CHARLESTON — Area athletes ran the gamut of experiences in Saturday's finals of the 39th annual girls' track and field meet at Eastern Illinois University.
Placers who exceeded expectations.
Placers who fell short of their goals.
On a mostly sunny day — clouded only by a few assorted rain drops — no effort better illustrated determination than that of Mahomet-Seymour senior Brittany Bohn on the anchor leg of the Class 2A meet-ending 1,600-meter relay.
Running her sixth state race in 31 hours, Bohn overcame a 10-meter deficit in the final 200 meters of her season-ending leg. A step ahead of the finish line, she pulled the Bulldogs into fourth place in the race.
"I went and had a whirlpool ice bath (after her fifth state race) and just hoped I had enough in me," Bohn said.
The 1,600 relay of Jessica Melchi, Emma Cabutti, Shelby Stucker and Bohn was timed in 4 minutes, 1.31 seconds — just off the school-record time the foursome set Friday — and helped M-S to the area's highest team placement in Class 2A.
"It's so exciting to go home with two (relay) medals," Cabutti said.
Coach Bonnie Moxley's Bulldogs tied for 12th with 22 points. Champaign Central tied for 39th (six points), Urbana tied for 51st (four) and Centennial ended in 62nd (one).
Bohn also anchored the 3,200 relay, which captured fifth place with a season-best time (9:37.49). She ended sixth in the 800 meters with a personal-best 2:17.56.
In that race, however, she felt she made a tactical error that cost her the ability to move up late.
"The field started fast, and that's not my strategy," Bohn said. "To run my best second lap, I knew I should have stuck with what I usually did. The competition freaked me out and I thought I should stay with them, but I didn't save enough for the second lap."
Preceding Bohn on the 3,200 relay were Stucker, Cabutti and freshman Allie Melchi.
"Our goal was top five," Stucker said. "We improved (timewise) a little, but we were expecting to improve a little more."
School's best, twice. St. Thomas More started the championship portion of the running finals by securing the school's best placement at the girls' state finals. The 3,200 relay finished fourth.
Six hours later, in the day's final race, the Sabers went one better. With two of the same runners returning to the track for the 1,600 relay, St. Thomas More placed third.
Prior to Saturday, the girls' best placer at state was fifth.
"It hasn't sunk in yet," said Jade Brinkoetter, who was a part of both relays, "but it will when we tell people we're one of the three fastest 4-by-4 teams in the state."
Teammate Kathryn Boyer, the first Saber to take home three state medals from the same meet, said the group overachieved.
"We knew we could make it to the finals," Boyer said, "but we definitely didn't think third place."
Gen Harrington started the 1,600 relay and was followed by Brinkoetter, Boyer and senior Kaitlin Knowles. At each exchange, the Sabers were running in third.
Unlike her teammates, who'd participated in other events during the day, Knowles didn't get to compete until she ran the anchor leg.
"It was so hard to wait," Knowles said. "I was like, 'Let's get to it.' I had my teammates to hold me down."
Boyer was added to the 3,200 relay after it made the finals. The last time she ran with the group was at the indoor state meet.
Randa Harshbarger led off and shared the baton with Regan Kelley and Brinkoetter before Boyer finished.
There was no disappointment about not finishing higher.
"We were ranked 10th and to get fourth is so insane," Kelley said. "I never thought it. It's so surreal."
Boyer was pole vaulting when it was time for the race and was asked to leave her field event after two — close — attempts at clearing 10 feet, 6 inches.
When she returned after running, it was to no avail.
"After that 800, my legs couldn't do it," Boyer said.
She ended in a tie for eighth (10-3).
"I'm hoping to vault in college," the junior added. "My goal was to medal this year. I'm excited to do it."
Another school record. Champaign Central's Samone Thompson continues to blaze a fast trail. She ran the 300-meter hurdles Saturday for the fifth time as a junior.
For the third time in her last four races, she shattered the school record. She lowered her Friday time (45.03) to 44.80 while placing fourth.
"I wasn't worried about place," Thompson said. "I was going out just trying to do better (timewise)."
A first-time state finalist, it didn't affect her Friday night.
"I was perfectly well-rested," Thompson said. "I had nine hours of sleep."
Her finish was the best at state by a girl from Central since 1999 and the highest placer in a running event since 1982. Former mile state champion Jani Ensrud is the only girl from Central to have placed higher than Thompson in an individual running event at state.
"This was awesome," Thompson said. "Next year, this will probably be an event I practice on a lot."
Her finals time was the fourth best ever by a News-Gazette area athlete.
Deepest area event. Four Class 1A athletes reached the finals in the long jump, and three garnered top-six finishes.
Argenta-Oreana's Becca Heiges finished fourth (17-7 1/4), Ridgeview's Emily Coile ended fifth (17-6) and St. Joseph-Ogden's Rachel Ballard placed sixth (17-6). All three bettered their preliminary marks during the finals.
Finishing 11th was Fisher's Carli Clifton (16-10 1/2).
"This is my first year in the long jump," Heiges said, "and I got my two best jumps today (also a 17-6). I love it."
Ballard was a two-event placer. She also ran fifth in the 200 (26.13). The junior also earned a long jump medal as a freshman.
"It was a good day," Ballard said.
Coile broke her school record for the second consecutive week. She followed up on her 17-5 leap at sectional with a 17-6 on her second attempt in the finals.
"It's cool to end on my best jump," said Coile, who will enroll at Parkland College in the fall as a graphic design major who won't participate in athletics.
"I had that drive today since I knew I would never be able to jump again."
Parkland no longer offers a track and field program.
Though Coile set her school's triple jump record as a junior, she'd never gone 17 feet in the long jump until this spring.
She came back with a fourth-place finish in the triple jump, smashing that school record by 2 inches with a 36-0 leap. Heiges placed ninth in the triple jump (34-11).
Three in a row. Three-time medalist Lydia Mitchell of Unity matched her best state finish with a sixth-place performance in the 300 hurdles (47.35).
She is the school's second female to earn three state medals and the first to do it in three consecutive years.
"It's something to be proud of," Mitchell said. "I was hoping to get a PR (personal record), but I'll take what I can get."
Her career-best time was 46.44 seconds.
"I was more nervous for this race than any other in my entire life," Mitchell said. "I was a little too nervous. I couldn't get my mind focused."
Unity coach Dave Bass didn't need to be told what Mitchell was feeling.
"I could tell from her body language that she was nervous," Bass said. "She has worked awfully hard for this, putting the time in during the offseason."
Still improving. Olivia Herzog, the three-time shot put state-placer from Sullivan/Okaw Valley, wasn't satisfied to be in second place entering the finals.
She had no illusions of catching Kelsey Card, whose state-record toss Friday led the field by more than 11 feet, but Herzog knew she could do better.
"Second for everyone else is like first," Herzog said. "No one else will beat Kelsey. We won't try to beat her because we can't and we know that."
In the shot and discus, Herzog improved her opening-round performances. She landed a 40-9 1/4 toss in the shot, keeping her in second, and moved up to third in the discus with a 135-6 effort, for her first medal in that event.
Herzog has progressed steadily in the shot, placing fourth as a freshman, third as a sophomore and second as a junior to Card, who is a senior headed to Wisconsin.
Teaming up for success. Urbana (sixth place) and Centennial (ninth place) earned their only state points in the 800 relay. The Tigers improved their semifinal time, clocking 1:45.51. Centennial came in at 1:46.10.
"To barely make it into the finals (by 0.16 second with the ninth-best time) and do this feels good," Urbana leadoff runner Dominique Johnson said.
She was followed by Anisha Coleman, Alyssa Wood and Lateshia Dove.
"I'm proud of everybody," Dove said. "We talked about wanting to finish higher, and we pushed for it. We deserve this because we busted our butts all year (with night practices at Centennial while their own track was unavailable)."
Centennial's lineup included two freshmen following juniors Andrea Wise and Hannah Ritchey. LaToyah Mason and Avona Greene finished up.
"I didn't think we'd be at this level," Greene said. "To get a medal is wonderful. I'm trying to absorb it."
Mason is a first-time trackster who took up the sport because "I was fast in basketball." She surpassed all expectations. "I didn't know I'd be this good," she said.
Wise said there's no extra pressure leading off.
"I've started for so long, I don't think about messing up," she said. "This feels great."
Ritchey is looking for more in 2012.
"I'm glad we could achieve this my junior year," she said. "Now we know we have more than potential to be in the top nine."
Spartan effort. The 3,200 relay has provided St. Joseph-Ogden more state medals than any other one during the past quarter century. The current foursome of Alyssa Pridemore (2:33.7 split), Sidney Long (2:26.9), Jolee Paden (2:23.7) and Chelsea Blaase (2:19.3) continued the tradition.
They ran third (9:43.89), marking the seventh time in the past 22 years the distance relay from SJ-O has medaled at state. Five of those relays have positioned themselves among the top three.
Anchor runner Blaase received the baton in fourth and, with 200 meters remaining, thought, "Fourth is fine. Let's finish it out."
Her mind told her one thing, but her body said "take off."
"In the last 200, it was like, 'I've got to get someone,' " Blaase said. "It felt good to do it in my last race."
The Spartans were running 12th at the first baton exchange, but Paden wasn't worried.
"It's not how you start but how you finish that matters," she said. "I'll take two thirds this year."
The four SJ-O relay runners were also the top individuals on the Spartans' state-placing cross-country team, which ended third in November.
Doubling up. Mahomet-Seymour has had state-placers in the discus before but never to the extent it had this year. For the first time, two Bulldogs walked away with medals.
Mackenzie Joop was sixth (109-10), and Morgan Young was ninth (109-3).
Joop was the top freshman finisher in that event and the No. 1 left-handed thrower.
"I didn't come in ranked," Joop said. "Getting to the finals was a big accomplishment. This is really rewarding. I can't wait for next year."
Repeater. Argenta-Oreana's Kandie Bloch cleared 5-6 in the high jump as a freshman and placed third. As a sophomore she again cleared 5-6 but finished in fourth.
The frustration she felt was based on a comment she heard when she sailed over the bar on her third attempt at 5-6.
"They told me I was over by about 4 inches," Bloch said. "I felt OK at 5-7 (which would have broken her school record) and thought I had it. Coming into this event my eighth-grade year, it means a lot to be a two-time placer. I have two more years to improve."
Third time's a charm. Fisher's Kristen Paris had qualified for state before. Twice, to be exact. The junior came away with her first medal in the 1,600, finishing sixth (5:15.48).
En route to the finals, she continued a trend. She broke the school record in her specialty as a freshman and as a sophomore as well as in her state semifinal appearance as a junior.
"State is a fun experience, and I tried my hardest," Paris said. "I wish I'd done a little better."