CHARLESTON — One and done?
More like two and zoom for Nashville’s sprint relay teams on a history-making Thursday at the Class 1A State track and field meet.
The Hornettes’ squad of Talanie Kozuszek, Karmen Reynolds, Shelby Thorson and Halle Rueter became the first individuals to win a state title for the girls track program Thursday when they smoked the field in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays at O’Brien Field.
To match the hot, humid conditions, Nashville finished with a time of 49.87 in the 4x100, far better than Maroa-Forsyth’s 50.79. Rueter brought it home in one of her first events of the season after spending considerable time on the sideline with shin splints.
“Surreal,” Rueter said of her feeling as she crossed the finish line. “Just awesome.”
Nashville coach Jason Alli’s first reaction was to ask a friend if he took his blood pressure medication earlier.
“I would have been happy with any top five finish,” he said.
The Hornettes came into the event with the state’s second-best time this year, but the new format introduced an element of uncertainty. The IHSA opted to conduct each class over one day with just one shot at it.
No prelims, no margin for error. It was either be at your best or else.
“It was insane, but I feel like it actually helped us to have a sense of urgency,” Rueter said. “You had no second chances.”
Nashville didn’t need one. Thorson gave Rueter the baton for the anchor leg with a slight lead. Rueter turned that slight lead into a big one, accelerating over the first 50 meters and throwing her arms out to the side in celebration as she crossed the finish line.
More celebrating took place a couple of hours later when the Hornettes blazed through the 4x200 in 1:45.42, three seconds ahead of their best time this season and 2.60 seconds ahead of second-place Maroa-Forsyth.
Reynolds blistered through the second leg of that race to make up an early deficit and the last 400 meters was simply an affirmation of Nashville’s superiority on this day. Only a dropped baton or some other fluke could have slowed the Hornettes, and that wasn’t about to happen.
“We were way more relaxed after the first race,” Rueter said. “It was unreal how our time was so much better today than it was any other time this season.”
Alli said that was a function of having everyone at full strength at the right time. During some regular season events, Nashville inserted runners who served as alternates on Thursday.
“I knew this group had a lot of potential,” he said. “Everyone ran great races. We were 100 percent today and it showed.”
Another SIRR Mississippi school, Du Quoin, wasn’t able to defend its team title of 2019. But the Indians finished the meet in the best possible way when the 4x400 team pulled away in the last lap-plus for a state championship.
Grace Alongi took the lead for good just before handing Olivia Phillips the baton. Phillips quickly expanded the lead to uncatchable lengths on the backstretch and was in celebration mode when she broke the tape in 4:05.07, just over three seconds ahead of Winnebago.
“Us Southern Illinois girls, when we come up here to compete, we show that we do more than grow corn,” said Du Quoin senior Jacqueline Crain, who ran a good second leg. “We’ve worked our tails out and poured our hearts into this.”
The Indians barely missed winning the 4x800 relay when Phillips made up more than four seconds on the anchor leg. But her Winnebago competitor managed to hold her off by .78 seconds.
Phillips tacked on a second place finish in the 800, running 2:20.30 to wind up nearly two seconds behind Maleigha Huston of Bushnell-Prairie City. Alongi bagged fifth in the triple jump with an effort of 34-4.
But it wasn’t enough to enable the Indians to defend their 2019 team title. Du Quoin placed sixth with 31 points. Belleville Althoff edged Winnebago 50-49 for the team championship, its seventh place showing in the 4x400 just enough to hang on for the big plaque.
Sparta’s Kayla Braun earned sixth in the shot put with a heave of 37-6.