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Smashing start for St. Charles East girls track

St. Charles East’s Jordan Shead leads the field in the last 80 meters of the IHSA Class 3A 400-meter dash at Friday’s IHSA girls track and field state meet’s prelims. She finished second in her heat to qualify for today’s finals.
St. Charles East’s Jordan Shead leads the field in the last 80 meters of the IHSA Class 3A 400-meter dash at Friday’s IHSA girls track and field state meet’s prelims. She finished second in her heat to qualify for today’s finals.

CHARLESTON – St. Charles East junior Britney Williams took the baton from Allison Chmelik, knowing she had some work to do.

Leading the Saints’ 4x400-meter relay, Williams had to do her job as the anchor and set up the Saints for a strong finish Friday at the IHSA girls track and field state meet.

The junior had no idea that she had helped her relay break a school record until she finally looked up at the O’Brien Stadium scoreboard and saw that the Saints had a mark below four minutes.

When the times were finally announced, the Saints’ team of Kelsey Gentry, Jordan Shead, Chmelik and Williams had a mark of 3:54.35 – more than three seconds faster than the relay’s previous school record, which was set at the Bartlett Sectional.

East’s time was good for fifth place in Class 3A during Friday’s preliminaries, earning the Saints a trip to today’s finals, which begin at 10 a.m.

“I think we all ran well. Britney especially,” Shead said. “She really took it home for us. We’re really proud of her.”

On that final leg, Williams didn’t get the start she wanted, as the hand-off from Chmelik wasn’t ideal. Williams was still able to make up for it.

She also was able to anchor the relay despite being under the weather. Williams suffers from asthma, which she said makes dealing with sickness more difficult.

“It makes [the race] just a little bit harder, but you don’t really feel the effects of it until after you’re done racing,” Williams said. “So I try not to think about it when I’m actually racing.”

The Saints had three individuals advance to the finals. Torree Scull was 12th in the 800 with a time of 2:16.35, while Shead was eighth in the 400 (56.66). Annie Martines placed seventh in the 300 (44.70).

Batavia thrower Haleigh Theuerkauf was the area’s only other individual to qualify for the Class 3A finals. She advanced in the shot put with a throw of 40 feet 61⁄4 inches.

Midway through indoor season, Theuerkauf made a change in her from. During prelims, she went back to the style she used prior to that, which affects where she starts.

“It gets me farther in the ring,” Theuerkauf said. “I can start all the way back instead of having to creep up a little bit.”

St. Charles North’s 4x800 relay of Sydney Stuenkel, Megan Young, Natalia Gawlik and Jessica Scheets earned a spot in the finals, taking ninth with a time of 9:22.74.

Both of Geneva’s state qualifers – senior long jumper Kailie Briza and freshman triple jumper Hannah Davison – were unable to earn finals spots.

In Class 2A, Kaneland sophomore Sydney Strang qualified for the finals in the 800. The sophomore ran 2:19.29, good for 12th place – the final qualifying spot. Jenn Howland will run in the 3,200 today. There is no qualifying in that event.

Strang was pleased with her 800 performance. She just wanted to make sure she stayed relaxed on her way to today’s finals.

“Of course you have the nerves of state,” Strang said. “But at the end of the day you’ve just got to do your best. See what happens.”

Strang didn’t know she had even made the finals until a “good while” after the 800 was over.

“It’s definitely the hardest part,” Strang said. “Definitely worth it.”

Elsewhere in Class 2A, Aurora Christian junior Mackenzie Bollinger advanced in three events, finishing fourth in each one – the triple jump (36 feet 9 inches), 100 (12.57) and 200 (24.98).

The Eagles also qualified their 4x100 and 4x200 relays, while pole vaulter Taylor Knauf advanced with a mark of 10-6, good for 11th place.

Burlington Central junior Kayla Wolf will run in the 800 today, as she took fifth at 2:15.62 in Friday’s prelims.

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