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Druley: IHSA relents, lets Kaneland girls track relay run

Kaneland's Becca Richtman runs the leadoff leg of the 4x800-meter relay team at the Class 2A Freeport Sectional on Friday in Freeport. Kaneland, which finished third, did eventually qualifiy for the state meet.
Kaneland's Becca Richtman runs the leadoff leg of the 4x800-meter relay team at the Class 2A Freeport Sectional on Friday in Freeport. Kaneland, which finished third, did eventually qualifiy for the state meet.

IHSA officials responded to a 21st century petition on behalf of the Kaneland girls track and field team’s 4x800-meter relay with some old-fashioned humility.

A Saturday night tweet announcing that the Kaneland and Rock Falls 4x800 groups would indeed be eligible to compete in Friday’s 2A state prelims in Charleston included the Twitter hashtag #letkanelandrun.

That’s the same #letkanelandrun that gained steam fewer than 24 hours earlier, after a fully automated timing system malfunction at the Freeport Sectional threatened to derail the Knights’ foursome of Becca Richtman, Aislinn Lodwig, Jessica Kucera and Sydney Strang even though it had met the qualifying time.

“We were really excited when we found out that we could finally run,” Kucera said, “because I know we were really disappointed that we worked really hard and then it just got kind of taken away from us.”

There wasn’t much middle ground for reaction when the Knights completed a seemingly successful opening track final at sectionals.

Kaneland finished third in the 4x800 in 9:50.84, about eight seconds faster than the qualifying time. However, because of issues stemming from a delay caused by power troubles with the timing equipment, the race ended with only Rockford Boylan and Sterling advancing.

On Saturday morning, Knights coach Doug Ecker said the case was not appealable according to an IHSA rule stating if a timing system is down for any reason at sectionals, only the top two finishers move on.

Fewer than 12 hours later, at just after 7 p.m., the IHSA took to Twitter and let Kaneland and Rock Falls run after officials “worked throughout the day Saturday to obtain and analyze video of the event to determine whether any accommodation was possible in this unusual circumstance,” according to a news release.

“I want to think [the hashtag] helped, but, I mean, a lot of the community members and people from other schools, too, were even discussing it and people were tagging [the IHSA] in there,” Kucera said.

Kaneland navigated a long, chilly night and claimed the sectional team title by two points over Sycamore. Ecker admitted the initial 4x800 ruling left him “pretty much livid” and more upset than at any other time in a decorated coaching career.

His tune mellowed later in the day.

Kaneland’s three other relays qualified, too, and the team now hopes another entity clears one particular athlete for competition.

Senior standout Lauren Zick, a St. John’s softball recruit, suffered a high ankle sprain at the May 9 conference meet, and was set to visit Fox Valley Orthopedics in Geneva on Monday for a consultation to determine whether she could run at state.

“Obviously, we don’t want to have anything go wrong for softball or anything else. Her future,” Ecker said. “Obviously, we’re extremely disappointed for her and everything, but it’s just, like, you live to fight another day, just like the girls in the 4x8.”

Beginner’s pluck: Batavia freshman sprinter Hannah Schlaman left no doubt about her Charleston candidacy at Thursday’s 3A Metea Valley Sectional, winning the 100 and 200 meters and qualifying as part of the Bulldogs’ 4x100 relay.

Experienced against much of the region’s top talent after competing with the Aurora Flyers summer track club before this season, Schlaman admits she’s still mastering the mental side.

“Yeah, jitters and nerves are definitely still there,” she said. “Just, like, learning how to control them is a big part of running for me.”

Freshmen starred elsewhere at the sectional, including Geneva’s Kristin Higgins, who won the high jump.

“She had to be [clutch] to do what she did on a night where the weather wasn’t great,” Vikings coach Peter Raak said. “She keeps showing that toughness and she keeps improving.”

Waubonsee baseball CWS-bound: Batavia product Jarret Clark’s two hits and three RBIs on Saturday helped the Waubonsee College baseball team advance to the NJCAA Division III College World Series.

The Chiefs defeated Joliet Junior College, 7-3, at Boomers Stadium in Schaumburg to win the Region IV tournament. Two Kaneland alumni also chipped in, as Tyler Heinle scored a run and Jordan Jones pitched around a hit in the ninth to earn the save.

The College World Series will be held at Tyler (Texas) Junior College. The Chiefs (37-23) open play at 7 p.m. Saturday, facing Cumberland County (N.J.) College.

Waubonsee’s roster also includes Dan Berendt (Geneva), P.J. O’Brien (St. Charles North), John Hopkins (Kaneland) and Pete Bowe (Marmion).

Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.

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