NOTES: Hamilton back on top in long jump

NOTES: Hamilton back on top in long jump

CHARLESTON — Atleigh Hamilton’s return to the scene of her freshman-year breakout couldn’t have started any better.

The St. Joseph-Ogden sophomore ripped off a long jump of 18 feet, 73/4 inches on her very first try in Thursday’s Class 1A state preliminaries, giving her the top distance over Pinckneyville’s Dakota Krone by 3 inches.

“I wasn’t expecting that at all,” Hamilton said after later helping the Spartans’ 1,600-meter relay to a heat victory. “I haven’t been jumping in the 17s much. I was just hoping to pull high 17s, but that completely surprised me.”

The reigning News-Gazette All-Area girls’ track and field Athlete of the Year far exceeded her 2018 state-winning long jump leap of 18-2, getting SJ-O’s 1A team title defense off on the right foot.

In addition to her field event and role on that 1,600 relay, Hamilton also helped the Spartans’ 400 and 800 relays qualify for Saturday’s finals at Eastern Illinois’ O’Brien Stadium.

With Maclayne Taylor’s 100-meter dash, Cassidy Bagby’s 3,200 run and SJ-O’s 3,200 relay also in that fold, the Spartans have a chance to equal or surpass the 43 points they acquired one season ago.

“It’s kind of similar, just because we don’t really surprise ourselves,” said Taylor, who served on the 400, 800 and 1,600 foursomes. “We know the adrenaline’s going to be here come state, so we always get good results, a little bit above what we’re expected.”

This also requires more than just seniors like Taylor and Rylee Sjuts getting involved.

Hamilton was joined Thursday by juniors Danie Kelso and Hailey Birt and freshman Ashlyn Lannert among younger faces making the Spartan relays click.

“It’s nice that we have underclassmen stepping up,” Taylor said. “They’ve really ... showed us how capable they are of hanging with everybody else on the team.”

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The IHSA website lists DeLand-Weldon’s numeric enrollment at 54 students. In theory, that doesn’t offer an abundance of opportunity for state track and field qualification.

But the small school located about 20 miles outside Mahomet had one athlete sporting the Eagles brand across her chest Thursday.

Peyton Lappin chucked the discus 112 feet, 3 inches in Class 1A sectional action to give D-W its first state competitor in what Lappin has been told is “the past 25 years.”

“It was a good experience,” said Lappin after her top toss of 109 feet, 1 inches on Thursday left her short of Saturday’s championship round. “Hopefully I’ll make it to the finals next year and get a place — a good place.”

The Eagles’ program numbers just seven athletes, so Lappin giving D-W representation in Charleston is a big deal.

The junior, who follows in the throwing footsteps of her brother and father, aimed to do more than participate in Thursday’s prelims, though.

“It’ll prepare me better for next year,” Lappin said, “because this was my first time in high school going. So I think next year I’ll be more prepared and know what’s going on.”

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Claire Retherford may have been able to claim the longest break between events Thursday.
The Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley senior traveled to Charleston for shot put and discus for the first time in her career, after two previous state tries in only the latter venture.

Retherford was Thursday’s opening thrower, leading off the first of four shot put heats around 11 a.m.
Her supporters had to enjoy those hurls for a long while, too, because it was the last they’d see of Retherford in the ring until after dinnertime.

Multiple lightning delays, paired with the use of just one discus ring for all action, meant Retherford and her fourth-flight cohorts saw their start time pushed past 6 p.m.

“I rested throughout the day,” Retherford said. “I really just put music on and just kept cool and calm and went and watched my teammates when they were running.”

Retherford persevered, however, and grabbed her first-ever state finals berth with a throw of 121-6.

“This year, it seems a little more calm to me,” Retherford said. “I guess I’m more used to it now. I’m a little less worried and a little more focused this year.”

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Bella Ramshaw was wrapping up her 800-meter run preliminary Thursday afternoon when the first of what turned out to be several weather postponements struck O’Brien Stadium.

The St. Thomas More freshman expressed disappointment over this. She wanted to watch the other two half-mile heats right away, to know where she stood in the pecking order.

For Ramshaw, though, her clocking of 2 minutes, 25.42 seconds left her three positions away from Saturday’s finals.

Even so, Ramshaw felt far more confident at this state meet than her previous one, the 1A girls’ cross-country race in November.

“I tried to stay a lot more relaxed because during cross-country season I was really nervous,” Ramshaw said. “I just tried to keep my normal pace and then push it even more.”
Ramshaw sees herself as a middle-distance runner for the immediate future, saying she’s “pretty content with what I’m doing.”

It makes for a solid 1-2 Sabers track punch with junior Fran Hendrickson, who raced into Saturday’s 1,600 with a preliminary effort of 5:22.58.

“She’s such a great role model,” Ramshaw said of Hendrickson. “She’s taught me a lot.”

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A few minutes before Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond’s Kenli Nettles got to enjoy the fruits of her 100-meter hurdling labors, Salt Fork sophomore Gracie Jessup experienced a similar feeling.
Coming off a seventh-place state display as a ninth-grader, Jessup crushed the first of four 100 hurdles heats Thursday, blitzing to a time of 14.70 seconds that placed her above defending 100s champion Danielle Taets and reigning 300s titlist DaeLin Switzer.

“I was just pumped up, and I was ready for that race,” said Jessup, who will be seeded third Saturday. “At my sectional race, I hit the eighth hurdle and five-stepped over the next two, so I just wanted to come into this meet and just rebound off of that.”

Key to that goal was advice from her part-time coach, hurdling guru Gary Spezia, about Jessup’s footwork.

“I can run the first half of the race on the balls of my feet, but then I start to heel-toe run, which definitely makes me slower,” Jessup said. “But (Thursday) I executed that part of the race, and I got what I wanted.”

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