. Lead-off runner Ellen Devereux got her mates off to a tremendous start with a solid 2:24.1 carry and it was pretty much curtains (for everyone else) from there. The lead grew to nearly five seconds after the second leg (2:28.7). Handley brought it home with a 2:25.9 split for a 9:48.13 total. The Lady Bulldogs didn’t get the record but they earned a huge seasonal best and the second fastest time in meet history.
Blaase impresses in the 3,200
The 3,200 was filled with anticipation because the reigning cross country champion, Chelsea Blaase (or 'Blaze' when she runs) of St. Joe-Ogden, was in the field. She had intentions of bettering her time of 11:09 and showing the faithful that her harrier title wasn’t a fluke. Blaase got out well, leading with splits of 75.7, 2:36.4, 3:59.8, and 5:24.5 to get to the halfway mark. Marquette Alton’s Dani Aurit hung close until that halfway point. Blaase turned on the jets and opened up a huge lead. The final verdict was a 27-second win and class best 11:01.81. “Oh, I wanted to break 11:00 but I fell asleep a little (in the middle of the race). I heard my teammates cheering me hard on that last lap,” she said, referring to her strong kick at the finish.
Seton Academy sprinters step up
Head coach Damani Shakoor knows quite a bit about track and field. Aside from being a quality prep athlete back in his day, he is a better coach. Shakoor more than likely has shunned bigger named programs to stay with tiny school in South Holland. “We are trying to get a track (at our school) and make some moves,” he said. It does help to have a fleet of talented runners, especially one in DaJanae Terry, a senior standout who has been here before. She won the short dash last year and already has put up some solid marks over the indoor season. After finishing second in the 55, Terry anchored her team in the 4x200 relay and set a class record 1:47.50. Terry finished her evening by winning the 200 in 26.19. Her teammate Mykel Adams placed second in 26.75. Another Sting teammate Jasmine Gardner placed third in the 55 dash in 7.54.
Best of the rest
• Whitney Walker (Illini Bluffs) was the first girl beside Kelsey Card (Carlinville) to win the shot put in four years. She won with a classification best 42-4.5.
• Jessica Jump (Metro-East Lutheran) dogged the first lap leader in 29.5 before taking over the with less than 100 remaining to win the 400 meters in 1:00.14. Her time is the class best.
• Rachel Ballard (St. Joe-Ogden) won the long jump on her first attempt when she skied 17-6. She was able to hang on and defeat Ashley Thomas of Rushville-Industry.