Winning's not foreign to Choquette, M-S
URBANA — Nicole Choquette's education didn't stop last spring just because she didn't attend Urbana High School every day.
When her father, a University of Illinois professor, took a semester's sabbatical, Nicole accompanied the family on a European trip that included stops in Germany, Australia, France, Belgium, Ireland and England.
Then a sophomore, Choquette did more than see the sights. "I was home-schooled," she said.
OK, cynics, sit down. She really was learning. She returned to Urbana in time to take final exams in her Advanced Placement classes such as geometry, world history, English, chemistry and German. She got A's on the tests.
The only thing that suffered for Choquette was running. "I took the season off," she said.
That might not have been a bad idea. After her freshman year, she questioned herself, asking, "Why am I doing this?" she said. After the hiatus, she returned with a rejuvenated vigor.
"I was refreshed and ready," Choquette said. "It was life-changing. I learned so much about different cultures, and my German improved."
She was among the area winners Friday in Urbana's 36th girls' track and field invitational. She stayed with the five-runner lead pack through seven laps of the 3,200 meters, then surged to the front in the final 200, overtaking runner-up Hannah Wright of Champaign Central.
Choquette's winning time was a season-best 12 minutes, 8.12 seconds. Wright was timed in 12:13.82.
"That was my strategy," Choquette said. "Stay with them and then finish strong."
She is showing a penchant for success at different distances. Already this spring, Choquette has broken school records in the 800 and 400. The 800 mark had stood nearly 25 years. In the Urbana Open, Choquette was the 800 runner-up (2:23.20).
"She's a very talented athlete," Urbana coach Amy Boscolo said.
Champaign Central's Samone Thompson — a recent Illinois recruit — shattered two school records Friday.
She won the 300-meter hurdles, lowering her own mark from 44.80 to 44.74, which is the fourth fastest by an area athlete. In the 100 hurdles, she lost a photo finish to Danville's Alexus Jimson-Miller (14.95), but her 14.96 effort bettered the Central standard of 15.14.
Thompson also won the long jump, an event that she last did regularly as a sophomore. Her 300 clocking was a surprise, she said.
"I don't normally run the 4-by-2 (relay) before the 300 hurdles," she said. "Usually, I run the 300 hurdles on fresh legs. That got me more warmed up and showed me how strong I am."
Thompson sailed 17 feet, 3 1/4 inches in the long jump and has consistently surpassed the state-qualifying mark (16-11) since returning to the event.
An area double winner — besides Thompson — was Mahomet-Seymour's Jessica Melchi. She won the 400 (59.20) and the 200 (26.50) and also took second in the pole vault (11-0) for the meet champion Bulldogs, who edged the Tigers, 73-68, for team supremacy.
On a chilly night — when Springfield Southeast withdrew after two running events, citing the cold — Melchi was pleased to break the minute barrier.
"Coach (Bonnie Moxley) gave me a pep talk yesterday and said, 'You can do it, even if the weather is kind of bad,' " Melchi said. "When I was coming down the straightaway, I told myself, 'You can do it. Coach told me I could.' "
She eventually hopes to drop at least another second off her time.
"Hopefully I can if the weather is right and the competition is there," she said.
Centennial's all-sophomore unit captured the 800 relay (1:46.00). Avona Greene, who won the 100 sprint, led off and was followed by Olivia Knox, LaToyah Mason and Bertha Frazier. Charger coach Laura Koterba Buss still is searching for the combination to enter for the postseason.
"We have the speed, we're trying to find the right chemistry," she said. "We ran a senior (on the second leg) at indoor state, then ran a junior and now a sophomore."
Green's winning time in the 100 was 13.11.
"The 100 was not my main event before this year," said Greene, the Big 12 indoor champion in the 55 meters. "It's something I've played with, but my best event is probably the 400."
The biggest change, she said, came in the offseason. She spent the fall and winter as a cheerleader for the Chargers in football and basketball.
"From the gymnastics and three-hour practices, I got stronger," Greene said, "and in track, my starts are a ton better."
In the 100, she edged Urbana's Lateshia Dove (13.31), who was one of the Tigers honored on Senior Night. Dove has committed to running at Illinois next school year and will sign a letter of intent next month.
When Thompson and Jimson-Miller left the track after the 100 hurdles finals, officials hadn't studied the tape to verify a winner. Jimson-Miller was going to be content whichever way the outcome went.
"I was hoping it was me," she said, "but that was a good race. I enjoyed it a lot. The competition pushes me to do my best."
The Vikings ended on a good note, too, winning the closing 1,600 relay with a foursome of Emone Davis, Joriel Stewart, Jimson-Miller and Ambrosia Williams (4:06.40).
Rachel Ballard won three events to lead St. Joseph-Ogden to second place in the 19-team meet. Ballard placed first in the 100, 200 and triple jump.
Sydni Meunier led Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley to fourth place by winning the 800 and 1,600, and running on the Falcons' first-place 1,600 relay. Amanda McClain of fifth-place Sullivan captured the 400 and long jump, and she anchored the first-place 800 relay.