Girls Track: Rochelle trio advances to IHSA State Championships

The Rochelle Lady Hub varsity track and field team finished fifth in the IHSA 2A Genoa-Kingston Sectional on Friday. Three athletes including sophomore Alivia Henkel as well as seniors Teagan Meyers and Liberty Hayes (above from left to right) will represent RTHS at the IHSA State Championships next week. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Henkel, Meyers & Hayes qualify as Lady Hubs finish fifth in IHSA 2A Genoa-Kingston Sectional

GENOA — Prior to the IHSA 2A Genoa-Kingston Sectional on Friday, Alivia Henkel's last race in the 300-meter hurdles resulted in a tumble near the beginning of the back straightaway during the Ogle County Invitational. Friday was a much different story, however, with Henkel clearing every obstacle and blazing past the field to win the event and earn her first trip to the IHSA State Championships.

Henkel hadn’t run the 300-meter hurdles in under 48 seconds before the sectional, but that changed Friday evening, when the speedy sophomore clocked in at a personal-record time of 46.69 seconds, beating Kaneland runner-up Olivia Pastovich by nearly two seconds. Henkel will be one of three athletes who will represent the Rochelle Lady Hub varsity track and field team at the IHSA State Championships, which will begin at Eastern Illinois University next Thursday.

“I’ve been really excited for this meet and I had been anticipating this meet for a while,” Henkel said. “It means a lot to me to earn the chance to go to state and compete with my senior teammates. I’ve been working a lot on my form during practice and I think that was the biggest key for me today. It’s a huge confidence booster and I’m hoping to do the best I can at state.”

Senior Liberty Hayes will join Henkel at the state meet next weekend. Hayes, who entered the sectional meet seeded seventh in the 100-meter dash, found her stride early and closed out a second-place performance with a time of 13.53 seconds to secure her first-ever berth in the state meet. Hayes is the first 100-meter dash state qualifier for the Lady Hubs since Macey Ryan, who won the sectional title during the 2019 season despite being seeded fifth.

“I feel really good about advancing to state because I know the sectional won’t be my last meet ever,” Hayes said. “I was really nervous before the race, but I was really excited afterward. I had no idea what to expect before the race, but I knew I had to do my best. I thought I was mentally prepared to race against some of the toughest athletes and I thought they pushed me throughout the race. I’m happy that I’ll be sharing the state experience with my teammates.”

Rounding out the Lady Hub trio of state qualifiers Friday evening was senior Teagan Meyers, who won the sectional title in the high jump with a clearance of 1.60 meters. Meyers went head-to-head with Sycamore’s Karissa Clawson, who finished second on Friday after edging Meyers for the title during the Interstate 8 Conference Championships earlier this week.

“She was seeded above me at the sectional meet last season and she won while I took second,” Meyers said. “I was seeded above her at the conference meet this season, but she got first and I took second again. She’s really motivated me in the high jump and I think it makes the event more fun because you have someone to cheer for, but you also have someone who’ll push you to be better. I’m looking forward to having my teammates with me at state this year.”

Meyers, who placed seventh in both the triple jump and the 200-meter dash on Friday, will compete at the state meet for the second consecutive season. Last season, Meyers became the first Lady Hub to qualify for state in the high jump since Katie Schwartz advanced in 2009. Henkel will be the team’s first 300-meter hurdler at state since Brooke Hatfield qualified in 2011.

“I came in feeling pretty confident,” Meyers said. “I thought my attempts were really good throughout the day and I’m excited to see what next week brings at the state meet. It’s a really good feeling because last season took a lot for me to qualify, but I came back this season with more confidence knowing what I could do and it felt like I had less weight on my shoulders.”

The Lady Hubs placed fifth out of 16 schools at the sectional meet, scoring 40 points overall. Senior Sylvia Hasz finished fifth in the shot put with a distance of 10.23 meters and Rochelle’s 800-meter relay team (Liberty Hayes, Alivia Henkel, Rylee Jackson and Teagan Meyers) took fourth with a time of 1:51.52. Junior Yuelma Ortiz finished fourth in the 3200-meter run with a time of 12:53.10 before placing fifth in the 1600-meter run with a personal record of 5:46.45.