Tigers standout 'having fun' as prep career winds down; M-S' Young impresses.
CHARLESTON — Urbana High School senior Nicole Choquette didn’t need the public address announcer at the 41st girls’ state track and field meet confirming she’d made the 400-meter finals to determine the kind of day she’d had Friday.
“I ran the best 400 I could run,” Choquette said. “I improved by over a second. Amazing.”
Good thing she wasn’t trying to predict her time as she hit the finish line in her Class 2A preliminary race.
“It felt like I’d run a 1:04,” she said.
Instead, her 57.27 clocking lowered her own school record and places her in the No. 3 position on the all-time area Honor Roll. Among Saturday’s finalists at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium, Choquette ranks sixth.
“There were fast girls, and I was trying to stay with them,” she said. “I was so nervous, I went out really fast and tried to turn it up a gear at the 200 mark.”
Urbana coach Amy Boscolo was pleased by what she saw from the Illini recruit.
“She went in with intensity and fire,” Boscolo said.
Choquette also participated in the 200 prelims and finished 16th overall (26.82). The top nine made Saturday’s finals.
There was no disappointment about her showing in an event where she said, “It’s hilarious that as a distance runner I made it. This is the best senior year ever. Awesome. I’m having fun.”
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Mahomet-Seymour’s Morgan Young also is having a banner end to her prep career.
She reached the Class 2A state finals in the shot put (39 feet, 61/2 inches) and the discus (132-1) as she continued her late-season surge.
Young has established personal bests in the shot in three of her last four meets. In the span of five days, she raised her performance level in the discus from 124 to 126 to 129 and now to 132-1.
“What’s better than to throw a PR at state?” said Young, a state placer in the discus (ninth) as a junior. “Every meet I’ve been doing better and better and getting more consistent.”
Her series of throws in the shot put prelims all landed at 38-3 or better. Two of her three tosses in the discus went at least 125 feet.
“I’ve worked hard for this meet and felt confident in both of them,” Young said.
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Young wasn’t the only Bulldog to successfully move through qualifications.
Sophomore Twinkle Mehta dropped her time in the 800 meters from sectionals by almost nine seconds, posting the day’s eighth-best time (2:18.86).
She also ran the leadoff leg on the meet-ending 1,600 relay, which shared the baton in 4:00.30 and is ranked eighth entering Saturday’s action. Two other sophomores, Megan Perrero and Elise Hocking, are on the relay along with senior Jessica Melchi, who is attempting to earn a medal in the relay race for a fourth consecutive year.
“I’m proud of us,” Melchi said. “We did our best (of the year), and that’s all you can ask.”
M-S is within reach of the school record (3:59.49) it established when Melchi was a freshman.
Mehta was concerned that in her individual race a fast early pace would take a toll.
“It seemed out of control at first,” she said, “but I held on.”
Counting the one event in which there were no prelims (the 3,200 meters), M-S will have an area-best six entries in action Saturday. Freshman Lauren Whitehouse and junior Abigail Nielsen are among the competitors in the eight-lap 3,200 race.
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Centennial’s relay team received a second chance. And made good.
The Chargers’ foursome of Dominique Lewis, Avona Greene, LaToyah Mason and Bertha Frazier was the No. 6 seed in the Class 2A division of the 400-meter relay but struggled with the first handoff and wound up finishing 22nd in the event.
In the 800 relay later Friday, Centennial wasn’t seeded to make the nine-team finals. Its sectional performance had the unit of Lewis, Jewel Goodly, Mason and Greene seeded 14th.
The determined Chargers stepped off the fifth-best qualifying time (1:43.41), reaching the finals by dropping nearly four seconds off their sectional mark.
“We wanted to come back stronger and not think about what happened earlier,” Goodly said.
Greene wasn’t surprised by the time.
“This is a faster track, and there’s more competition,” she said. “We anticipated that.”
Actually accomplishing it created a sense of satisfaction.
“It felt good to shake it (effects of the 400 relay) off,” Greene said.
Frazier wasn’t on the 800 relay because she was a competitor in the following event, the 400. She had a strong run (season-best 58.38) but placed 12th overall at state and did not qualify for Saturday’s finals.
“This is my first year doing open events, and it makes me proud to get here,” Frazier said.
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Champaign Central’s Kristin Hammel found herself in familiar surroundings. The senior was a competitor in the pole vault for the fourth consecutive year. After clearing the automatic qualifying height for the finals (10-3), Hammel is in contention for a medal for the second year in a row.
“She always has a knack for stepping up to the occasion and performing well at state,” Central coach Guthrie Hood said. “She loves competing.”
Hammel first established the Maroons’ school record in the event (10-0) as a freshman. She now has raised it to 11-0. Hood credits Hammel’s offseason efforts for her improvement.
“The work she’s done with the Flying Dragon Vaulting Club (from Bloomington-Normal) has had an impact on her jumping,” Hood said. “She has become more consistent.”
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Six area schools have finalists in Class 2A and will cover nine of the 18 events.
Only the 3,200 (four), pole vault (two) and 800 (two) will have more than one entry. Prairie Central’s Kassadee Ifft is one of the two freshmen to make the pole vault finals. She cleared 10-3, as did 10 other competitors.