CHARLESTON — It was a great day to be a girls track & field athlete from Geneseo High School.
The Lady Leafs placed second as a team with 60 points at the IHSA Class 2A state meet at Eastern Illinois University on Friday with some solid efforts across the board, including three event state titles (high jump, 800 relay and 1600 relay), two second-place finishes (100 hurdles and long jump), and two thirds (300 hurdles and pole vault).
It was a long day, but Geneseo coach Kyle Morey was so happy for his team and how dedicated his athletes were to the sport all season.
"I'm super proud of all of the girls on the team," said Morey, as the Leafs finished nine points behind Chicago Latin. "We were seeded for 50 points coming into the day, and to get 10 more than that is very hard to do. We had all of our athletes step up to the competition today and most importantly, they had fun and didn't put too much pressure on themselves."
Annie Wirth came through big for Geneseo. Not only did she win the state high jump title by clearing 5 feet, 5 inches, she also ran legs on the victorious 800 and 1,600 relays. She was the third runner in the 800 relay that earned a time of 1 minute, 42.55 seconds and the 1,600 relay that finished at 4:03.17.
Wirth also finished second in the long jump with a distance of 18-8, just a fraction of an inch behind first place Julia Finazzo of Galena.
Competing alongside her teammates has been an honor for Wirth, who is just a sophomore and wants to continually improve herself.
"It feels really great representing the entire school district down here," Wirth said. "Just even being here is a huge accomplishment and to win is incredible. I really wanted to clear 5-9 in the high jump but it was nice to get the extra experience at that height for later on."
Anchoring both the 800 and 1,600 relays, Ali Rapps had a busy day as she took second in the 100 hurdles with a personal-best time of 14.92 and was third in the 300 hurdles at 46.08, also a personal best.
"It feels so good to get my personal bests," Rapps said. "There was such good competition in the hurdles races, I was just happy to perform and all the girls on the line with me were amazing."
Alison Bowers and Addison Pischke were the first and second runners on the 800 and 1600 relay teams. While Rapps and Wirth both had great races, it was the foundation and leads that Bowers and Pischke set up that made the difference in both relays.
When Bowers handed the baton to Wirth in the 800 relay, she knew that she handed her the lead. Then when Rapps received the baton in the anchor position, she surged ahead of the rest of the pack for nearly a two-second margin of victory and broke the previous school record of 1:43.80.
"It feels so incredible to come away with such a great victory, there are no words to describe how it feels," Bowers said. "I'm so blessed to run with three other amazing teammates who all did their part on the way to the win."
After a baton drop in the 400 relay at sectionals, earning the state title in both the 800 and 1600 relays at state felt like redemption for Pischke.
"I think that was a pretty good way to bounce back," Pischke said. "We were really upset about that, but when I saw Ali get the baton in the lead, I got so excited."
Earning bronze and breaking the school record in the pole vault with a height of 11-1.25, Evie Wilson felt like she accomplished everything she could have hoped for at the state meet.
"Emotions got the best of me when I made it over," Wilson said. "I was so happy to get the school record and a personal best that I wasn't even thinking about placement at that point. All season I had been second in pretty much every meet behind (2A state champ and state record holder) Tori Thomas, so to get third in the state is a pretty big deal."
While Morey and his team were celebrating, his thoughts turned to someone back at home.
"I really want to thank my wife Ashley, I couldn't have done all of this without her," Morey said. "Right now she's at home with our 3-week-old baby on our five-year anniversary and I can't thank her enough for everything."