PAXTON – After a disappointing 2007 girls' track and field season, St. Joseph-Ogden wanted to prove it would again belong among the state's best.
The Spartans did just that with a come-from-behind Class 1A sectional title, edging Monticello by 10 points, on the night's final race with a meet record in the 1,600-meter relay.
Coach Jerry Hewerdine thought the Spartans' performance from 2007 would be a factor in the way the 2008 team competed.
"Last year we were disappointed because we finished third in a couple of relays," Hewerdine said. "The seniors were a little hungrier this year."
Hewerdine was also glad to have his squad back at full strength.
"This year, three or four of our kids got mono, and it's taken them a long time to get back to being really competitive," Hewerdine said. "We were very fortunate we got them back."
Senior Cat Foreman, the anchor runner for the second-place 400 and 800 relay teams, said the mistakes of '07 helped fuel the fire for '08.
"Last year was extremely disappointing," Foreman said. "Coming into the meet today, we all remembered the feeling from last year.
"It was just a sad, disappointing feeling."
What a difference a year can make.
Just one runner qualified for the '07 state meet; this year, all four relay teams, plus two individuals, will make the trek to Charleston next Friday and Saturday.
One of those individuals, Morgan Davis, did not even begin training for her event, the pole vault, until last summer.
"I'm feeling very awesome," Davis said. "It was my first season of pole vault. It's been a family tradition: my brother (Vince) and dad (Dan) did it also. I was playing softball previously, and I thought it was a great opportunity to try something new; I really love it.
"Our team is amazing. We have such great teamwork. It's so awesome to come on to a great team, especially in my first year."
Foreman has been on the team but is happy for another reason.
She grasped it as tight as she could after the meet: the sectional title plaque, her first.
SJ-O had not made the finals since 2002, the last of five straight years doing so. The Spartans won the championship in 2000.
Said Foreman: "To have all four relays and other individuals (make state) is just the best, best way to go out for my senior year. It's so exciting. It's an incredible feeling."
Hewerdine insisted the credit go to the team – not his coaching record.
"The kids put a lot of hard work in," Hewerdine said. "After a bad year, you hope the hard work will pay off. You've got to keep working at it because everybody is gaining on you."
Davis believes in the importance of chemistry for SJ-O. Now, she hopes the good feelings will continue another week.
"We are just a true team."
Abby Popejoy qualified for state in the long jump, triple jump and 400, and teammate Nichole Bressner earned spots in the pole vault and 100 hurdles, leading state-qualifying Prairie Central to third place at Bloomington Central Catholic High School.
Popejoy finished first in the long jump (16 feet, 10 3/4 inches) and 400 (1 minute, 0.32 second), and second in the triple jump (34-1 1/2). Bressner won the pole vault, clearing 9-9, and was second in the 100 hurdles (16.33)
The Hawks' 400 relay team claimed second and advanced to state.
Ridgeview's Sarah Butler clocked 26.88 in the 200 and moved on to state.
No one from Clifton Central/Iroquois West advanced to state.