Hallee Thomas

Danville’s Hallee Thomas, right, lunges toward the finish line along with West Aurora’s Victoria Spagnola during the final 300-meter hurdles heat in Saturday’s Class 3A girls’ track and field state meet. Thomas placed second in 44.02 seconds — four-hundredths of a second behind Spagnola — at Eastern Illinois’ O’Brien Stadium to end her high school career.

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CHARLESTON — Hallee Thomas didn’t run a bad 100-meter hurdles race on Saturday.

In fact, the Danville senior placed fifth in all of Class 3A with a time of 14.90 seconds.

Context, however, is important.

“I was hoping I would go a little bit faster because my seed time coming in was a lot quicker,” Thomas said. “Definitely could’ve been better. Definitely have a lot to work on.”

The good news for Thomas was she had a chance at redemption later in the IHSA’s big-school girls’ track and field state meet.

And Thomas didn’t harbor her frustration for long at Eastern Illinois’ O’Brien Stadium.

Thomas concluded her high school career with a second-place showing in the 300 hurdles, her clocking of 44.02 leaving her just four-hundredths of a second behind West Aurora’s Victoria Spagnola.

“It’s the best race I could’ve ever asked for,” said Thomas, who came into the 300s seeded third at 45.40. “The only thing that would’ve been better was maybe getting her at the end, but I’m so grateful to go out like that.”

Thomas sat in the middle of the pack until she reached the 150-meter mark, where she “just kicked it in gear.” She had no interest in breaking a predetermined stride pattern for the sake of picking off an opponent or two before reaching the final homestretch.

“Track is such a mental sport. If you let your mind get ahead of you, it’ll happen,” Thomas said. “I knew the 300s have kind of been better for me this year. I knew I had a chance, and I wanted to get after it.”

Why are the 300s Thomas’ better race?

“I definitely think running cross-country this season, as much as I hate to admit it,” Thomas said with a laugh. “My coaches were right about that one.”

Thomas’ day should’ve been fairly straightforward as far as preparing for and competing in her two races. But inclement weather in and around the Charleston area made for some challenges.

Thomas’ 100-hurdles heat was delayed because of lightning within a 10-mile radius. And her 300-hurdles heat barely escaped the day’s second weather delay, with Thomas still trying to catch her breath as O’Brien Stadium’s public address announcer told fans to leave the grandstands for shelter.

“We were in the tent like, ‘I don’t know … we might have to go back and wait 30 minutes,’” Thomas said. “So I’m so grateful we got it in.”

Performing well on this particular track holds a little extra significance for Thomas.

She’s signed with Eastern Illinois and will soon be competing for the Panthers’ track and field team.

“I’ve dreamed of being in the finals race for the hurdles,” Thomas said. “I’ve dreamed of being on the big blue track, and I’m excited I’m here.”

The only other local athlete involved during Saturday’s Class 3A state action was Centennial senior thrower Annabel Thorstenson. She finished 18th in discus with a best throw of 106 feet, 11 inches.

“I was a little nervous. This is actually my first time at state, so a lot of nerves,” said Thorstenson, who came in with a seed throw of 117-9. “I have college to look forward to, so I can’t do anything to change (my throws) now.”

Thorstenson will attend North Dakota State and throw hammer and weights. She was turned on to that throwing event by private coach Angel De los Santos, with whom Thorstenson has been working for close to two years.

“(Competing in college is) the biggest accomplishment ever in my entire life. It’s literally what I’ve been working toward these four years,” Thorstenson said. “I didn’t think I’d be able to compete at that level, but I’m extremely proud of myself.”

Colin Likas is the preps coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at clikas@news-gazette.com, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Colin Likas covers Illinois football and high school sports at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

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