Success in track and field, at least on the high school level, depends in part on how the athlete handles the pressure and the environment of O’Brien Stadium on the campus of Eastern Illinois University.
Savvy veterans with multiple appearances have been known to crack under that pressure, so one can imagine how freshmen in their first time there will feel once they step on that big blue track.
This year, don’t bet against the youngsters.
When the Class 1A prelims convene Thursday morning, Newark freshman Megan Williams will be the first Times-area girl in some time to take part in the maximum of four individual events, while Seneca freshman Audrey Jenkins will be a two-time qualifier and a part of a large and talented Lady Irish contingent.
All will be looking to leave their mark on the state level again this spring.
Williams, an IESA state champ in the 100 hurdles last year, advanced through the Seneca 1A Sectional in that event, where she’s seeded sixth with a time of 15.33 seconds, as well as the 300 hurdles (6th, :46.93), the long jump (7th, 17-2 ½) and the triple jump (26th, 34-1 ¼). She admits she felt she could make it in the hurdles, but the other two events surprised even her … a little.
“I expected I might make it in two (hurdles), but I was right on the edge in the others. My coach pushed me, and I was able to do it,” said Williams, who was second in the long jump and eighth in the 200 in the IESA finals a year ago. “I’ll definitely be nervous, but I think the experience I had on the big stage last year will help me. … There haven’t been too many people from Newark make it because we just got track, but a guy I know said it’s a whole different ballgame there. I look forward to it.
“The key thing I have to remember is don’t trip.”
That’s not to say that the veterans won’t have their say, too.
Ottawa senior Maddy Smith, back in the Class 3A pole vault for the second straight season, is the No. 2 seed in that event, with her effort of 11 feet, 6 inches trailing leader Jenna Pauly of McHenry by only three inches.
Also back in 3A is OHS junior Sam Satterfield. She enters the prelims as the No. 10 seed in the discus (125-10) and the No. 19 seed in the shot put (39-0).
The Times-area’s lone competitor in Class 2A state is also Streator’s only qualifier, sophomore Lana Krohe. Her distance at the L-P Sectional was 35-7, which is the No. 19 seed in that class.
Williams will have quite a few familiar faces for company in 1A in Charleston, including classmate K.J. Friestad, a two-time IESA medalist in the weights last year and now the 31st seed in the shot put (33-1), and Jenkins. The Irish freshman medaled in the 800 and 1600 last year and is now ranked 10th in the 3200 (11:40.14) and 14th in the 1600 (5:30.73).
Seneca has several competitors with an excellent chance to medal, including junior Mara Bruno, the No. 3 seed in the long jump (17-7) and in the 200 dash (25.89), as well as No. 7 in the 100 dash. Sophomore Brooklyn Giertz, the No. 3 seed in the pole vault (11-0) and the Seneca 800 relay of Bruno, freshman Taylor Draves, senior Grace Alley and Giertz is the eighth seed with a time of 1:48.55.
Another good shot for the Lady Irish is in the shot, where junior Erica Techmanski is seeded eighth (37-0 ½). The veteran jumper Alley is back in the triple jump for the third time and is the 11th seed (35-1 ½).
There are other SHS athletes with an outside chance to make finals. The 3200 relay of Jenkins, Alley, Natalie Carajohn and Amber Vroman is seeded 18th (10:33.70), and the 1600 relay of Jenkins, Carajohn, Vroman and soph Justine Ursua is 22nd (4:20.42). Individually, senior Carissa Simon is the 24th seed in the long jump; Ursua is 24th in the triple jump (34-2); sophomore Vroman is 29th in the 800 (2:30.77); and senior Carajohn 30th in the 400 dash.
Also in 1A, Fieldcrest junior Ellen Hood is the 29th seed in the 200 (:27.60).