Five Highland High School girls track and field athletes refused to let their season come to an end at the IHSA Springfield Southeast Girls Track and Field Sectional on Wednesday, May 10. The handful of Lady Bulldogs punched their tickets to the IHSA Class 2A Girls State Track and Field Meet May 18-10 at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
Highland’s 4 x 800-meter relay team was crowned the sectional champions in the event while freshman Reese Tackett made her first attempt at state a memorable one as made the cut by tying for second place in the pole vault.
4 x 800
The Bulldogs’ 4 x 800 relay team posted a winning time of 10:15.86, which bested runner-up Sacred Heart-Griffin (10:17.91) by slightly more than two seconds and beat out host Springfield Southeast by four seconds.
While Springfield Southeast’s third-place finish denied them a berth in the state meet, Sacred Heart-Griffin will join the Bulldogs at the state meet. Highland’s state-qualifying quartet consists of (in order they ran on the track and their split times in parenthesis) junior Alyssa Freimann (2:30), junior Breann Wernle (2:38), senior Sarah Beth Wiegman (2:36), and junior Rece Portell (2:29).
Portell and Wiegman return to the state meet after representing half of the last year’s 4 x 800 team that not only qualified, but went on to garner the best relay finish in girls program history with fourth-place medals. This is the third time Wiegman has qualified for the state meet. She also helped the relay team nab seventh-place medals as a freshman three years ago.
Wiegman said she and Portell have had a bumpy road all season trying to find the third and fourth runners to complete the 4 x 800 team. At some points in the season, the duo wasn’t even sure if we would have a team.
“You can only imagine how thrilled we were when we heard Alyssa and Breann would be running with us,” Wiegman said. “We’re kind of like the makeshift 4 x 8 team, with Alyssa originally being a 400 runner and Breann coming from softball, but honestly, I would not want it any other way. They have worked so hard to get where they are, and I can see how much they want it when they run. We all get along so well and push each other in practices. I think one of the best things about a relay event is that it allows us to run for each other. All of us want to succeed for the others and this team especially is extremely selfless.”
Portell said the team felt great about stepping up and qualifying for the state meet and their goal is to qualify through the prelims on to the finals and then take it from there.
“Our new motto is that it feels great because you’re running for three other people, not just yourself,” said Portell, who qualified in the open 800 last year in addition to the 4 x 800. “Also it’s SB’s (Sarah Beth Wiegman) senior year, so we really wanted to get her back to state one last time. Three of us are sick, and one has shin splints, so we ran great. And next weekend, when we are all healthy, we really think we can run even better.”
Freimann returns to state after qualifying in the open 400 a year ago.
“I am very excited. It was a just a good opportunity, a good day, and a good group of girls,” Freimann said. “We were seeded first so we went in thinking we could do it, but we knew there was a lot of competition … Third place was pretty far behind us the whole time, so when we were in first or second the whole time, it was pretty exciting. I figured that after I finished (as the lead leg), we were going (to state).”
Wiegman and Portell know what it feels like to be on the podium at state after earning medals, and they are hungry for more.
“It’s a feeling like no other,” Wiegman said. “I get chills just thinking about it. There’s no other team I would love to share that feeling with again. Having this be my third time to state definitely gives me more experience than some of the other girls on the team, so I hope to show the kind of leadership that the seniors on my past two teams (Emily Holtzclaw, Jayden Shelton, and Allison Zobrist) have showed me. Yes, it’s going to be really tough, but all of us are capable of shaving off time. It’s state so anything can happen; we just have to show up that day and believe in ourselves. I want back on that podium.”
Freimann said the team’s overall goal is to have fun at state and the first step is making it to finals and then focusing on trying to place.
“The top 12 make it to finals and to do that we’re probably going to have to break 10 minutes, so we’re all going to have to improve our times a little bit,” Freimann said. “But I know we can do it and we have a shot at placing in the top nine. I think with our adrenaline and being there in the atmosphere will make a big difference with our time.”
Tackett qualifies in pole vault
Tackett tied for second place after clearing the bat at a new personal-record height of 7 feet, 6 inches.
“I didn’t expect it but last year I qualified so that was interesting,” Tackett said of qualifying in the pole vault as an Highland Middle School eighth-grader for the SIJHSAA Class L State Track and Field Meet, where she also qualified in the 4 x 100, 4 x 200 and 4 x 400 relays.
Tackett admitted she wasn’t paying attention to the announcement while warming up for the 4 x 100 relay and Freimann was warming up for the 4 x 800 relay.
“I was warming up for the 4 x 1, and Alyssa Freimann was warming up for the 4 x 8, and I wasn’t even listening, and she goes, ‘Reese, you qualified for state. You tied for second,’” Tackett said. “I was like, ‘What?’ She was like freaking out and that pumped me up for my 4 x 1, too. So, that was good, because I got one of my better times.
“I would like to make it to the finals at state, but it’s a long shot.”
Also at the Springfield Southeast Sectional, Highland’s longtime Mississippi Valley Conference rival Triad had two athletes qualify for the state meet in three events. Junior Kelly Pottorff was the sectional champion in the discus with a distance of 115 feet while freshman Alyssa Postma won the sectional title in the pole vault after clearing the bar at 8 feet. Pottorff also qualified in the shot put after finishing second with a throw of 35 feet, 2 inches.