DU QUOIN — When a state champion was last determined on the track in 2019, the Du Quoin girls came away with the hardware.
They will have a chance to do it again next week after dominating the Class 1A sectional they hosted Wednesday at Van Metre Field.
Winning 10 of the 18 events, the Indians finished with 175 points, nearly tripling the team score of second place Hamilton County and third place Chester. Du Quoin captured first in all four relay events, while Grace Alongi (triple jump, 400) and Jalynn Wood (pole vault, 100 hurdles) each earned firsts in multiple events.
Alongi, Jacqueline Crain and Olivia Phillips each participated on two winning relay teams, while Lauren Heape was a part of three victorious relay squads. Phillips and Crain also went 1-2 in the 800, Phillips doing so with an impressive time of 2:19.31.
Finally, Sophie Hill’s personal-best effort of 5-2 in the high jump beat out Chester’s Lauren Soellner by nine inches for a sectional title.
“It would mean a lot to repeat,” said Alongi, “because we missed out on the chance to do it last year. It would mean the world to us to win it again. We have quite a few people back from that team two years ago. We’re very hopeful we can repeat.”
Indians coach Shane Boyett knows a lot of things must go right to win a state title on June 10 in Charleston, as they did two years ago. For instance, he’ll have to get a big day from his relay teams, particularly the 4x400 and 4x800 units.
The road map to another championship probably includes a personal best or two along the way and perhaps a surprise finish mixed in. But the new format for this year’s meet – one shot, no heats and just one day – puts a different slant on it.
“Hopefully, we can get up there and run really well,” Boyett said. “It’s going to be more like a regular meet because it’s just one day and not spread out over two or three days. We’re hoping to have a big day.”
It meant little in the team score on this day, but Wood’s 100 hurdles win over Goreville’s Maci Tosh is the type of thing that can decide whether a team wins a title. Wood had to outlean Tosh at the tape to win by .01 seconds.
“That was really close and a good race,” Wood said. “I guess I leaned first.”
Tosh got her revenge in the 300 hurdles, bursting past Wood for a victory in 50.28 and completing a fine day. She qualified for state in three events, also finishing second in the long jump to Fairfield’s Emersyn Robbins.
In the non-Du Quoin division, the day’s most dominant athlete might have been Hamilton County’s Maddie Karcher. After cruising to the 3200 title in 12:51.91, Karcher came back just under two hours later to roll through the 1600 in 5:50:54.
Sparta’s Kayla Braun also pulled off a double in the weight events. Braun’s toss of 38-1 earned her a win in the shot put over Johnston City’s Emma Tolbert. In the discus, Braun heaved it 103-4 to nip Kalei Burchfield of Carmi-White County.
Finally, Carmi-White County sprinter Jessica Smith doubled in the 100 and 200, edging Robbins by .01 seconds in the 200 with a time of 28.00.
But most of the day belonged to a recent state champion that hopes its experience of 2019 can help it pull off another title.
“I’m going to worry about my events,” Wood said. “I need to block everything else out and leave it on the track for our team. That’s how we won two years ago.”