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CHARLESTON — The Alleman girls' track team came into Saturday with hopes of a Class 1A state team trophy, but tough competition and talented teams led to a sixth-place Pioneer finish.

Alleman coach Scott Stoll was proud of how his girls performed, with six finalists accumulating 32 points. The Pioneers were sitting in third in the team race with two events left but missed hardware and a third-place tie by six points.

“We’re feeling good about what we did,” Stoll said. “Most of the girls improved upon their performances, which is all you can ask for. We were second for most of the meet before some other teams caught up to us at the end, but we were able to dream for a while.”

Two Pioneers just missed gold. Senior Kiah O’Neal (high jump) and sophomore Tori Thomas (pole vault) both earned silver medals. 

“I had high expectations for myself and I wanted to get first,” said O’Neal, who tied for the top jump at 5-7, but lost out on misses to Arthur junior Kenli Nettles. “But second is good, just not quite what I wanted.”

The senior reflected on her time as a Pioneer and talked about her experience with the third-place 800 relay (1:46.09) with teammates Natika Woods, Gabbi Loiz and Thomas.

“I loved my track family,” O’Neal said. “We push each other so much, and the team experience is fun.”

In addition to her pole vault silver with a best of 12 feet, Thomas also placed sixth in the 100 meters with a time of 12.44.

“The team was pushing me to do my best all year,” Thomas said. “The team leaders helped me out a lot throughout the day today as well.”

Sophomore Lynleigh Schram also earned points for Alleman, placing seventh in the triple jump with a top leap of 36-11¼.

Stoll knew that the team had set high expectations, but he had words of encouragement following the solid finish.

“I wanted everyone to know they had a good day,” Stoll said. “It wasn’t an example of anything that we did wrong, it was just other teams performing on all cylinders. It was a good weekend with good moments, and we had smiles on our faces the whole day. I know that we did the best that we could.”

Of the six athletes competing Saturday for the Pioneers, half were seniors. Stoll will miss the leadership that he had on the team but knows that other girls will step up into the leadership roles.

“We’re losing some great girls. It was an emotional day with many tears of joy," he said. "They have taken us on a journey and we’ve been successful and grown together through the good and the bad.”

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