Notebook: Urbana’s 800 team confident with Burton-Dought in lead spot

Notebook: Urbana’s 800 team confident with Burton-Dought in lead spot

CHARLESTON — Two days before the Urbana girls’ track and field team was set to run in Class 2A preliminaries at the state meet for the 800-meter relay, coach Leslie Edmondson staged a runoff to fill a spot left in flux throughout 2017 by an athlete who quit the team early in the season. In the interim, Talia Burton-Dought filled that position, but Edmondson wanted to make sure she had the right runner in the leadoff spot.

Burton-Dought won the runoff, but that didn’t mean she was confident as the teams gathered for Friday’s race at O’Brien Stadium on the campus of Eastern Illinois University.

“She was really nervous,” junior anchor Ayanna Kelley-Weatherspoon said. “She was like, ‘I can’t, I can’t.’ I was like, ‘Yes, you can.’ ”

As it turned out, Burton-Dought was plenty good enough. The Tigers won their heat by more than a second in a time of 1 minute, 43.37 seconds, the third-fastest preliminary time going into Saturday’s finals.Qualifying in the event was crucial for the Tigers, who came into Friday with hopes of at least winnin

g a state trophy. Heading into the 800 relay, just one of five Urbana competitors, high jumper Diamonasia Taylor, qualified for the finals. Kelley-Weatherspoon had missed out in the 100 dash by 12-hundredths of a second, while the Tigers’ 400 relay was held from the finals by 19-hundredths of a second.

“I lost a lot of confidence, but (my teammates) held me up the whole time,” Kelley-Weatherspoon said. “Everywhere I went, they said, ‘Yaya, you’ve got it, just keep it up.’ … This was definitely my last resort. The 4-by-2 is my favorite event. I knew that if the 4-by-1 didn’t work, the 100 didn’t work, the 4-by-2 was going to pull through for me, and it did.”

The day ended better than it started for the Tigers. Sophomore Lanaeja Carter qualified for the finals in the discus with a throw of 124 feet, 4 inches — the fourth-longest toss — and classmate Jyana Anderson qualified in the 200 in 25.26 seconds, the fourth-best time.

“I was ranked seventh, but I knew I had a little more in me because it was state,” Anderson said. “I think (Saturday) I’ll run a 24. I’m very confident of that.”

For Anderson, coming into the 800 relay fresh Saturday will have its advantages.

“We’re going to have a lot of energy,” she said, “and I feel like we’re going to PR by a lot. At least a second.”

If all goes to seed, Urbana’s five competitors, including 3,200 runner Libby Cultra, would wind up with 31 points Saturday. The third-place score has ranged from 32 to 46 points since the state meet moved to three classes eight years ago. Even if they don’t take home a trophy on Saturday, though, the Tigers have hope for the future with no seniors on their state roster.

“It’s going to be a good year (next year),” Anderson said, “because everybody’s getting faster each meet. Imagine next year.”

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Jordan Harmon was ready. The Unity sophomore missed the state-qualifying cut in the 1,600 run in 2A a year ago, and when she watched the race, she yearned to be in it. Now, her time was here after she finished her warmup and went to the check-in tent Friday.

But there was one problem. Her name wasn’t on the list.

“I was freaking out,” she said.

As it turned out, Harmon was listed in the meet program in the first heat, but she was placed in the second heat.

So after Harmon scared herself and confused her mother, Unity cross-country coach Kara Leaman — whom she waved to after finally emerging from the tent — Harmon ran the race and qualified for Saturday’s finals with a time of 5:15.46, the seventh-fastest preliminary time.

“I think I paced it pretty well,” said Harmon, who is seeded second for Saturday’s 3,200 run. “It felt good. … I was boxed in (early in the race). I was running Lane 2, almost Lane 3, so I just decided to get in Lane 1.

“I’m glad I made that move, or I think mentally it would have been tough on me … not having control of my pace.”


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The Monticello 1,600 relay team didn’t put any pressure on itself before Friday’s race in 2A. After all, three members of the team had already run earlier in the day, including Emelia Ness and Aliyah Welter in both hurdles events, and the Sages were seeded No. 12, three spots out of a finals bid.

“We weren’t really going for anything super special,” freshman anchor Mattie Lieb said. “We just wanted to PR and maybe get the school record.”

The relaxed approach worked. Not only did the Sages top their sectional time by five seconds with a clocking of 4:04.79, they qualified for Saturday’s finals with the seventh-fastest preliminary time.

“To have all of my teammates there — we’re all really close — it was amazing,” Lieb said. “They just get me hyped. I just love this 4-by-400 (team). We weren’t really expecting a lot, but we were going to go out there and do what we needed to do.”

The pressure of the state meet did make Ness nervous in her debut. It even caused the freshman to stutter near the end of her 300 hurdles run, although she still qualified for the finals with the eighth-best time (46.45).

“I think it was just from nerves of being a freshman here at the state meet, how everybody’s so good,” Ness said. “I think I did well. … Running with the older people, it pushes me a lot.”

Welter, one of three Sages to qualify for individual finals along with Ness and long jumper Emma Helferich, is comfortable at the state meet. The junior has advanced to the meet’s last day all three years of her high school career, earning two medals in the pole vault, one in the 300 hurdles and one in the 800 relay.

She’ll enter Saturday’s finals as the favorite in the pole vault after clearing 13-1 on Monday at the News-Gazette Honor Roll Meet, in addition to running in the 300 hurdles finals.

“I just want to try to push myself to keep my form and get a PR,” Welter said. “I don’t have a lot of nerves, but there’s a little bit there.”


Local Class 2A and 3A state qualifiers
Class 2A
Jyana Anderson, Urbana
800: Payne Turney, Clinton
1,600: Jordan Harmon, Unity
*3,200: Jordan Harmon, Unity; Libby Cultra, Urbana
300 hurdles: Emelia Ness, Monticello; Aliyah Welter, Monticello
800 relay: Urbana (T. Burton-Dought, J. Anderson, D. Taylor, A. Kelley-Weatherspoon)
1,600 relay: Monticello (E. Ness, A. Leischner, A. Welter, M. Lieb)
3,200 relay: Mahomet-Seymour (B. McGrath, M. Churm, M. Balbach, K. Lewis)
Pole vault: Landis Brandon, Monticello; Nicole Bagwell, Unity; Taylor Millsap, Unity; Aliyah Welter, Monticello: Mara Pletcher, Mahomet-Seymour
High jump: Diamonasia Taylor, Urbana
Long jump: Emma Helferich, Monticello
Shot put: Claudia Workman, Clinton
Discus: Lanaeja Carter, Urbana; Cassie Perry, Mahomet-Seymour

Class 3A
Ameia Wilson, Danville
200: Ameia Wilson, Danville
*3,200: Shanice Garbutt, Danville
Long jump: Ameia Wilson, Danville
*No preliminary qualification