Coach's mother helps inspire team to meet title
CATLIN – Susan Kentner didn't need to make up an inspirational speech for her Bismarck-Henning girls' track and field team.
The Blue Devils coach simply related the harrowing part of her week to her team. On Thursday, her mother, Sue Johnson, underwent heart-valve replacement surgery at BroMenn Hospital in Normal.
"I told the girls, 'I've watched someone fight for their life this week, and I want to see you guys show that kind of courage,' " Kentner said. "These kids came through. It was really great."
For the third time in four years, B-H won team honors in the Vermilion County meet. With Jessica Brito winning three individual events and the Blue Devils capturing the meet-ending 1,600 relay, the team totaled 162 points.
Runner-up Oakwood/ Armstrong-Potomac had 107 1/2 points and was followed by Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman (94) and Hoopeston Area (75) in the six-school field.
The meet's premier performers were O/A-P senior Stephanie Denius and Hoopeston Area junior Erika Ramos, who secured first-place medallions in four events, the maximum a person can enter.
Ramos ran the equivalent of 4 miles, winning the 3,200, 1,600 and 800 races as well as running the anchor leg on the Cornjerkers' triumphant 3,200 relay.
She has been the county champion in the 800 for three consecutive years. She conceded it was a daunting task.
"It was tough," Ramos said, "but coach (Jane Comrie) told me I had a pretty good chance, and I was up for the challenge."
Denius showed her versatility, sprinting to victory in the 100 meters with a school-record 12.58 clocking, winning the 300 hurdles, the high jump and the triple jump.
The Parkland College basketball recruit was a repeat champion in the hurdles and the jumping events.
"I didn't think I'd be running as fast as I am, but I'm stronger and working harder," Denius said. "I'm trying to go to state in four events."
Brito's victories were in the 200, 400 and long jump. She led a 1-2 finish by the Blue Devils in the 400, beating teammate Keisha Hoskins to the finish line. Hoskins was the 1,600 relay anchor.
Salt Fork had a pair of three-time champions. Dani Biggerstaff won the 110 hurdles for the third consecutive year, and teammate Hannah Wilkins took the shot put and discus titles for the third year in a row.
After her previous success, Wilkins was expecting nothing less as a senior.
"I don't think I would have walked out happy if I didn't win," she said. "I've lifted more, trained more and gotten ready for the season. I've improved a lot."
Gusty winds prevented any meet records from being set, though Biggerstaff narrowly missed the mark in the 110 hurdles. Her time was 16.12. The meet mark, which has stood since 1990, was 16.10.
G-RF/C used the same quartet of runners to win the 400 and 800 relays. Sharing the baton were Lindsey Swick, Shelby Porter, Jade Beals and Kaci Lierman.