The Highland High School girls track and field field team dominated en route to being crowned champions of its own Steve Moore Invitational Thursday at HHS.
Winning 10 of the 18 overall events helped the Lady Bulldogs rack up a massive final team score of 140 points. That point total almost doubled the combined team scores of the second- and third-place finishing squads, Freeburg (75) and Breese Central (72).
Rounding out the five-team invite were Mater Dei (47) and Civic Memorial (34).
Winning the meet was even more gratifying for the team members because the weather has been so cold and wet in the early spring. Some meets have been canceled and some athletes have experienced pains due to the cold and damp conditions.
Leading the Lady Bulldogs to victory were seniors Rece Portell and Alyssa Freimann, sophomore Samantha Hengehold and freshmen Olivia Wilke, Grace Meyer and Taylor Kesner. The talented six combined to stockpile 18 first- and second-place medals.
Freimann was one of the team members who has experienced pains (shins) due to the difficult weather. She missed three meets due to her injury, a family vacation and a college visit.
But Freimann returned with a flourish on Thursday to bag a meet-topping four medals overall.
"Although the weather and my absence was not ideal, the entire team has been working hard, and I am extremely proud of them all," said Freimann, who took a college visit to the University of Arizona. "Luckily, we were given the opportunity to run on a beautiful day today, and every girl ran like crazy. It felt amazing to get on the track and not be concerned with the weather, or my shins. Every girl ran well. We all ran our hearts out. It was a lot of fun, and it boosted the overall morale of the team. We were able to win the meet by a substantial amount, and I am hoping we continue to see these types of performances and the smiles on every girls’ face as we compete at future meets."
Portell, Hengehold and Kesner each garnered three total medals, while Wilke and Meyer tied for meet honors after winning two individual events apiece.
"I think we just had a lot of confidence today," Portell said. "As a team, we all seemed to be enjoying the meet and weather, which helped us run well. I saw everybody supporting each other, and so many different people brought home medals because of it. Personally, I was excited with my races today, especially with the wind being so strong. Just trying to make progress."
Wilke was the fastest short sprinter at the invitational as she galloped across the finish line to capture gold in both the 100-meter dash (13.3 seconds) and the 200-meter dash (27.7).
Meyer was the top long distance runner of the meet after outlasting the competition to win both the 3,200 (12:39.3) and the 1,600 (6:02.8).
Portell, Hengehold and Kesner also experienced individual gold, with Portell racing to the stripe to win the 400-meter dash (1:05), Hengehold winning the 800 (2:38.8) and Kesner taking gold in the shot put (35 feet, 8 inches).
Portell and Hengehold also teamed up with freshmen Paige Schaible and Julia Loeh to win the 4 x 800 relay race as the quartet stopped the hand timer at 10:58.8.
Freimann and Hengehold also joined forces with freshmen Bella LaPorta and Lexie Korte to be capture the title in the meet-ending 4 x 400 relay with a winning time of 4:30.4.
Freimann also ran the lead leg of the winning 4 x 200 relay team, which also consisted of freshmen Taylor Kesner and Korte and sophomore Reese Tackett, who posted a victorious group time of 1:54.4.
Freimann also tied for second in the pole vault (7-0) and teamed up with junior Megan Griesbaum, Wilke and Korte finish second in the 4 1 00 relay race (53.1).
Portell also finished second in the 200 (28.0) and Kesner also placed second in the discus (82-7).
Also placing for the Lady Bulldogs at the Steve Moore invite were:
- LaPorta, second place in the triple jump (30-5) and third place in the 400 (1:07.2);
- Schaible, second place in the 1,600 (6:13.3);
- junior Abby Beyer, third place in the shot put (32-2);
- Tackett, third place in the 100 (13.5); and
- Hengehold, fifth place in the high jump (4-0).
On Tuesday, April 10, Highland finished in the middle of the pack at the Freeburg Invitational.
The Lady Bulldogs finished in eighth place out of 16 competing squads.
Belleville East edged out district rival Belleville West for the team title by six points, 89-83.
Host Freeburg finished third with 61 points and the Midgets were followed in the top five by Althoff (51) and Centralia (46).
Rounding out the 16-team invite were Nashville (44.5), Granite City (44), Highland (30), Mascoutah (28), Carterville (21), Carbondale (17), Benton (13), Waterloo (13), Chester (10.5), Columbia (5) and Breese Central (2).
The Lady Bulldogs' top individual on the day was Hengehold, who was crowned the champion in the sport's longest race, the 3,200-meter run. A cross country state qualifier this past fall for Highland, Hengehold outlasted the competition with an eight-lap gold-winning time of 12:16.58, which was 8.16 seconds out in front of Belleville East junior Jacideah Nunnery's runner-up time of 12:24.74.
Hengehold returned to the track later on to garner a third-place finish in the 1,600 with a four-lap time of 5:48.84.
Highland was also strong in the shot put, where the Lady Bulldogs received points from both Kesner and Beyer.
Kesner matched Hengehold for the team's second-best finish with a third-place effort after a throw of 35 feet, 7 inches. Beyer finished in fifth place at a mark of 32-10.
The Lady Bulldogs also scored points by placing in the top six in three relay races.
Highland's best relay race was a fourth-place finish earned by the quartet of Wilke, LaPorta, Portell and Korte with a team time of 4:21.26.
The Lady Bulldogs also received one point for finishing in sixth place in the both the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relays.
The 4 x 100 team consisted of Portell, Griesbaum, Korte and Tackett and the foursome posted a team time of 53.85 seconds.
In the 4 x 200, Wilke, Tackett, Kesner and LaPorta joined forces to clock a combined time of 1:55.46.