CHARLESTON — With reigning 300-meter hurdle champion Chante Stonewall setting a dominating pace, the University High School girls track team kept itself in trophy contention during the Class 2A preliminaries of the 43rd annual state meet on Friday.
The Pioneers will have five scoring opportunities in Saturday’s 10 a.m. finals.
In Class 3A, Bloomington’s Jezel Martin, Bailey McGill, Erin Owens and Alexia Ware lowered their Pantagraph area records in the 400 and 800 relays.
In the 400 relay they sped 47.40 seconds, which was .19 faster than the second fastest qualifier and just under their old record of 47.47. They lowered their longer relay record of 1:40.86 to 1:40.79 to advance fourth.
“They are making my senior year feel awesome,” said Owens of her relay teammates. “I want to go home with first-place medals so we can tell everybody we did it.”
U High coach Stu Shaver said, “It was a really good day for us. We’re just going to do what we’re going to do and let the pieces fall into place after that.”
Stonewall will be favored to place first in the 300 hurdles after posting the top qualifying time of 43.53 seconds, which ranks second in area history and surpasses her own 2013 school record of 43.83. She also advanced third in the 100 hurdles in 15.23.
Another Corn Belt Conference star, Mahomet-Seymour’s Emily Kauffman, qualified first in the discus at 129 feet, 11 inches and advanced sixth in the shot put at 39-2½. She was among six area individuals and two relays to qualify in 2A while five individuals and two relays made it in 3A.
Stonewall may have run faster in the 300s if her steps hadn’t gone astray on the curve.
“I did go faster so maybe that’s what threw me off,” she said. “But overall it was a good race. It’s been a while since I felt my legs burn so I know I was going fast.
“Our team has done phenomenal today. I’m so proud of them so the least I can do is give my best effort.”
Bloomington’s relay power was impressive, but came at a cost.
“I have a hamstring problem going right now,” Martin said. “It’s really tight so that held me back a little.”
The No. 3 seed in the 200, Martin was held out of that event to save her for the relays.
Mahomet-Seymour’s Kauffman saved her best for last in the discus as her third throw put 2 feet, 6 inches between her and the field.
“It feels fantastic (to lead),” she said. “I’ve been working all season for it … all last season, too.”
In the final, Kauffman hopes to top her career best of 132-11 with something past 135.
U High’s No. 2-seeded 3,200 relay won its heat in 9:39.37, which ranked second behind Lombard Montini’s 9:36.16. Running for Pioneers were Amber Nanni (2:23.3), Ally Shepherd (2:26.4), Shannan Supan (2:27.9) and Ashley LaFayette (2:21.9). They ran a season best 9:36.91 in the sectional.
“Today wasn’t about time. It was just about getting through,” said LaFayette, who said Madigan Landess may take Shepherd’s spot in the final.
Mahomet-Seymour appeared to advance fourth in the 3,200 relay in 9:40.30, but was disqualified for running inside its alley on the first curve. Twinkle Mehta, who anchored in 2:21.8, came back 90 minutes later to advance second in the 800 in 2:18.97. Only Aurora Central Catholic’s Karina Liz was faster at 2:15.94.
“I’m used to getting disqualified because we got disqualified twice last year,” Mehta said. “I guess you just get used to picking yourself up and going on.”
Top-seeded 3A pole vaulter Brooke Catherine of Normal Community, the defending champion, made her one attempt at 11-0 to advance with teammate Nikki Ogorek and Normal West’s Mackenzie Gallagher.
“My warmups were kind of rough – I was running through – but once the bar was up, it all changed,” Catherine said. “I’m missing graduation (Saturday) so I want to make sure it’s the most memorable state meet.”
Top-seeded 2A vaulter Kassadee Ifft of Prairie Central was among 15 to advance at 10-3 along with U High’s Katie Reeves and Lauren Seaver and Clinton’s Betsy Lovett.
“I’m excited that not only I made it, but a lot of my friends made it,” said Ifft, whose Bloomington-based Flying Dragons Pole Vault Club advanced 10.
In the 3A 300 hurdles, Courtney Manning of NCHS went a career best of 45.02 to advance eighth and scare Katie Ringelestein’s 1998 school record of 44.96.
“My form over a lot of the hurdles wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be, but I can fix that,” Manning said.
Clinton clocked a school record 49.49 in the 2A 400 relay, but missed advancing by one hundredth of a second. The Maroons bounced back to advance eighth in the 800 relay in 1:44.74 with Erin West, Madison Filkin, Lovett and Becca Anderson.
“I’m so happy with (1:44.74),” said Anderson, noting their season best is 1:44.54. “It wasn’t our best, but I’m still really proud of how they ran.”
Pontiac junior Ashley Harfst, a 2013 discus finalist, advanced sixth at 120-5.
“Her second throw was probably her farthest and she had a sector foul by just a small margin,” said Pontiac coach Mike Lucas.
Olympia sophomore Shelby Siltman advanced ninth in the 1,600 in a personal best of 5:12.45.
“I went through hard times because my iron was low," she said. "Today shows I can run faster.”
Other area qualifiers were BHS freshman Ellie Weltha in the 3A shot put (10th, 39-4) and Central Catholic high jumper Addison Ely, who was among 11 in 2A over 5-2.