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CHARLESTON — It was a long and difficult day for Southern Illinois’ Class 1A track athletes Thursday.

Of the 125 athletes that advanced from the Du Quoin and Sparta sectionals last week, only six move on to Saturday’s finals.

Athletes moving on to Saturday’s competition are Sophie Keith of Pinckneyville in the 400- and 200 meters; Cherree Miller of Fairfield in the 800- and 400 meters; Anna-Jonesboro’s Hannah Reach in the pole vault; Du Quoin’s Taryn Mays and Christopher’s Emily Burkitt in the triple jump; and Chester’s Morgan Atchison in the 300-meter hurdles.

The 400 meters and triple jump were the lone events that was kind to Southern Illinoisans. Sophie Keith of Pinckneyville and Cherree Miller of Fairfield both won their heats to advance to Saturday’s finals. Keith has the best overall time in the state this year and had the second best sectional time.

Keith made of the stagger early in the race, was challenged on the last curve, but pulled away down the stretch to run a 59.1, which was 0.19 faster than her sectional time.

“I was out here to win my heat,” Keith said. “That’s what I did, so I’ll be here on Saturday. I definitely wanted to win the heat so I knew for sure. That was my main goal.

“I didn’t really have anybody up with me at the last. That’s (the time) alright, but Saturday I hope to get it way down.”

The Pinckneyville senior took the track again about an hour later to qualify for the 200 meter finals. Keith finished third in her heat, but qualified with a time of 26.14.

Miller qualified in the 400 shortly after turning a 2:20.1 in the 800 meters. She finished second in her heat and will take the fourth best time into Saturday’s finals.

Like Keith, Miller got out to a quick start and led the rest of the way. She was challenged down the stretch by Audrey Harrod of Hinckley-Big Rock, but finished a tenth of a second faster at 59.33.

“I came back from the 800 meters,” Miller said. “I knew it was going to be a tough race. My legs are pretty sore. It’s my senior year, so I’m going to do all I can.

“I’m pretty happy with that (her 59.33). Finals will be a lot tougher.”

Neither Mays nor Burkitt equaled their sectional performances in the triple jump, but Mays advanced with a jump of 34-8. Burkitt’s best effort was 34-11.5.

Mays missed most of the season with an ankle injury.

“Most of the day I was just trying to get warm and stay warm to loosen up this ankle since it’s been bothering me all year basically,” she said. “I didn’t think I jumped too well. I could have been more loose than I was.

“It was a little less than OK. I’m still trying to get back in the flow. My last phase and the second phase coming down on this ankle feels damaging. I don’t have that pop any more.”

Reach was only other field athlete to advance, clearing 10 feet in the pole vault preliminaries.

“It’s not my best jump, but my goal today was to qualify for finals since I barely missed last year,” Reach said. “When I found out that 10-feet got me there, I was just so happy.

“I’m hoping for 10-6, or maybe 10-9. The school record now is 10-6, and it’s my record. I’d really like to break that. I would really like to hit 11-feet, but for now my goal is 10-9 just to beat the record.”

The biggest mishap of the day occurred in the 100 hurdles where Chester’s Atchison, who had the seventh best sectional time in the 100 hurdles, false started.

Class 2A competition begins at 8 a.m. today.

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les.winkeler@thesouthern.com / 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler

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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

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