CHARLESTON — Du Quoin sophomore Gabby Alongi came into the Class 1A 800 meter preliminaries with the sixth-best sectional time. However, she knew a spot in Saturday’s state finals was hardly a lock.
Alongi ran in the first heat, determined to set the tone for the event.
“I went in knowing the third heat was loaded, so I knew I needed to either win or get a top time in my heat,” she said. “So, I went out there to win it. I got fourth, but I thought everyone else did amazing. I ran the fastest I ever ran.”
Alongi got out quickly, leading most of the first lap. She dropped to second as the official sounded the ball lap and eventually dropped to fourth place. However, her 2:18.97 peeled nearly four seconds off her PR.
From that point, there were several anxious moments as she watched the last two heats, hoping her time would hold up.
“I knew that third heat was loaded, so I was worried I wouldn’t make it in,” Alongi said. “But, I PR’d. If I didn’t make it I was going to be happy, but the fact that I made it is just a plus.”
She medaled last year as a freshman, but she realizes that is ancient history.
“Knowing I’ll have a ton more time, I’m just going to try to get on that podium, give it everything I’ve got,” she said. “The time that got me eighth last year wouldn’t have even gotten me to the finals this year. I’m just trying to get on the podium, hopefully better than last year, but we’ll see.”
Christopher freshman Shianne Dejear also experienced some anxious moments Thursday.
She finished ninth in her flight of the long jump, but the flight was stacked with many of the top sectional qualifiers. However, her jump of 16-7.5 was good enough to reach the finals. Pinckneyville’s Dakota Krone jumped 16-5.5 and also advances to Saturday.
“It’s very nerve racking, but I was super excited though, especially coming from a really small school like Christopher,” Dejear said. “It was a really big accomplishment.
“I couldn’t believe, with my jump, it was going to be really close. Then, when they announced it, oh, I can’t even explain how excited I was.”
Things are a bit different in the high jump where competitors walk away from the pit knowing their fate. Five Southern Illinois competitors, Paige Tucker of Sesser-Valier, Elizabeth Bird of Du Quoin, Kaitlyn Hoffman of Chester, Jacklynn Simms of Fairfield and Audrey Jansen of Okawville, all reached the 5-1 standard.
“It’s (jumping to a specific height) a different mindset only because you never know what the weather could bring and other competitors, not knowing, not ever jumping against them before,” Tucker said. “You have to come with the right mindset, be focused and not nervous. Everyone has nerves, it just makes you not know what to do when you’re jumping.”
A senior, Tucker qualified for state in the high jump last year. She advanced to state as part of a relay team as a freshman.
“Last year I was very, very nervous,” she said. “I’m nervous this year too, but having last year having competed in high jump, it makes me a little more comfortable.”
Tucker had the second best sectional height at 5-6. She wants to clear 5-7 Saturday to give her a share of the school record.
Class 1A competitors qualified for Saturday’s finals in seven events.
Only one Southern Illinoisan, Pinckneyville’s Krone qualified in two events. She reached the long jump finals and earned a spot in Saturday’s triple jump championships with a jump of 34-10.5. She had a sectional jump of 35-7.5.
The Class 2A preliminaries begin at 8 a.m. today.