CHARLESTON — After a scintillating 1,600-meter relay anchor leg by defending 400 champion Kalla Gold, Eureka High School secured its fifth state trophy to tie the most ever won in Class 1A Saturday at the 39th girls state track meet.
The Hornets’ 44 points for third place trailed only the 54 by defending champion Byron and the 48 of Melrose Park Walther Lutheran. All it took was school records in three relays and another by Gold.
“Fantastic,” said jubilant Eureka coach Don Samford, whose team also took third last year.
The only other school with five state trophies is Elmhurst Timothy Christian.
“I told them, ‘I think you guys will have a shot next year (at a sixth trophy),’ ” said Samford, whose team has had 12 top-10 finishes.
Gold, a junior, grabbed her second straight 400 title in 56.47 seconds, the third fastest time in Pantagraph area history. She won last year in 56.60. She finished .12 ahead of Walther Lutheran’s Anna Strong.
“I knew that she went out slower and would try to outsprint me at the end,” Gold said. “So I just tried to run a smart race and hold her off at the end.”
Gold credited the win to her coaches, who kept her confidence up while she battled a toe injury early in the season. Next year she can become the first three-time Class 1A 400 champion. Other three-time winners were Prospect’s Trudi Rebsamen over 440 yards (1973-75) and Rockford East’s Donna Cargill (1990-92 in Class AA).
Gold got the 1,600 relay baton in second, 10 meters behind Walther Lutheran, but made up the deficit within 100 meters. Gold caught an elbow from Walther Lutheran’s Melanie Ransom as she passed, but didn’t break stride.
Eureka’s school record time of 3:56.98 missed Freeburg’s 2005 state record by eight hundredths of a second. The only time faster in area history is Bloomington’s 3:56.86 from 2007.
Gold’s split was 56.3. Keeping her within striking distance were Natalie Puent (60.0), Shelby Kupferschmid (60.7) and Jacey Hartman (59.9). Puent, Hartman and Gold were also part of last year’s winning 1,600 relay.
“Natalie, it’s her last race, so we really wanted to get her a state championship,” said Gold, who will return next year with fellow juniors Kupferschmid and Hartman. “Before I got the baton, I knew we were going to win because I wanted to catch her really bad.”
Gold, who was fifth in last fall’s 3-mile state cross country meet, placed fifth in the 100 in 12.58.
“That was a surprise,” she said. “I was happy to just make it to finals in that.”
Gold began her day by anchoring her 400 relay to second in a school record 48.96. Only Walther Lutheran at 48.73 was faster. Eureka’s time ranks third in area history. Also manning the baton were Kupferschmid, Elly Vance and Puent.
“We were ranked fourth (after a 49.46 prelim) so we just blew everyone away,” Kupferschmid said.
Eureka’s school-record 1:43.97 for third in the 800 relay included Kupferschmid, Vance, Hartman and Puent. That time ranks sixth in area annals. Aurora Christian won in a meet record 1:43.35, with Byron at 1:43.51.
“I know everybody worked really hard this year,” Puent said. “I’m glad that we ran a great time.”
Among the few disappointments for Eureka was Kupferschmid’s sixth in the triple jump at 35-7.25. She came out of the sectionals seeded second.
“I’ve never gotten an individual medal so I’m proud of myself for that,” Kupferschmid said.