CHARLESTON — Given a choice, Monticello High School’s girls’ track and field team wouldn’t have endured any change this season.
Circumstances outside of their control, however, resulted in the school with an enrollment of 559 students being reassigned from Class 1A to Class 2A this spring.
The Sages hit the track running.
On Friday, Monticello qualified for the finals in both events in which it reached the girls’ state meet at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium.
Facing opponents with more than twice its enrollment (the upper-limit cutoff for Class 2A is 1,425 students) provided a daunting challenge.
“I was disappointed not to be running against (1A power) St. Teresa because we know them so far,” Emily Foley said.
“It was scary,” Hannah Houska said.
Monticello quickly settled in.
“After our first meet in 2A, we saw it was nothing different,” Maddie Tutich said. “They’re regular people.”
Foley, Houska and Tutich joined another underclassman — Maggie Utgaard — on a 3,200-meter relay that shattered its school record in the state prelims, reaching the finals with the third-best qualifying time (9:35.86). It’s the fifth-best time ever run by an area 3,200 girls’ relay.
“We were pretty excited to run against the tougher competition,” Utgaard said.
Anchor runner Houska was confident the Sages could produce their best time.
“State always yields good times,” she said.
Houska earned a spot in the individual 800-meter finals (2:22.44), securing the 12th and final position thanks to a strong push in the last 300 meters when “everyone seems to get a little worn out,” she said.
“I’m very thankful to be here,” added Houska, who is pleased that the team’s relay will be the first event in Saturday’s finals.
“The 4-by-8 is definitely a priority,” she said. “I love the 4-by-8.”
MORGAN YOUNG, Mahomet-Seymour
The senior had career-best tosses in the shot put and discus. She is not only a Class 2A finalist in each but also ranks second in the discus (132-1) entering today’s finals at Eastern Illinois.
NICOLE CHOQUETTE, Urbana
The senior, a University of Illinois recruit, continued to lower her school record in the 400 meters (now at 57.27 seconds) and ranks sixth in the event entering today’s Class 2A finals at O’Brien Stadium.
KRISTIN HAMMEL, Champaign Central
The senior and school record-holder in the pole vault cleared every height she attempted (five) without a miss and is looking to earn all-state honors in the event for the second year in a row.