CHARLESTON – The Kaneland girls 3,200-meter relay punched its ticket for the state finals, but the Knights had to wait to do it.
After the first heat of the race in the preliminaries of the Class 2A Girls Track and Field State Meet on Friday, the Knights prepared to line up for their heat before a morning storm postponed it for about an hour and a half.
When the weather finally settled down, the team, sophomore Grace Purcell, seniors Sarah Daley and Becca Richtman and freshman Rachel Richtman, won its heat with a time of nine minutes, 40.64 seconds – the fastest time heading into the finals Saturday at O’Brien Field at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
“You need some mental strength for that,” Becca Richtman said. “We got out here, they lined us up, the other race had started, we were amped up and ready to go. You get so nervous in the tent. We were all shaking. No smiles, because we’re so nervous. ... It starts to rain, and we’re like, ‘Let’s embrace the rain. Let’s make it a positive.’ Then all of sudden, the guy gave a whistle and we thought it was to get lined up, but he told us to get back in the tent.”
The Knights qualified for the finals in five events – with the 3,200 relay, junior Cierra Kuipers (pole vault), senior Nicole Sreenan (100), freshman Rachel Richtman (1,600) and the 800 relay all advancing.
Sycamore sophomore Hannah Kirby, the only Spartan to qualify for the state meet, finished sixth in her heat of the 800 – 20th overall – with a time of 2:27.05.
“It was a great experience to be out here, but our races did get delayed, and I think that affected me because I didn’t know what to do for two hours,” said Kirby, who got tripped up among a pack on the first straightaway but stayed on her feet. “I just walked around, stretched. I accidentally warmed up too early and the lightning came back, so it just wasn’t as great as I wanted to do. ... I was very nervous. Just being out here by myself, that was a lot harder than other meets.”
Genoa-Kingston’s only qualifier, junior Alison Kramer, finished in 49.21 seconds in the 300 hurdles – fifth place in her heat and 18th overall.
Kuipers came into the day tied for the best sectional height at 12 feet and quickly qualified with a mark of 11-0 in her first few attempts.
Sreenan, who was the state runner-up in the 100 last year, posted the third-best time in the prelims. In the 200, she was 0.06 seconds behind the final qualifier.
Sreenan was the first leg of the 800 relay team to make it to the final – along with freshman Emma Stoker, sophomore Lindsey Turner and senior Carly Elliott.
For Sreenan, Saturday’s races will be the final ones in a decorated prep career with the Knights.
“I think I’m prepared for it, I don’t know,” Sreenan said of her final day with Kaneland. “It hasn’t really hit me that I’m graduating because I missed graduation practice (Friday) and all the other stuff. I have missed all the farewell activities.”
The Knights narrowly missed qualifying for the finals in the 400 relay, with the team of freshman Avery Smith, Stoker, Elliott and Sreenan finishing in 11th place with a time of 49.33.
Kaneland freshman Lesley Viveros had a time of 1:01.12 in the 400, and senior Maddie Keifer had a mark of 32-10 in the triple jump, although neither qualified for the finals.
Kaneland came into the preliminaries with the second fastest sectional time (9:38.83) in the 3,200 relay behind Dunlap (9:36.82). The team from Vernon Hills came out with a big lead in the second heat, before the Knights closed the gap and took the lead after the second leg from Becca Richtman.
Richtman got to Daley – both of whom were a part of the Knights’ 3,200 relay that took fifth at state last season – with the lead, and in the second lap of the third leg, Vernon Hills retook the lead, but Daley had a strong push in the final 200 meters to give the Knights the lead for good.
“When there’s girls that are trying to pass me, I let them go and don’t panic,” Daley said. “I always start my kick with 200 left, and I always plan for that in my race. You just have to run hard and see what you got left.”