In November, I started stalking other teams' schedules to find us a meet for this weekend. It had long been a hole in our schedule, so I was stoked when I saw a meet in Kankakee. It's south of I-80, a line that usually means warmer weather (well, let's be honest...most places are warmer than Zion in April). Then I looked at the schools who competed last year, and I was sold. Some of the top programs in the state were there! I convinced Coach Lee to bring the boys so this could be a true track family event. Fast forward to this Wednesday when we saw the seed times and distances, and my faith in my choice to travel far for the second weekend in a row felt super smart. This meet was going to be HOT! Little did I know that this meet would rival the State Meet of 2021 in terms of weather, time, and weirdness.
When we arrived at the stadium, there was a buzz in the air: the weather was warm, the stadium was filled, and the atmosphere screamed LET'S GO. We could hear the fantastic voice of the State Meet over the speakers, and there were athletes EVERYWHERE. At the head coaches' meeting, the Kankakee coach informed us that over 1600 athletes were registered for the meet! Whew, that's a lot! We were all convinced it was going to be a great day.
We started the meet right in the field. Mary jumped a new lifetime best of 4' 6" in the high jump, thrilling her teammates and coaches alike! She and Niyanna are going to keep growing into this event; I am so proud of them both for taking feedback so well and competing with ZB PRIDE. I walked over to the shot put in time to see Ximena launch a NEW LPR (for the fans out there, YES...ANOTHER!). She is now in the 30 foot club with a throw of 31'10" This kid just keeps soaking up the wisdom of Coach Strickland and the good vibes of Ne'Zyah. So proud of your effort, Ximena! She ended up 11th in a super-competitive field, improving from her seed of 13th. Ne'Zyah had a huge throw today, too. She matched her LPR of 34'7.25" from Conference last year. She is WAY ahead of schedule! More importantly, I love watching her confidence grow in this event. Proud of you, junior! Speaking of proud, Nyana looked out for her triple jumper fam of Brooke and Marshyir who made their debuts today. I know these two will grow into the event, especially under her leadership.
The track portion of our day seemed to start just fine. Our JV 4X800 featured an impressive PR by Estrella (3:12), a brave first effort in the event by Janalise (3:22) a strong leg by Aniya (3:29), and a speedy anchor by Liz (3:14). They set the stage for our Varsity crew, who had a great day, too! Audrey and Riley started us strong with matching splits of 2:25, followed by a PR by Brionne (2:44) and a strong finish by Fia (2:49) to help us secure second place behind a VERY strong Normal Community relay. Nice work, relays!
Our JV 4X100 suffered a DQ for going out of the zone, but that's ok! Remember that we are working on progress, not perfection. 4X100 handoffs are tricky, and it takes time to learn! Making a mistake is one of the best ways to learn, and I'm confident that this squad will progress because of this moment. Our Varsity 4X100 placed 7th in preview of the State Meet. This event was SMOKIN' FAST, with Kankakee narrowly besting Homewood-Flossmoor. Our bees did a nice job of holding their own in this fast field. Nice work, Auriel, Jade, Taylor, and Kennilyn!
Lauren and Rachel racked up double points in the 3200 despite the heat. In longer events like the 2-mile, managing the heat is tricky when it has been cold leading up to the meet. Although Lauren's time was not a PR, she ran a smart race, earning us 8 points. Rachel shaved 2 seconds off her previous best, and impressive feat in the heat, and earned us 5 team points. Nice work, bees! During the men's 3200, I had to pull Jarek off the track due to lightning. This is when things got weird. Our team piled on the bus to wait for the weather to clear up, which it did rather quickly. The only problem was that the brief storm wreaked havoc on the timing system. The company had to re-set up the cameras and the computers, but there were glitches with the starter pistol. Kankakee's coach tried stalling by honoring seniors and asking for our patience, but the delay was hours long, with the hurdle races and 100 meter dash seemingly taking forever. Baakir and Tati still ran well in the hurdles, with Tati earning a season's best! Nice work, Tati! The results in the 100 are not accurate (it shows Auriel, Kennilyn, and Taylor as DNS, but they did race well!) The fast heat that did get its times recorded, shows the depth of this meet--the top five finishers are ranked in the top 20 in the state!
In the 800, Riley and Estrella were up against one of the toughest racers in the state--Allison Ince. At the 200, I could see that Ince was running conservatively in order to save some juice for the 400 (only one event away). The lovely thing about Riley is that when I told her that the race was slow, she wasn't afraid to make a move: she surged off the curve and took the lead, forcing Ince to run an honest race. I love that gutsiness! Normally, the 800 is not run as a negative race, but that's exactly what Riley did: 73/68. On the second lap, Ince passed Riley, but Riley did not let her go--she kept pulling to a nice time of 2:19. This race shows how much Ricat has grown in this event--she uses her strength from XC and her race savviness in order to keep improving! Well done, Riley! Estrella also had a great day! After running a great PR in the relay, she matched in this race, running pretty even splits of 93/99. I like that she got out harder than usual, and that courage is going to pay off at the end of the season. Nice work, Estrella!
Our Varsity 4X200 had a big race, improving their season best time as a unit, despite a ridiculous issue. In an effort to speed up the meet, Kankakee had combined some heats. Unfortunately, they did not tell us at the exchange zone. So we helped the one team get set up for heat one, but when the gun sounded, there was a full track of athletes, including Jade. We had to stop the race, let the next heat go, and then re-run our heat. Wisely, Jade and Taylor switched spots in order to give Jade some more time to recover. Despite all that mess, Auriel, Jade, Kennilyn, and Taylor sprinted their way into scoring. They beat out several teams in the hot heat in order to earn us 5 points. Awesome work, bees!
In the open 400, Brionne, Aby, and Anesa all earned lifetime bests! Aby was first, dropping 3 seconds to finish in 71! She has not shied away from the most challenging sprint event on the track, and her tenacity showed today. Awesome work, freshie! Anesa was next; she has had such a great season so far, really stepping up to lead. She let the competitive field push her to a 3 second drop in time--awesome new PR of 72! She also looked the strongest she has looked in the final stretch. Proud of you, Anesa! Brionne used that positive energy to help her earn a PR, too. After running a 65 at Springfield and then dropping to a high 64 at home, she shed a few more tenths to earn a new PR today. Gutsy racing, Bri! Overall, this race was superfast, with six women posting some of the best marks in the state! It was awesome to watch!
After waiting around for what felt like days, Audrey ran a strong "comeback" race after her Europe trip. She won easily, switching gears to pull away from the competition. I know she wasn't pleased with the time, but I hope she was proud of the actual racing. That race was a testament to her consistency over the years. She was able to fall back on years of base to pull off the win--proud of you, Audrey!
In the open 200, Kennilyn had a great day! She has been steadily improving, showing her focus and strength in this event. She whipped off the turn and earned herself a new PR of 28.01! She is only a blink away from the 27s, and I know she is going to get there. Nice race, Kennilyn! Niyanna also had a strong race, pulling on the speed of the meet and nearly matching her LPR. Awesome work, freshie!
By the time we got to the 4X400, most of us felt like we were in a state of unreality. We were tired and thirsty and hot. There was relief in the sun setting and the day nearly being over. What impressed me was that our two relays did not let the length of the meet deter them from greatness. Our JV relay was up first, running so strong! Aby, Janalise, Anesa, and Sofia ran so strong! They placed 4th and inspired our Varsity squad. Nice work, young pups! Our Varsity group matched their season PR and raced hard, placing 4th. Great work, bees!
Overall, we placed 4th behind some of the best teams in the state. I am really proud of the way we competed and held it together despite the weather, delays, and other craziness. Nice work, bees!