LISLE — Rochelle sophomore Macey Ryan was doing everything she could to avoid being passed during the last stretch of the 400-meter relay at the IHSA Class 2A Lisle Sectional on Thursday.
With the final 100 meters in front of her, Ryan took the baton from senior teammate Morgan Knight and sprinted as fast as she could down the last straightaway. When the sophomore crossed the finish line, she had not only helped Rochelle finish in first place, but the Lady Hubs qualified for the IHSA State Championships in Charleston while setting both a sectional meet record and a Rochelle Township High School record with a time of 49.27 seconds.
“It felt very good because we broke our previous school record and I was really excited to anchor the race,” Ryan said. “I felt a lot of pressure because I was the youngest one on our team but it felt really good to win. I just didn’t want to get passed and I always race like there’s somebody right behind me even when there isn’t… I’m excited to run against all of the big schools at state.”
Rochelle totaled 44 points to finish fifth out of 14 teams at the Lisle sectional, but most importantly, the Lady Hubs advanced six athletes across four events to the state championships which begin at Eastern Illinois University on Friday for Class 2A. Rochelle’s 400-meter relay team included Ryan, Knight, senior Jacie Wyatt and senior Cesca Vardman.
“I was jumping for joy when we heard about breaking the records,” Vardman said. “I was running across the field and it was so much fun… I think our goal is to get our 400-meter relay team into the finals because we were close last year but we didn’t make it… We just need to run our hardest and not think about anybody else because we’re all going to be there for a reason.”
Junior Katherine Bakken was next to shine for the Lady Hubs, and after Bakken broke the RTHS record in the 3200-meter run during the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference Championships just over one week ago, she rewrote the history book with an even faster time of 11:26.76 to take second at the Lisle sectional. Bakken will be racing at state for the first time in her track and field career.
“I knew that I could qualify for state and it was just a matter of putting myself out there,” Bakken said. “I’m looking forward to bonding with my teammates and getting to compete in one more track meet. I didn’t know what time I was going to make at the sectional meet but I knew that I wanted to make second place.”
Rochelle’s second event victory and third state-qualifying bid came during the 800-meter relay when Vardman, senior Morgan Baker, Wyatt and Ryan took first place and set a new meet record with a time of 1:45.58. The Lady Hubs have now reached state in both the 400-meter relay and the 800-meter relay for two straight years. After missing on the finals in both events last season, the girls are eager to reach the finals this time around.
“Our goal is definitely to make the finals and it’s going to take all of us running our best,” Baker said. “We’ll need to have our handoffs down and we’ll need to go out there and compete with everything we have. I’m excited and I’m looking forward to ending the year on a good note and being there with my teammates. Having no regrets and looking back on everything positive will be great.”
The Lady Hubs earned their fourth and final state-qualifying berth when the senior foursome of Wyatt, Knight, Vardman and Baker placed second in the 1600-meter relay with a time of 4:03.38. The four seniors have reached state in the 1600-meter relay three years in a row, and Rochelle has made state in the 1600-meter relay during each of the last four seasons.
“We’ve been racing together for the last four years and I’m looking forward to enjoying our last time running together,” Wyatt said. “I really like spending the weekend with my coaches and teammates. We always have fun, and meet-wise I really like the competition because everybody is leaving everything on the track.”
The state championship preliminary races for Class 2A will begin on Friday, with the state finals concluding on Saturday. Rochelle’s 1600-meter relay team took third place in the state finals last year, and with all four seniors back for more, the Lady Hubs are ready to give the state championships everything they have.
“For most of us it’s our last race ever and for me it’s my last race with the girls,” Knight said. “We just want to make sure we have no regrets and we want to give everything we have for each other. It’s a lot of fun being around so many competitive athletes and everyone wants it. Being around people who love track, hanging out with the girls and having fun even in high-pressure situations are what I really enjoy.”
Sophomore Katie Van Hise placed 10th in the high jump with a clearance of 4-7 and sophomore Emma Smith was 13th at 4-5. Sophomore Maddie Ohlinger finished 19th in the long jump at 12-4 and senior Alexis Bialas cleared 7-7 for eighth place in the pole vault. Ohlinger took 12th in the triple jump (30-3 ½) and junior Cam Turner was 18th at 28-10 ½.
Sophomore Gabrielle Harding finished sixth in the shot put with a heave of 31-6 and eighth in discus at 99-9. Senior Allysa Harding placed ninth in the shot put at 30 feet and seventh in discus at 104-9. Rochelle’s 3200-meter relay team of Turner, Smith, senior Hannah Cruz and sophomore Britney Baez took 11th with a time of 10:55.60.
Junior Abby Tilton placed eighth in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 17.71 and junior Cheyene Watson was ninth in 18.43. Ryan took third in the 100-meter dash with a time of 13.07 to finish just .01 seconds away from qualifying for state. Rosary’s Julianne Hutchison took second in 13.06.
Tilton finished sixth in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 50.62 and junior Grace Garcia was 16th in 57.26. Freshman Sofia Lenkaitis placed 13th with a time of 1:06.21 and Van Hise took 16th in 1:07.08. Cruz finished 15th in the 1600-meter run with a time of 5:58.76 and Ryan finished seventh in the 200-meter dash with a time of 27.58.