Prep girls' track & field state storylines: Sabers duo poised to place

Prep girls' track & field state storylines: Sabers duo poised to place

CHAMPAIGN — NaKaya Hughes was stressed, yet focused.

The St. Thomas More junior faced her third and final high jump attempt at 4 feet, 10 inches in last Friday's Class 1A Salt Fork Regional. On the line: a shot at returning to the state meet.

Hughes took a few deep breaths, arched her back ever so slightly and took off for the bar.

Within moments, she was a state qualifier. Hughes maintained a steely gaze as she hopped off the mat before being enveloped in the hug of senior teammate Lucy Lux-Rulon, who also moved on in the high jump.

"I was pretty nervous in the beginning because I normally clear 4-10," said Hughes, who went on to surpass 5 feet before meet's end. "When I had to go on my third attempt, I was close to having a panic attack."

After some encouragement from Lux-Rulon and jumps coach Caleb Ball, Hughes ensured STM had a pair of state high jump representatives for the second consecutive year.

Lux-Rulon needed just two tries to advance in both the high jump and long jump. She's competed in the former venture at state all four of her prep seasons.

"I've been really focused on conserving energy," Lux-Rulon said. "I'm not in the best shape I want to be in for state, so conserving energy and taking the least amount of jumps for my running events is something I'm focusing on."

Both Lux-Rulon and Hughes will be plenty busy beginning today in Charleston during the prelims of the 1A state meet at O'Brien Field on the campus of Eastern Illinois University. In addition to their field events, they'll both take part in one contest on the track — the 100-meter hurdles for Lux-Rulon and the 1,600 relay for Hughes.

But they're still plenty excited they'll be taking on the high jump together, as they did at EIU in 2017. Hughes qualified for the finals in the event last year, but didn't place, while Lux-Rulon, who finished second in state in 2016, missed out on advancing out of the prelims in 2017.

"Hopefully we can ... place together," Hughes said. "That's one of my goals is to place, and I think her goal is to win state."

Sages' youth shining through

MONTICELLO — Mattie Lieb is no spring chicken when it comes to state track, even as a sophomore at Monticello.

In her inaugural high school campaign, she soared to the Class 2A meet in the 100-meter dash and 1,600 run. This year, she's adding extra duties.

Lieb pushed forward in both of those events, as well as in the 200 and 800 relay during last Thursday's 2A Monticello Sectional. She's part of a young contingent that has the Sages' present and future looking bright.

"I feel like (state) is going to be a lot different because last year I was a freshman, so it was like I just followed everybody else around," Lieb said. "But now I kind of know what it's like there, so I feel like it's going to be good."

Lieb is joined by sophomore Emelia Ness (100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, 400 relay, 800 relay), sophomore Landis Brandon (pole vault) and freshman Sydney Buchanan (400 relay, 800 relay) in a crew of Sages underclassmen who will hit Charleston for Friday's preliminaries.

And they have plenty of battle-tested athletes to look up to, such as senior Aliyah Welter (300 hurdles, 400 relay, reigning state champ in pole vault), senior Emma Helferich (800 relay, long jump) and junior Alyssa McPike (1,600, 3,200).

"I think the seniors have really made a huge impact on all of us," Lieb said. "Emma and Aliyah, they always push us and know exactly what they're doing."

In addition to gunning for plenty of 2A hardware, Monticello's stars are going to enjoy this final ride at state in their present alignment.

"(The seniors) graduating is going to be rough because they're a huge part of our team. We love them so much," Lieb said. "We're just a big family."

What to know about the meet

Those who head to EIU for this week's festivities will have plenty of track and field to take in.

The party starts with Class 1A preliminaries today. Field events open at 10 a.m. with the long jump, triple jump and high jump. With the start of running events at 11 a.m. comes shot put and pole vault as well, with discus following at 1:10 p.m.

Running showcases will be contested in typical meet order from 11 a.m. through roughly 3 p.m.

Things get going a bit earlier Friday as a result of 2A and 3A prelims both being held. Class 2A opens the day with the jumps at 8 a.m., followed by running events from 9 a.m. until approximately 12:10 p.m., with the shot put and pole vault at 9 a.m. and the discus at 10:55 a.m.

Over in 3A, the jumps will kick off at noon and be trailed by the pole vault at 12:30 p.m., running events at 12:45 p.m. (through roughly 4:30 p.m.), the shot put at 1:05 p.m. and the discus at 2:45 p.m.

Saturday will see all three classes, along with the wheelchair division, come together for finals. Class 1A will lead off each event except the 100, 200, 400 and 800 dashes, which all will start with wheelchair athletes.

All championship-round activities are slated for a 10 a.m. start except shot put, which will get rolling at 12:30 p.m. The final running event, the 1,600 relay, is scheduled to start at 4:25 p.m.

Parking is $5 at O'Brien Stadium, and tickets will be on sale daily for $10 at the venue.

High five

These area athletes head into the state meet ranked in the top five of their respective events based on their sectional performances:

CLASS 3A

Name    School    Event    Rank

Ameia Wilson    Danville    100    1st

Ameia Wilson    Danville    200    1st

Ameia Wilson    Danville    Long jump    3rd

CLASS 2A

Name(s)    School    Event    Rank

Jessica Franklin    M-S    300 hurdles    1st

Aliyah Welter    Monticello    Pole vault    T-1st

Diamonasia Taylor    Urbana    High jump    T-1st

Emelia Ness    Monticello    300 hurdles    3rd

Payne Turney    Clinton    800    3rd

Mye’joi Williams    Rantoul    Shot put    3rd

Landis Brandon    Monticello    Pole vault    T-3rd

Shaniya Howard    Urbana    High jump    T-3rd

Taylor Millsap    Unity    Pole vault    T-3rd

Mara Pletcher    M-S    Pole vault    T-3rd

Riley Prusser    Clinton    High jump    T-3rd

Kynzee Boastick    Urbana    300 hurdles    4th

Lanaeja Carter    Urbana    Discus    5th

Olivia Rosenstein    Urbana    1,600 relay    5th

Diamonasia Taylor

Shaniya Howard

Kynzee Boastick

Kolby Weiss    Clinton    Pole vault    T-5th

CLASS 1A

Name(s)    School    Event    Rank

Kenli Nettles    ALAH    High jump    1st

Arielle Summitt    Uni High    800    1st

Arielle Summitt    Uni High    1,600    1st

Laura Krasa    Judah Christian    3,200    2nd

Kenli Nettles    ALAH    100 hurdles    2nd

Kenli Nettles    ALAH    300 hurdles    2nd

Capria Brown    Schlarman    400    3rd

Abbey Mizer    SJ-O    400 relay    3rd

Maclayne Taylor

Hailey Birt

Zea Maroon

Abbey Mizer    SJ-O    800 relay    4th

Maclayne Taylor

Hailey Birt

Danie Kelso

Alayna Stalter    Fisher    100 hurdles    4th

Katelyn Young    Oakwood    Shot put    4th

Sarah Craig    Schlarman    Pole vault    T-4th

Lucy Lux-Rulon    STM    100 hurdles    5th

Atleigh Hamilton    SJ-O    Long jump    5th