ERIE — Motivated by her twin distance titles a week ago at the Western Big Six meet, Alleman's Alexandra Cajigal was hoping for more of the same at Thursday night's Class 1A Erie girls' track and field sectional meet.
Even more motivating for the Pioneers' senior standout and her teammates was the team's first conference championship, giving Alleman extra fuel as it came in looking to score consecutive sectional team titles.
With Cajigal scoring another golden distance sweep, winning the 3200 meters in 11:38.51 and then coming back to take the 1600 with a 5:39.90 clocking, the Pioneers qualified a total of 10 individuals and relays to next weekend's 1A state meet in Charleston as they tallied 98.5 points to repeat as sectional champs.
“It (winning the sectional title) was amazing,” said Cajigal. “I was so proud. We showed everyone else, including ourselves, that we're a really good team that can do some great things. We won this last year, and we wanted to do it again this year.”
In addition to Cajigal's twin titles, Alleman also scored a pair of golds in the field events as Kiah O'Neal cleared 5 feet, 6 inches to win the high jump. Teammate Tori Thomas took the pole vault by clearing 11-6 and also took second in both the 100 and 200 meter sprints behind Milledgeville standout Olivia Sturrup.
“Every meet, we want to do our best,” said Thomas. “We made it (repeated as sectional champions), which is awesome. We worked hard for this. We've got a lot of amazing athletes, and we feel like we can come away with the top place (next weekend at state).”
O'Neal, who also qualified with the Pioneers' third-place 800 relay and their sixth-place 400 relay, which topped the state standard with a time of 51.91 seconds, feels her team has what it takes to be in the running for its first state team trophy since taking third in 1991.
“If not on top, we can place well, hopefully at least top three,” she said. “This team is really stacked in all areas and events. Winning the Big Six gave us the confidence we needed to come here and win again.”
Also Charleston-bound for the Pioneers is their third-place 3200 relay, along with high jump bronze medalist Gabbi Loiz (5-2), who also contributed to the 800 and 400 relays. Qualifiers in multiple individual events were Ali VanDeHeede (shot put, discus), Lynleigh Schram (high jump, triple jump) and Annie Rafferty (long jump, triple jump).
Among area individuals, Orion senior Danielle Taets earned a shot at defending her state titles in the triple jump and 100 high hurdles, winning the former event with a leap of 36-1 and taking the latter with a time of 15.50 seconds.
She also qualified in the 300 low hurdles with a 48.64 clocking.
“I know what I need to work on (in the 300s); it's now a matter of applying it and getting my times down if I want to get to the finals,” said Taets. “I was happy with the 100s and the triple jump, but it wasn't my day today in the 300s.”
Fulton qualified six individuals and its runner-up 400 relay, led by titles from Chloe Lindeman in the shot put (45-4 ¼) and Emily Schipper in the 800 (2:25.73). For Lindeman, who also qualified in the discus, it was her fourth straight sectional shot put title.
Rockridge scored titles in the 3200 (10:19.52) and 1600 relays (4:08.71), with Lauren Oelke finishing second in the 100 hurdles and Keely Parker taking third in the 100; Parker also contributed to the Rockets' 4x400 relay and its state-qualifying, fourth-place 4x200 relay.
Riverdale crowned two champions among its four qualifiers. Hope Jackson threw 132-7 to take the discus title, while Lauren Lodico overcame a bad left hamstring to win the 400 in 1:01.06.