CHARLESTON, Ill. — Alleman’s Scott Stoll has had many individuals qualify for state in his near decade as the Pioneers track & field coach, but has never had a season like this one.
Alleman qualified 13 individuals and three relay teams to the state meet with a total of 17 athletes who made the trip to O’Brien Field at Eastern Illinois University.
“I’ve come down with one or two qualifiers before, but this is a big group that is having a lot of fun with each other” Stoll said. “It can get lonely to qualify by yourself, so having these girls feed off of each other’s energy definitely is helping them perform better.”
The Pioneers had six entrants move on to Saturday’s Class 1A finals, putting the Pioneers in a position to make a play for state hardware.
Tori Thomas qualified in the pole vault with a qualifying height of 10 feet (along with just 11 others) and also advanced in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.47. Thomas was also the anchor of the 800 relay team that advanced with a time of 1:45.83. Also on the team with the sophomore Thomas were seniors Natika Woods, Gabbi Loiz and Kiah O'Neal.
Thomas felt like she had more of a pep in her step in the state meet than any previous meet.
“The pacing with all of these incredible athletes pushing you on is a great feeling,” Thomas said. “That and hearing my coaches and teammates cheering me on definitely energized me.”
Loiz and O’Neil both advanced to Saturday in the high jump as each jumped 5 feet, 2 inches, which was qualifying height for a group of 16 advancers.
Of all of the finalists, it was pretty clear that Stoll and the rest of the Pioneers were incredibly proud of Loiz.
“The most satisfying to see qualify was Gabbi,” Stoll said. “This was her third time coming to the state meet, but her first time to make it to Saturday in the high jump. It was certainly very gratifying.”
Stoll credits recent success in other meets for how well Alleman did Thursday.
Also qualifying for Alleman was Lynleigh Schram in the triple jump with a final jump of 36-8¼. She won the second of three flights with the day's sixth-best jump
“We’ve been riding a really great wave the last three weeks,” Stoll said. “I think we created the wave when we won the Western Big 6 and then continued to ride it by winning the sectional title. When you really enjoy what you’re doing out on the track, it’s hard to stop that momentum.”
The Pioneers will try to carry that momentum into Saturday's finals, but Stoll isn’t worried about anything other than getting there.
“We have great chances in all events,” Stoll said. “Whatever happens on Saturday happens, and that isn’t going to stop us from having a great day. There is no downside when you’re in the finals.”
Alexandria Cajigal and Ali Van DeHeede just missed qualifying for Saturday to add to Alleman’s success. Cajigal, who advanced into Saturday's 3200 finals, missed qualifying in the 1600 by just under two seconds, and Van DeHeede missed shot put finals by 3¼ inches.
Stoll was appreciative of all of his seniors, whether they qualified for the finals or not.
“Senior leadership made a big difference down the stretch,” Stoll said. “Some of the girls may not have succeeded as much as they have if not for the support of all our seniors.”
Taets reaches two finals
Orion standout athlete Danielle Taets is not about to leave anything on the track in her last state finals.
The defending state champ in both the triple jump and 100 hurdles advanced to the finals in both events; however, she didn't leave Thursday's action with the top mark in either.
Taets advanced to the triple jump finals with a leap of 37 feet, which was the fourth-best mark of the afternoon. Pinckneyville junior Dakota Krone leads the 12-athlete finals with a best of 37-11¼.
Taets clocked a 14.87 in the 100 hurdles and qualified with the fifth-fastest time of the nine qualifiers. The Charger senior finished third in the fastest heat of the afternoon which was led by Arthur junior Kenli Nettles' 14.23 clocking.
“The competition always makes me better,” said Taets, who did not qualify in the 300 low hurdles, finishing third in the slow heat with a 48.13 time. “The two girls ahead of me pulled ahead early which pushed me more. I knew it was going to be a tough race, but I’m hoping I can improve.”
Fulton’s Chloe Lindeman was in good position to repeat her 1A state shot put title. The senior finished on top after the preliminaries with a throw of 45-6¼. While she had the only toss over 44-feet, the Steamer senior’s ultimate goal is marked for her at 51 feet, the current state finals record held by Warrensburg-Latham's Kathleen Young from 2016.
“I’m going to reach for it,” Lindeman said. “I know that I can get there, it’s just about getting in that headspace.”
The Wisconsin Badgers commit is looking to set a legacy for other younger athletes to shoot for.
“I see a lot of bright young throwers who will do well someday getting a lot of great experience here,” Lindeman said. “It’s just a matter of time for them. Saturday is my personal time to leave my mark and leave something for someone else to pick up.”
The 1600 relay team from Rockridge was able to qualify with a time of 4:08.90. Senior Keely Parker anchored the race for the Rockets and was able to qualify for one last final before ending her high school career.
“I think the weather helped us today with it being hot instead of cold,” Parker said. “We also practiced our handoffs every day and ran together in warm-ups, as well as hanging out and doing a few team building exercises.”
Parker and the Rockets 4x200 relay team nearly qualified, but was edged out for the final spot by just .98 seconds.
Abigail Weaver of Riverdale advanced to the finals in the high jump with a height of 5-2, where the preliminary competition topped out with 16 advancers.
United’s Josie Bentz just missed advancing in the high jump, topping out at 5-1. Bentz did qualify for Saturday's finals as a member of the Red Storm’s 4x400 relay team along with Natalie Gillette, Jenna Bentz and Bridget Brokaw, who finished with a time of 4:12.14 and fifth among the eight advancers.
Fulton's Daekota Knott qualified in the triple jump with a Thursday best of 37-¼ that was third-best leap of the day. Knott was also a member of the Steamers' 400 relay team that made it through the preliminaries with a time of 50.11. The team also featured Alyjah Carter, Kearra Kohrt and Julia Lehman.
Morrison’s Jordan Gallentine was the last to qualify for finals in the 400 with a time of 1:01.04.
Riverdale junior Hope Jackson threw 125-8 in the discus to qualify for Saturday with the fifth-best mark of the 12 finalists.