CHARLESTON — Danville’s Vikings are exceeding expectations.
Neither of the school’s two Class 3A state-meet relay entries were seeded among the top 13 prior to Friday’s preliminary round of the 42nd annual girls’ state track
and field meet at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium.
The 400- and 800-meter foursomes proved on the track, however, they belong among the elite. Each unit earned berths in Saturday’s finals, with the 800 group breaking the school record for the second time in five days.
Runners Ambrosia Williams, Aariona Graham, Desiree Isaac and Emone’ Davis competed in the last of four heats in the event. They placed fourth in what proved to be the fastest heat. The first three heats combined had five teams reach the finals.
“We were in a very fast heat, but that was better for us,” Graham said. “It made us run faster.”
On Monday at The News-Gazette Honor Roll meet, the foursome was clocked in 1 minute, 42.43 seconds. On Friday, their school-record time of 1:42.28 is the third best on the all-time Area Honor Roll.
“It makes me feel good,” Graham said, “knowing we’re as good as everyone else here.”
In the 400 relay, the same athletes — but with Isaac and Graham switching running order — secured the seventh-best time for the finals. They were timed in 48.40.
Even before the announcement was official, Williams had a good feeling.
“We ran hard, and the handoffs were good,” she said.
Graham and Williams are the two seniors on a relay with two juniors. The 400 relay took fourth a year ago and returned two runners, Williams and anchor Davis.
Davis enjoyed the experience so much in 2013, she’s looking forward to the conclusion of Saturday's finals.
“I want to stand on the podium with my friends,” she said.
Danville has the area’s top times in both relays this spring.
The relay runners and coach B.J. Luke were disappointed with the times the school recorded last week at sectional. Those memories provided extra motivation for the season’s final weekend.
“I want him (Luke) to be proud of us (Friday),” Graham said. “This experience is a great experience. I’m a senior and didn’t run at state last year. I’m glad I’m with girls I love running with.”
The Vikings will have a third competitor Saturday. Sophomore Mercedes Elliott is in the 3,200, which did not have prelims. Elliott ran the 1,600 on Friday and finished in 5:20.26, just off her season best of 5:19.58. Williams was the other Danville competitor in an individual event, clearing 9 feet, 9 inches in the
pole vault to finish in a tie for 17th.
DOMINIQUE LEWIS, Centennial
The junior is in position to become the fourth Charger to earn state medals in two running events during the same year, joining Ann Petry (1973), Stephanie Dueringer (1993) and Candy Phillips (1996). Lewis is in the 200- and 400-meter finals.
EMILY KAUFFMAN, Mahomet-Seymour
The junior got a reprieve in the discus, where she was seeded fourth in Class 2A. After a qualifying best attempt of 111 feet, 8 inches, she left the ring thinking her season had ended. Instead, she’s ranked 11th in the 12-person finals.
MERCEDES PORTER, Rantoul
The senior, tied for ninth in the 2A triple jump, is trying to become the fourth Eagle in history with a state medal, seeking membership in a group that includes Kiara Clark-Lewis (2005, 2006), Lena Geronimo (2000, 2002) and Lori Moran (1974).