Memory Lane: Girls' state track and field

Memory Lane: Girls' state track and field

EACH WEEK, WE'LL TAKE A LOOK BACK AT A MEMORABLE MOMENT IN PREPS HISTORY, THANKS TO THE WORDS OF THE NEWS-GAZETTE

This week: Charleston is the track capital of the state this weekend as the girls' meet gets under way.

Date: May 22, 2004

Headline: Wienke's the one

CHARLESTON — Johanna Wienke can hope to improve upon her performance but not her position in today's wrapup to the 32nd girls' state track and field meet.

The Tuscola High sophomore is the top qualifier for the 12-person Class A finals in the discus. In an event where 10 of the competitors are juniors or seniors, Wienke was the day's dominant thrower.

She not only had the best overall mark in the preliminaries (140 feet, 3 inches), but she also had the second- and third-best efforts. All finalists get three more attempts today to catch Wienke, who leads by 10-3 ahead of her closest pursuer.

The field events at Eastern Illinois University's O'Brien Stadium will start at 11 a.m.

Wienke is one of the 11 area athletes who qualified for the finals in individual events, and she is one of three girls who advanced in two events. She stands third in the shot put enteringthe finals.

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley hurdler Frannie Epps moved on in the 100- and 300-meter events, and Clinton sprinter Rachel Anderson advanced in the 200 and 400 dashes.

Wienke threw the shot first Friday and that performance (39-4 1/2) gave her a mental boost. She uncorked her state-leading toss in the discus on her first attempt, which she said was unexpected.

"After warmups, I wasn't sure how it would go," she said. "The warmups weren't very pretty."

She made a technical adjustment in the positioning of her leg and had consecutive efforts of 140-3, 133-0 and 137-6.

The runner-up, senior Kara Boston of Indian Creek, is at 130-0.

"I can't believe I threw that far for the first day," said Wienke, who clinched a medal for her family for the third consecutive year. Johanna was fourth last year, and sister Jenna was seventh in 2002.

Wienke qualified for the finalsin two of the four events where first-day marks carry over to the finals. Long jump and triple jump performances also can be counted the second day.

Wienke said she feels far from smooth in the shot put ring.

"I'm not comfortable with it yet," she said. "There's a lot of technique stuff I need to work on."

She trails Tremont's Sam Springer, the shot put runner-up, by less than 3 inches. The first-day leader is Virden's Breanne Branson (41-0 1/2).

Epps had the second-best qualifying time in the 300 hurdles (46.60 seconds) and stands third in the 100 hurdles (15.59) after the prelims.

The senior standout was totally relaxed for her final event: the 300 hurdles.

"Knowing I'd made the finals in the 100 hurdles took the pressure off," said Epps, after registering her career-best time in the 300s.

She shot out of the blocks so quickly that her trainer, Champaign's Gary Spezia said, "she came out smoking," and added, "that's the best she has started."

The quick getaway was in contrast to how she was feeling on a day the temperature on the track reached the upper 80s. Epps said that had an effect.

"'It was very draining," she said. "I felt lethargic, but I know it's my last time here, so I have to make the most of it."

Coming down the straightaway in the 300s, Epps said, "I thought I was slowing up, but when I saw the time, I felt pretty good about it."

Epps overcame what she called 'a bad start' in the 100 to win her heat race. She is one of three girls to advance to the nine-person finals in both hurdles races.

"There's no pressure now," she said. "I'll come back tomorrow and have a good time and hope to finish in the top three."

Clinton's Anderson ranks third in the 400 and sixth in the 200 after prelims. She missed a berth in the 100 by less than one-tenth of a second and ended 14th in that event.

Friday marked the sixth time she has run the 400 in a meet. Her strategy, she said, is "nonexistent."

Added Anderson: "I still don't really know how to run the 400. I wing it every time. I try to even it up (overcome the stagger) by 100 meters, give it all I have and then hope they don't catch me."

Her 400 time was 58.84, the second best of her career. Coach Steve Cors knew he had a potential state placer when she ran the race for the first time after a midseason practice.

To give her competition, she was matched with two runners from the Maroons' 800 relay, each running 200 meters. Anderson beat them both and had a 59.7 clocking in the time trial.

"That was at a time when no one (in Class A) had gone under a minute," Cors said.

In Anderson's 200, which was her fourth race of the day Friday, she posted a 26.27, just off her season best of 26.1. Her approach to state, she said, is no different than for a mid-April meet.

"It's just a meet," she said.

Other area individuals who advanced to the finals are Oakwood freshman Ashley Sermak (800), Unity sophomore Kelli McNamara (high jump), GCMS junior Ashley Tjardes (pole vault), St. Joseph-Ogden senior Ashley Graham (pole vault) and Ridgeview sophomore Ashley Whitecotton (400).

Sermak is seeded seventh in the 800 and is one of four freshmen in the 12-person finals. She lowered her school record more than four seconds to 2 minutes, 21.33 seconds.

"I couldn't have done any more," Sermak said. "This was my best race. I went as hard as I could for as long as I could."

McNamara was one of nine high jumpers to clear the mandatory 5-2 height needed to reach the finals. Graham, who tied for eighth in the pole vault last year, and Tjardes each cleared 9-0 and are among 10 finalists. Tjardes hit the qualifying height on her final attempt.

Whitecotton is seeded sixth in the 400.

The lone area school to send relays to the finals is Prairie Central, which qualified its 1,600 and 3,200 foursomes.

You can reach Fred Kroner at (217) 351-5235 or via e-mail at fkroner@news-gazette.com.

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