For Thompson, best is yet to come
CHARLESTON — Samone Thompson had her final auditions Friday. Saturday, the Champaign Central senior will join the cast of nine finalists in two hurdles races at the 40th IHSA Class 2A girls' state track and field championships.
She could have a tough time trying to earn the lead.
The Illinois recruit registered the second-best time in both of her semifinal races, but she trails the person who on Friday set state records at both distances.
"I came out today to run and see where I'm at," Thompson said. "I focused on winning my heat, and I'm not worried about the competition until (Saturday)."
Thompson took the less stressful of two possible routes into Saturday's finals. All heat winners at Eastern Illinois' O'Brien Stadium automatically advance. From there, only those with the next-best times move on.
"It feels good to know you're guaranteed of going on," Thompson said, "and I feel I can run faster."
In the 100-meter hurdles, she was clocked in a career-best 14.98 seconds. Chicago Lindblom's Shamier Little ran a state-record 14.16.
In the 300 hurdles, Thompson cut more than a half-second off her personal best, finishing in 44.37. Little's record qualifying run was 43.06. Both times lowered her own school records, and the 300 mark broke the all-time News-Gazette Area Honor Roll record (44.60) set by Danville's Tiffany Johnson in 2002.
Thompson is pleased to be in position to earn a state medal for the second consecutive year.
"My freshman year, I wasn't good at the hurdles," she said. "I got to doing the (open) 400. That got me back to the 300 hurdles and made them easier for me."
A year ago, she was fourth in Class 2A in the 300 hurdles. There is a mind-set that must be achieved to succeed in the hurdles.
"You can't be scared and you have to attack them," Thompson said.
She is also a finalist in the long jump, where she had matching leaps of 17-4 1/2 on each of her first two jumps in the prelims. She is ranked 10th entering the finals and needs to improve by more than a half-inch to be in position for one of that event's nine medals.
Her season best in the long jump is 17-11 1/2.
Thompson is on the verge of establishing a school mark. No Central athlete has ever earned medals in three girls' individual events in the same year. If successful Saturday, Thompson also would join former Maroon Janelle Johnson (1997-98) for the most career state medals (four) by a female.
"I'm really excited," said Thompson, who last year was the school's first state placer in a hurdles event. "I'm in a good position. I'm looking forward to the finals."
The Maroons also have a competitor in a fourth event Saturday. Junior pole vaulter Kristin Hammel cleared 10-6 — matching her own school record — and is in a tie for 10th in Class 2A. Central has never had a pole vault medalist.