CHARLESTON — Arcola teammates Taylor Edwards and Klaire Karmazinas are track and field state finalists in a no-win position.
Whatever the teenagers do Saturday, they will feel like someone is disappointed. They are dual-sport spring athletes and — usually — form the starting battery for the softball team, which has an 11 a.m. regional championship game Saturday.
They are also two of the four Purple Riders on the 3,200-meter relay that advanced to Saturday’s 11 a.m. finals in that event with the seventh-best time. Edwards also will seek a state medal individually for the second year in a row, in the 800 meters.
She left Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium after Thursday’s preliminary round in a quandary realizing that the conflicting times will require her and Karmazinas to miss one of the important upcoming events.
“I’ll pray about it and figure out which team needs me more,” Edwards said. “I don’t want to let the softball team down, but the track team has worked so hard to get here. It’s not fair to either one.”
The good news is that even if the time for the softball game against first-time regional finalist Shiloh does not get changed, neither girl has to make a decision.
That was settled weeks ago. Arcola’s dual-sport spring athletes had to select a primary sport in the preseason.
“Last year,” softball coach Craig VanDeveer said, “they declared softball No. 1. This year, they picked track.”
Assuming there is no shift in the softball game time at Broadlands, VanDeveer expects to have nine players available for the championship game. Freshman Kayla Kepley (0-1) would pitch, and sophomore Sydney Spelman would be the catcher.
“If we play like we’re capable, we can win with what we’ve got,” VanDeveer said. “We’ve got to go in and take care of business.”
If Edwards and Karmazinas wind up at track, they will join freshman Rylee Fishel and senior Erin Lindenmeyer in the 3,200 relay finals while chasing school history. Arcola’s girls’ program has never had a relay earn state medals.
For the second time in four days, the Purple Riders posted their season-best time in the relay. They previously ran 10 minutes, 14.58 seconds — and cut another 12 seconds to 10:02.15 on Thursday.
“They did a very good job,” Arcola coach Jason Retz said. “All of them have run faster individually at some point. They’re still trying to put their best together at the same time.”
Edwards and Fishel are ranked eighth and 12th, respectively, in the 800 meters, the other event where Arcola will compete in the finals. If Edwards earns a medal, she will be the school’s first two-time state track medal winner.
“My first lap (in the 800 prelims) was a little faster than I wanted, but it turned out OK,” Edwards said, “even though I didn’t get my PR.”
✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
St. Thomas More was the first school to earn a berth in any of Saturday’s championship races. The Sabers won the first heat of Thursday’s first running event — the 3,200 relay — to secure their advancement.
The foursome of Gen Harrington, Randa Harshbarger, Elizabeth Bristow and Regan Kelley cut more than 12 seconds off the time they ran at sectionals.
“This is the first time all four of us have been together since last year at state,” Kelley said. “We knew when we got all the pieces together something would happen.”
Harshbarger said the Sabers were determined to reach the finals, a goal they didn’t meet in 2012. They took the lead in their heat race by the second exchange and never relinquished it.
“We believe in each other,” Harshbarger said.
After their preliminary race, the Sabers showed they weren’t just concerned about themselves. Sangamon Valley Conference school St. Joseph-Ogden was among the 10 schools competing in the second heat of the relay. The Spartans had some cheerleaders trackside.
“ ‘Let’s go St. Joe. You’ve got it girls,’ ” Kelley yelled.
The Spartans finished in 10:08.28, placing 14th and missing the finals by one second.
✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
The area will be well-represented in Saturday’s championship event, which begins at 11 a.m.
There will be at least one area athlete in 16 of the 18 events (missing only in the 100 meters and the 1,600). A total of 16 area schools have finalists, led by Sullivan/Okaw Valley (six), Fisher (five), Clinton (four) and St. Thomas More (four).
Events with the most area finalists are pole vault (four), triple jump (four), 800 meters (four), shot put (three), discus (three), 3,200 relay (three), 800 relay (three) and 200 meters (three). The open 3,200 had no preliminaries and also will have three area competitors.
The Class 2A and Class 3A state preliminaries will be run Friday.
✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
SJ-O made up for its near miss in the 3,200 relay by putting itself in a position for medals in the meet-ending 1,600 relay. The foursome of Alyssa Pridemore, Tori Master, Morgann Graham and Loren Brooks (a pole vault finalist) trimmed nearly seven seconds off its season best, sharing the baton in 4:05.69 and qualifying for the finals with the sixth-best time.
“That’s crazy,” Master said. “We wanted to get a PR, but nobody expected it to be by seven seconds.”
Anchor runner Brooks collapsed to the track less than a step past the finish line.
Master was a near miss for the 300 hurdles finals, ending 11th in an event where the top nine made the finals.
Her 47.07 clocking was the second best of her career, though she had trouble acknowledging that achievement.
“Really sad,” Master said. “That’s my last 300 hurdles race ever.”
✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
Argenta-Oreana senior Kandie Bloch-Jones jumped twice to reach the finals. She passed in the high jump until the bar was set at 5 foot, then cleared that height and 5-2 on her first attempt.
All 15 Class 1A girls who jumped 5-2 made the finals.
Even while idle from participating, UI recruit Bloch-Jones was busy.
“It’s nice to see how high people go over the bar,” she said. “It gives me something to look at. Saturday is where I need to clamp down.”
In her first year of qualifying for state in the triple jump, she posted the fifth-best leap (35 feet, 11/4 inches).
Bloch-Jones is one of three area athletes to make the finals in at least two individual events. The others are Sullivan/Okaw Valley’s Amanda McClain (200, 400 and long jump), Fisher’s Miranda Marry (100 hurdles and 300 hurdles) and Salt Fork’s Jenny Kimbro (100 hurdles and 300 hurdles).
✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
Kimbro was the lone freshman to reach the finals in both hurdles races and the only one to advance at the 300-meter distance.
The first time she ran the 300 race, she didn’t picture herself as one of Thursday’s four heat winners in the preliminaries.
“My time was about 50 seconds, and I couldn’t imagine it being where it is now (46.52 in qualifications),” Kimbro said. “The 300s are a lot different from any other race I’ve done.
“They’re more tiring, and you have to have a lot of heart. You get really, really tired, and the last 100 (meters) is really hard. You have to make sure you have enough left in the final 100.”
Kimbro enters the finals seeded second in the 100 hurdles and seventh in the 300 hurdles.
“She competed pretty well,” said Gary Spezia, who has worked with Kimbro in the hurdles. “She can win that (100-meter) race.”
Salt Fork assistant coach Brent Bowman is not surprised Kimbro is ranked higher in the sprint-hurdle race.
“She’s more comfortable with that,” Bowman said. “She’s still new to the 300s (this year).”
✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
Clinton lowered its school record in the 400 relay from 50.88 to 50.05, with sophomore Becca Anderson running the anchor. She was joined by Erin West, Jade Thomas and Morgan Witzke.
Anderson had a feeling the mark was within reach.
“In other meets, me and Erin have run prelims in other races first,” Anderson said. “We were so excited to run fresh.”
The Maroons take the third-best qualifying time into the finals. Their time ranks ninth on the all-time area Honor Roll.
“We have a senior on the team (Thomas), and this is our second time going to state with her,” Anderson said. “We had a hope for the record but to get it was amazing.”