CHARLESTON — Sydney Apgar was not happy when her first discus throw at the Class 2A state preliminaries landed in front of the 120-foot stripe at Eastern Illinois University. But, Apgar also knew the issue was nothing a heart-to-heart with herself couldn’t cure.
“It was all nerves honestly, being ranked first coming in here,” the Carbondale senior said. It’s a lot to get in your mind thinking, ‘You have to be the best. You have to be the best.’ It was definitely in my head the first one.”
Apgar finished third in the event last year and had the best sectional toss coming into the state finals.
“I definitely had to regroup,” she said. “I went to talk to my coach just like I do after every throw. I told myself, ‘Come on Sydney you’re better than this. You do this in practice every day. I throw 140 in practice every day. I just told myself I had it in me.”
The internal pep talk resulted in a 142-9 throw on her next attempt. That throw held up for the lead, and discus is an event where preliminary results carry over to the finals. Apgar will take a three-foot lead into the finals.
In addition to the state title, she has her eyes set on the state record.
“It’s 145 and change,” she said. “That’s been the goal since the beginning of the season and I’m three feet away.”
Apgar’s effort highlighted a strong day for the Terriers and Benton. The Terriers advanced to the state finals in five events, Benton in four.
Carbondale started the day in solid fashion, winning its heat in the 400-meter relay. Anchor person Kiara Cobb waved the baton triumphantly after crossing the finish line.
Although it was the preliminaries, Cobb said the Terriers (herself, Keona Love, Akira Custer and Zoie Saunders) held nothing back.
“We have a lot of people looking at us and counting on us to break our school record and really put Carbondale out there,” she said. “There’s lots of competition out there. Let it all out, we’re competing at our best. Just let it out. It felt great. We knew we were chasing the record, but we also knew we could hold our lead.”
The Terriers (Cobb, Saunders, Custer and Serenity Riley) also qualified in the 1,600-meter relay. Carbondale had an excellent opportunity to make the finals in the 800-meter relay, but a botched second handoff led to the Terriers being disqualified.
Carbondale qualified in two other individual events, Apgar in the shot put and Akira Custer in the open 400. She ran a personal best 58.15.
“It was decent,” Custer said of her race. “I think I can do better. It was pretty tough. My main focus was pushing myself at the 150 mark. I have to work on my finish. That was my main focus today. I’m pretty OK with it. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. Today is about getting to tomorrow.”
In the meantime, Benton’s McLain sisters, Mia and Madi, advanced in four events. Mia in the 800 and the 1,600 and Madi in the 100 high and 300 low hurdles. Mia, a junior, had previously competed in the 1,600 and 3,200. This year she opted for the 800.
“I’m pretty happy with the way prelims turned out,” she said. “When I saw the heat sheets a couple days ago, (Freeburg’s Breanna) Chandler was the No. 2 runner, so it’s going to be just like sectionals. I just wanted to come with the same mentality I did at sectionals, go out hard and stay strong. That race is probably as strong as I’ve felt all year. I wanted to go out strong, but not be scared of what I could do.”
McLain won her heat at 2:20.5, which is the third best time overall.
“I like to listen to the announcer,” she said. “He really gives some help with how far back they are. Right when I hit the 200 I didn’t want to push too hard because I knew I was feeling good. If it came down to a race I was going to push it at the 100, but it never came down to that. I wanted to save a little bit.”
Herrin’s Bianca Huddson also had a good day, qualifying in third place in the triple jump. She unleashed a personal best 37-8.25 on her final jump.
“Everyone else was jumping farther than me so my coach was getting onto me,” she said. “He just told me he knew I had it in me, so I had to show him I could do it. He just told me to run faster because I was kind of behind the board. I ran faster and I was on it.
Lauren Martin of Murphysboro made the qualifying 10-6 height in the pole vault and Carterville’s Bethany Akinduro met the 5-2 standard in the high jump. Centralia’s Destiny Panega also reached the finals in the shot put and teammate Kylie Gormann advanced in the long jump.
State finals begin at 10 a.m. today.