Danville relays redeem themselves
CHAMPAIGN — It was billed as the Honor Roll Track and Field meet.
For girls from Danville, Monticello and Prairie Central, it was a Redemption Meet.
Danville’s Vikings qualified 400- and 800-meter relays for state last week but with times that didn’t meet their expectations.
They did something about it Monday during the 33rd running of The News-Gazette’s area-best meet.
The 400 and 800 relay foursomes were not only victorious but they also won with record-setting times. The same runners — in different order — were on the relays: Ambrosia Williams, Desiree Isaac, Aariona Graham and Emone’ Davis.
“Our sectional times were not too hot,” said Davis, the anchor on both relays, “but this shows me our times can drop.
“Our handoffs were really good and what they are is due to us practicing them. Practice makes perfect.”
The 400 foursome was timed in 48.29 seconds. The previous record (held by Danville) was 48.42.
The 800 foursome was clocked in 1 minute, 42.43 seconds. The previous record (held by Centennial) was 1:44.00.
“I’m so excited,” Graham said. “We came here to beat the 4-by-1 record, but we didn’t expect to break the 4-by-2. In sectionals, we didn’t do as good as we can. Now we’ve proven what we can do.”
Both relay times are the best in the area this season.
Davis added a third victory, outracing the field in the 100 meters (area-best 12.10).
Prairie Central’s Kassadee Ifft won the pole vault. After clearing 11 feet, 6 inches, she decided not to try additional heights.
“I’m coming off an injury,” said Ifft, who was competing in her third meet since returning from a possible stress fracture in her shin. “For me, this was very key to get back into it. My main concern is the shin. In the meets since I’ve been back, I jump to a point where I’ve done good things and stop.”
Monticello junior Anna Auten wasn’t sure last December she’d have a chance to high-jump.
“I was in a car wreck Dec. 9 and broke my neck,” Auten said. “The surgeon didn’t want me to jump until June, if at all.”
She healed faster than expected. One key she said was, “I drank a lot of milk” and received the green light to go after missing the entire indoor season and about one-third of the outdoor season.
Auten jumped 5-0 and beat runner-up Megan Dash, from Sullivan/Okaw Valley, based on misses.
“I’m just glad to be here,” Auten said. “To come here and do as well as I have is wonderful. (Being injured) was a real eye-opening experience.”
Monticello teammate Taylor Helenthal is a sophomore whose entire running career consisted of cross-country as an eighth-grader. She reported for track this spring, she said, “to get in shape,” and made a discovery, “I loved it.”
She outran all competitors in the 3,200, winning with a season-best 12:43.57.
“A PR is always good, and it’s a good way to finish off my season,” said Helenthal, a non-state qualifier.
Another athlete who reached a personal best while winning an event was Salt Fork’s Abby Nicholson. She had a throw of 118-11 in the discus.
“It’s nice to have this chance to throw again before state,” Nicholson said, “especially since I hadn’t been doing too good in the discus.”
Salt Fork teammate Jenny Kimbro was a double winner, sweeping both hurdles races.
Her time in the 100 hurdles (14.7) was a season best.
“This is great competition,” she said, “and running with the wind helped.”
Karly Goodman, from Arthur-Lovington/Atwood-Hammond, improved her mental state with a victory by more than a foot in the shot put (39-63/4). Her winning throw came on her final attempt.
“I like this meet,” Goodman said. “Otherwise, I would have had a whole week off (before state).”
She had a prolonged break and welcomed the chance to compete.
“I was on a senior trip (to New York City and Washington, D.C.) and didn’t have a meet for about 11 days,” she said. “I feel like I’m just now getting back in the rhythm. I hadn’t thrown 39 since before the senior trip.”
Danville had two other winners in triple-jumper Michaela Jones (34-61/4) and 400 runner Imani Hall (59.54). After not advancing to state, Hall felt vindicated.
“I felt defeated not making it,” she said. “I really pushed myself on this one. This makes me feel good and puts me in a good place for next year.”
Mahomet-Seymour won both of the distance relays, and Bulldog Lauren Whitehouse won the 1,600 (season-best 5:17.76).
“I love competing with all these girls,” Whitehouse said. “They’ve been pushing me all season. I knew I could make 5:20, and now I think I can make the finals (at state).”
M-S’ Twinkle Mehta, Sarah Knight and Megan Perrero were on both victorious relays. Whitehouse ran on the 3,200 unit, and Olivia Turner anchored the 1,600.
Sullivan/Okaw Valley’s Amanda McClain was the long-jump winner (17-73/4). Her spring has been divided between softball and track practices and meets.
“It hasn’t been too bad,” McClain said. “At the beginning of the season, I was doing about half-and-half (practices). After jumping in the 16s in sectionals, this gives me confidence going to state.”
Teammate Emily Neuhauser won the 200 meters (26.21). Tuscola freshman Emma Henderson won the 400 (2:21.76).