Honor Roll: Jimson-Miller impresses
CHAMPAIGN — Alexus Jimson-Miller was the best of the best on Monday.
The Danville High School junior was also the best ever in the history of the 31-year-old News-Gazette Honor Roll meet.
For good measure, her times in all three events she won ranked among the top three ever recorded by an area female athlete.
You won't find an attitude of complacency as she prepares for the state meet, which for Class 3A athletes such as those from Danville will be Friday at Charleston.
"I've still got to get better," Jimson-Miller said.
There were three girls' records set in Monday's meet at the UI Track. Two were solo efforts by Jimson-Miller, who played soccer in 2011. The third was the 400-meter relay, which included Jimson-Miller on the second leg.
That foursome — Ariona Graham, Jimson-Miller, Emone Davis and Michaleen Forman — was clocked in 48.42, which bettered the meet record (49.36) as well as the all-time area record (for times from any competition), which was 48.43 by Danville in 2006.
Anchor runner Forman returned to track this spring after two years of softball.
"I'm going to college (Lincoln Land) for volleyball and this gives me a good workout," Forman said. "I like running."
Ironically, coach B.J. Luke used two different runners than the lineup he used on Thursday at sectionals when the Vikings qualified for state. One runner (Ambrosia Williams) is sidelined with a pulled hamstring and Luke decided on Monday to also substitute Davis on the unit because "we have six kids who can all run it well."
Perhaps Jimson-Miller's most impressive performance was in the 100 hurdles. The previous mark (14.60) had stood since 1996. She lowered the standard all the way to 14.17, the second-best time ever by an area runner.
"All my practice, I've been putting to work and my times have been dropping every week," she said. "I looked at the record and said, 'I can do that,' and I went after it."
Her sectional time (14.45) ranks third entering state among all Class 3A qualifiers.
Jimson-Miller's other win was in the 200 meters (24.71), when she posted the second-best area time ever.
Centennial's Avona Greene won the 100 meters in a season-best 12.60. She credited a pre-race tip from former Olympian Mike Shine, a ninth-year assistant with the Chargers' boys' program.
"He said I needed to be more explosive and I listened to his words of advice," Greene said. "He had me push off more and use the power from the blocks."
Shine worked with her on her starting technique.
"I pushed the right button," Shine said. "I shortened her up a little bit and it helped."
Arthur-Lovington's Karly Goodman matched her season best in the shot out (39-0) on her first attempt. That enabled the Class 1A state qualifier to put her attention elsewhere.
"I didn't want to throw too hard, but I tried working on my form," said Goodman, whose first throw was the day's best.
Urbana's Dominique Johnson had plenty of motivation in the 300 hurdles, an event she had hoped to qualify for state in but fell short.
"I didn't do as well as I wanted at sectionals, but I wanted to come back and break the school record," Johnson said.
Her winning time of 45.75 was her best, but just missed the Tigers' record (45.50).
Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley freshman Hannah Kollross is another who missed state but ended her season on a happy note. She won the 1,600 meters (5:38.12) and said, "it was pretty rewarding to get my second-best time."
Salt Fork's Toria Plotner beat all pursuers in the 400 (1:01.11) and took pride in the achievement.
"It's an honor to come here, and to win is awesome," Plotner said.
Not all the smiles belonged to those with gold medals. Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac's 3,200 relay placed seventh, but for the third consecutive week broke the school record, which is now 10:59.56.
"They're understanding what it's all about," coach Lynn Anderson said after watching the foursome of Catherine Wright, Eilis Nicholson, Mariah Carnahan and Preslie Fletcher.
Danville's Graham was the long jump winner with a career-best 17-2 1/2. Teammate Forman won the triple jump, also with her best leap ever (37-2 1/2).
"I planned on redeeming myself at the Honor Roll meet," Graham said. "I went 16-10 at sectionals (and didn't advance to state). This is very exciting."
Prairie Central's Liz Walter overtook Argenta-Oreana's Haley Briggs on the last of eight laps to win the 3,200 (12:13.86).
"I like to start my pace easy and catch everybody," said Walter, who was the runner-up in the 1,600 with a personal-best time. "It feels good to pass them by one by one."
Other individual winners were A-O's Kandie Bloch, the state leader in the high jump, who cleared 5-4; Centennial's Hannah Cuttell (2:23.86 in the 800); Sullivan/Okaw Valley's Olivia Herzog in the discus (121-3) and Prairie Central's Sarah Oprondek (10-6 in the pole vault).
Relays winners besides Danville in the 400 were Centennial in the 800, Mahomet-Seymour in the 1,600 and Monticello in the 3,200.
The Sages' anchor, Hannah Houska, said the meet was a confidence-booster heading into state. The foursome — all of whom are cross-country runners — had high hopes for the distance relay.
"It's exciting to do well here and know we're going to state," Houska said after joining Emily Foley, Maddie Tutich and Emily Smith on the winning relay.
The main work is behind them, she added.
"Now we just have to get plenty of sleep and stay healthy," Houska said.
In Class 1A, the state semifinals are Thursday in Charleston.