ROCHELLE — Lady Hub senior Katherine Bakken went stride-for-stride with Wheaton Academy’s Alyssa Mantia for well over the first 1600 meters of the 3200-meter run during the IHSA Class 2A Rochelle Sectional on Thursday.
Bakken and Mantia only needed a few laps to distance themselves from the field, but as the race wound down, Bakken found another gear and surged ahead of the Wheaton Academy senior. Bakken closed out the race with authority, finishing first and beating Mantia by roughly 10 seconds to qualify for the IHSA State Championships with a final time of 11:30.37. Bakken will represent Rochelle in the 3200-meter run for the second straight season.
“It’s really exciting and I was a little unsure about how I’d do tonight because I wasn’t satisfied with my performance last week,” Bakken said. “It felt really good to get back to where I wanted to be. Coach [Bruce] Anderson told me to run my brains out and that’s what my goal was… I was able to see what my strengths and weaknesses were at the state championships were last year, and I wasn’t satisfied with my race last year, but now I know exactly what to work on.”
Bakken became the first Rochelle runner to qualify for state this season, and it didn’t take long for the Lady Hubs to advance another athlete to the state meet. Junior Macey Ryan blew away the field in the 100-meter dash, clocking in at a career-low 12.81 seconds to take first and clinch her spot in the state championships. Pumping her fist after the race, Ryan shared an emotional hug with Rochelle head coach Alison Vrana.
“We’ve been working on this race all season and I knew that I wanted to qualify for state,” said Ryan, who overcame a lower back injury to advance to the state meet. “I’ve been hurting a little bit but I wasn’t going to let that affect my race. I was a little stressed out, but I think I ran through the pain pretty well. I think that was one of my best races overall. Just making it to state is a big accomplishment.”
Rochelle finished fifth with 45 points in the sectional competition. The Lady Hubs placed third in the 1600-meter relay (Abby Tilton, Angie Saldana, Grace Garcia and Teagan Meyers) with a time of 4:21.32 and junior Gabrielle Harding took third in the shot put with a heave of 33-3. The IHSA State Championships begin Thursday, May 16 at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
Harding placed fifth in the discus with a mark of 103-10 and sophomore Afi Gati finished fifth in the shot put with a mark of 32-8. Junior Maddie Ohlinger took fifth in the triple jump with a leap of 33-2 1/2 and freshman Teagan Meyers placed seventh in the high jump with a clearance of 4-7.
Senior Abby Tilton finished fifth in both the 100-meter hurdles (17.05 seconds) and the 300-meter hurdles (51.13 seconds). Freshman Liberty Hayes placed sixth in the 100-meter dash (13.25) and Rochelle took fifth in the 800-meter relay with a time of 1:51.02.