CHARLESTON — Mara Bruno isn't one to talk much about herself. Even after her monster day at the IHSA Girls State Track and Field Meet here on Saturday afternoon, she'd rather talk about her team's success than her own.
Bruno became what is believed to be the first female athlete in The Times area history to win four medals in one state meet, the junior placing fourth in the 200-meter dash, fifth in the 100 dash, 9th in the long jump and as part of the 8th-place 800-meter relay team along with Taylor Draves, Grace Alley and Carly Greve. Those efforts and several more led the Lady Irish to place ninth as a team in Class 1A here at Eastern Illinois University's O'Brien Stadium.
Also in 1A, Newark freshman Megan Williams placed in both of her finals events, taking the seventh-place medal in the 100 hurdles and finishing in 11th place in the long jump.
But the day in 1A belonged to the Lady Irish, who also got a fourth place from Brooklyn Giertz in the pole vault, ninth place from Erica Techmanski in the shot put and an eighth place from the 3200-meter relay quartet of Audrey Jenkins, Grace Alley, Natalie Carajohn and Amber Vroman. The freshman Jenkins individually competed in the 3200-meter run and placed 20th overall.
Those performances led Seneca to a total of 23 points, one ahead of state power Shelbyville behind team champion DuQuoin and its 58 points.
"As far as I know, this is the biggest group we've had compete here on a Saturday, and to medal in seven events today was pretty special," said Lady Irish coach Terry Maxwell. "Mara had a fantastic day, leading the way with that medal charge. She's an extremely talented lady, works hard, is very humble and is the kind of teammate you always wish you had more of. ...
"I'm just proud and happy with the girls' efforts."
Bruno was on her game the entire day, starting that morning with the long jump. Though she came into the final day seeded sixth with a prelim effort of 17-4 3/4, she was unable to better that and was passed by three others, including freshman Nakeita Kessling of Tri-County Conference rival Henry-Senachwine, when that figure carried through as her best.
The Seneca junior next went to the 100 dash, where she had the second-best prelim time of 12.3 seconds. On Saturday, however, she dropped to :12.44 in time and fifth in place, but only 7/100ths out of third place. In the 800 relay, she put up another solid split, but the Irish foursome could not repeat its fifth-seeded prelim time and settled for eighth place with a clocking of 1:48.38.
Finally, in the next-to-last event of the day, Bruno had perhaps her best performance of the four, moving up from her sixth-seeded :26.32 prelim time to a fourth-place posting of :25.30.
"It was a good day. I'm so happy, because a bunch of my friends medaled, too ," said Bruno. "I'm proud of all of them, and I'm glad I had them all around me to cheer for me and for me to cheer for them.
"It was a great day for us all."
The finals morning began with Giertz taking fourth place in the pole vault with a personal-best effort of 11 feet even. At that height she was actually tied with three others — Shelbyville's Gabrielle Spain, Farmington's Sarah Litchfield and Reed-Custer's Shaelin Ruzich — for the next four spots behind the top two, but the SHS sophomore fit right after Spain due to one more miss at a lower height.
"If I had made 11-6, that would have been my PR, and I had only one miss other than that, so I feel pretty good about the day," said Giertz. "It was a little rough with the wind, but it was the same for everyone, not just me, so I didn't stress out about it. There are just a few little things in my form I need to fix, but for my first year at state, I'm happy."
Techmanski had the seventh-best throw on Thursday, but with a Saturday best of just over 35 feet was unable to improve on that toss of 37-11 and settled for that, placing her ninth.
"Today wasn't really my best day, but I still wound up doing pretty well," said Techmanski. "I'm still pretty happy with my day. (Friday's throw) was a personal best, so I ended the year pretty strong, and I still have a year to go, so I'm good with that."
The paper-thin Jenkins was clearly affected in her flight of the 3200 run by the steamy weather, her 12:34.87 netting her 20th when the two sections were combined. However, she was at pretty much full strength earlier when she led off the 3200 relay quartet's eighth-place time of 10:13.16.
"It was a tough day to run. My legs weren't there. I just couldn't go at all," Jenkins said of the 3200. "It would have been great to get ninth and help out the team score, but I'm just glad to be here, and our 4 by 8 team is great. I love all of them. It's a great team to be on, just a lot of great people."
The Lady Norsemen's Williams, as reported, was no stranger to the big stage and performed well against a tough field in her events. Her leap of 17 feet, 3 inches in the prelims turned out to be her best of the meet, putting her in 11th place and less than two inches behind Bruno in the last spot to get a medal.
She was also very close in the 100 hurdles, her posting of a :15.43 slightly off her sixth-place prelim time of :15.3 and netting her seventh place overall.
"In the hurdles, I was a little rough out of the blocks, but once I got going I was OK," said Williams. "I didn't have a place or a time in mind, just to finish the race as strong as I can because it's my last one of the season. ... In the long jump, my steps were just wrong, but I finished 11th, and I have three more years to go.
"I'm happy with that for now."