Locals look for firsts at girls state track meet
The Minooka Indians qualified for the 2012 Girls Track and Field State Final in more events than in any year since 2002, when they went in six events.
Considering a program-record three of the four Minooka qualifiers are relay teams, it is safe to say there will be more orange and black in Charleston this weekend than in any year covered by the IHSA's online archives, which date back to 1997.
Two of those relay teams enter Friday's Class 3A preliminary rounds fresh off first-place finishes at the Joliet West Sectional on May 10. Bethany Bachmann, Angelica Estrada, Lauren Jonen and Janile Rogers won the 4x200-meter relay with a time of 1:42.96, and Bachmann, Moira McAsey, Estrada and Lauren Jonen had a first-place time of 4:00.61 in the 4x400-meter relay.
Lucia Rossi, Haley Renison, Kiley Saunders and Moira McAsey added a sixth-place time of 9:33.23 in the 4x800-meter relay. All three sectional marks are Minooka school records.
"Going into it, I knew we had a shot (of qualifying) in all four relays," Minooka girls head coach Kevin Gummerson said. "It would have taken everything going perfect to get all four out, but we've never had three relays qualify."
Gummerson calls the win in the 4x200 the highlight of the meet for the Indians. They were seeded third, behind second-seeded Naperville Central and a Plainfield Central team he says they "hadn't touched" in competition all season. None of the Indians needed more than 26 seconds flat to finish their leg as they held off North by six-hundreths of a second.
"We have progressed drastically," Rogers said of the 4x200 team. "We have been switching it up to see who can really fit in. We've all gotten better. ... We have been able to shave off time with perfect handoffs."
In the 4x400, Bachmann, McAsey and Estrada got Jonen the baton with the lead. It was a lead Jonen nearly lost despite running a Minooka-best split time of 59.2 seconds. Naperville North anchor Alexis Hyshaw nearly caught her near the 200-meter mark. Jonen rallied to preserve the victory by 1.16 seconds.
"When I got (the baton), my thought was that I'm in first right now, and I just have to go and do this and hopefully bring a championship for our relay team home. All of the sudden, (Hyshaw) was right next to me. I knew right then that I would have to kick it up another notch," Jonen said. "I always think that I run better when I know someone is chasing me, so when I saw her shadow, it gave me more adrenaline. I thought, 'I need to go, now.'"
The Indians finished more than 10 seconds off the pace set by sectional champion Yorkville in the 4x800, yet they still advanced to state. Seven teams qualified in total from Joliet West in the event.
"We knew the other girls were so fast we were just kind of going for a qualifying time. By the time it was my turn, the one and two teams (Yorkville and Naperville North) were so far away," McAsey said. "We just ran our race. ... The other legs did an awesome job and got me in a good position and we were able to have a qualifying time."
The top-seeded Minooka relay team at state is the 4x200, which recorded the sixth-lowest sectional time in the state. The 4x400 team ran in the 15th-lowest time in the sectional round; the 4x800 team was 25th best. Nine teams advance to Saturday's finals in each relay event except the 4x800, in which 12 move on.
All three Minooka teams may have work to do to survive day one. The worst times that qualified for the finals at the 2011 state meet were a 9:29.49 in the 4x400, a 1:41.52 in the 4x200 and a 3:58.19 in the 4x400.
"You can't play defense against what everyone else is doing. You just have to compete at the highest possible level," Gummerson said. "We want everybody to get to Saturday. It will take a huge effort and a lot of things have to go right, but our kids don't have the mentality of being satisfied with what they've done already."