After a one-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IHSA Track and Field State Meet returns to Eastern Illinois University this week.
It will look different, however.
In a normal year, the Class 1A preliminaries would take place Thursday with Class 2A and Class 3A preliminaries Friday followed by finals for all three classes Saturday.
This year, there will be no preliminaries and finals in Charleston.
Instead, there will be several heats of each running event and several flights of each field event with the top nine in each earning medals.
In past years, field athletes had three attempts in the preliminaries followed by three more in the finals. This year, field events get four attempts.
“It’s going to be interesting,” La Salle-Peru coach John Beatty said. “With Emily [Strehl] going in the [long and triple] jumps, because they’re not going to have finals, she has to make sure she gets on the board right away then gets a high enough mark in her four jumps she’s going to have. It will definitely make things go quicker, but it means there’s really no chance to hold anything back in any of the events. They have to go their hardest in each event.”
Each class will wrap up its state meet in one day, with Class 1A on Thursday followed by Class 2A on Friday and Class 3A on Saturday.
“I love the one-day meet. I hope they stick with it,” St. Bede coach Marty Makransky said. “[For the athletes], it’s the format they’re used to all year long. A lot of these girls have never been to state, so they don’t know any different.
“You get down to state and have three jumps to get to finals and three more two days later. I’m not sure that’s an advantage. You see many times that nobody improves [from Thursday to Saturday]. I don’t see a downside [to the one-day meet].”
Strehl is the only area athlete who will compete in the Class 2A meet, as she qualified in the long jump, triple jump and 100-meter hurdles.
Strehl, who competed at state in the long jump as a freshman, is seeded 10th in the long jump at 17 feet, 1 inch, 11th in the triple jump at 34-7 3/4 and 12th in the 100 hurdles at 16.32 seconds.
“She’s right on the edge [of the top nine] and could make all-state in all three events,” Beatty said. “If she’s on target for Friday, she’ll make all-state in one or more event.”
In Class 1A, St. Bede, Bureau Valley and the Amboy co-op are sending two athletes each, Henry-Midland has two individuals and a relay, and Fieldcrest has one representative.
St. Bede senior Teeghan Tillman is tied for the 11th seed with a group of 15 jumpers who cleared 4-11 3/4 at sectionals.
“Teeghan is in a good spot,” Makransky said. “She really has been jumping well. At conference, she just missed 5-1. She’s been steadily improving. She makes 4-10 or 5 foot every week. She’s been very consistent.
“I think she’s going to do good things. I hope she [gets a personal record]. If she does, she might be able to medal.”
Teammate Anna Lopez, a sophomore and former state medalist in grade school, is seeded 23rd among 29 runners in the 100 at 13.27.
Bureau Valley has a pair of athletes who have brought home medals before in seniors Kamryn Kolb and Jade Aber.
Kolb anchored the Storm’s state champion 4x100 relay and runner-up 4x200 relay as a freshman in 2018 along with placing in the long jump and 200 that year. She missed state as a sophomore because of illness.
Aber placed in the triple jump as a sophomore in 2019.
Kolb is seeded 10th in the long jump (16-8 1/2), while Aber has the top seed in the triple jump at 35-9 1/2.
“Jade and Kamryn are two strong seniors who are seeded to do well at state,” BV coach Jennifer Backer said. “I think that they are both ones who are able to handle the pressure of state and will hopefully thrive with that to bring home medals.
“Both girls are excited to get back to state this year after not being able to go last year to compete. Jade is ready to continue improving and finish strong with her jumps at the state level. Kamryn is extra excited, as she has not been to a state competition since her freshman year.
“Both girls have been great leaders with helping the younger girls improve, and I hope to see some great performances at the state meet.”
Henry-Midland has a returning medalist in Nakeita Kessling, who placed in the long jump as a freshman in 2019. She returns in that event and also qualified in the 400 and the 4x400 relay with her sisters Nadia and Daphaney Kessling and her cousin, Jersey Johnson.
“She’s been there before, and she can do it again,” H-M coach Ruark Crawley said about Nakeita Kessling, who he feels can place top five in both individual events.
Nakeita Kessling is seeded seventh in the long jump (17-1) and 400 (1:00.04), while the H-M relay is seeded 22nd (4:25.72).
H-M sophomore Laney Lester, a state champion in grade school, is seeded eighth in the discus (122-0 1/2) and 27th in the shot put (33-2 3/4).
“I’m hoping she breaks the school record in the shot put, and for discus I’m hoping for a top eight finish,” Crawley said.
Amboy has a pair of potential medalists in freshman Elly Jones and junior Lauren Althaus.
Jones, a state medalist in grade school, is seeded to medal in three events. She’s second in the triple jump (35-1 3/4), seventh in the 300 hurdles (48.96) and eighth in the 100 hurdles (16.03). She’s also seeded 15th in the long jump (16-2 1/2).
“With a freshman coming in, you never really know,” Amboy coach Miachel Robinson said. “I knew Elly was a good athlete, but junior high and high school levels are different. Elly caught on to that real quick. Once we got a couple meets in, you could see from what Elly was doing we had something special. … I wasn’t shocked when she made it (to state) in all four events.
“Charleston is completely different. There’s more pressure, more expectations, a bigger atmosphere and some different variables thrown in. This is a big stage, but I have a feeling she’s going to step up and do even better than what she’s been doing so far.”
Althaus is seeded 11th in the 400 at 1:00.9 and 21st in the 200 at 27.1.
“We bounced Lauren around on what she was doing from the beginning of the season to the end,” Robinson said. “She tried some new things. I think we finally found a home for her.
“I think Lauren is going to surprise some people. Now she knows she can race with the favorites. She likes to overachieve from what people think she can do. I think she’ll do pretty well down there.”
Fieldcrest’s Carol Megow is seeded 26th in the 300 hurdles at 51.88.
“Carol is a phenomenal athlete,” Fieldcrest coach C.J. Hamilton said. “She’s been awesome to work with this year. Because she’s so young, the goal this year was to get her to peak at the sectional to hopefully make state. We’re looking for her to get experience and have a good time. She’s only three seconds off the school record. If she could drop down and get that, obviously we would be ecstatic. But if it doesn’t happen, she’ll have two more years and I’m sure she’ll break it.”