Highland Middle School had five of its six track and field athletes place at the Southern Illinois Junior High School Athletic Association Class L State Track and Field Meet Saturday at Carterville High School.
HMS eighth-grader Bryce Kirsch was crowned the Class L state champion in the pole vault after clearing the bar at a state-best 10 feet, 3 inches.
“Bryce has worked incredibly hard with Coach Ted Cipicchio,” Highland coach Doug Bradley said. “He started vaulting last year and showed some promise, but this year, he’s gotten stronger, and that really helped. Bryce is a wrestler, and that upper body strength has helped him a bunch. He’s the new school record holder and our first-ever pole vault champion.”
Next on the scoring pylon for HMS was eighth-grade girl Claire Korte, who captured third place in the discus with a mark of 80 feet, 4 inches.
“I needed another sixth-grader that could throw the discus in our first ever sixth-grade meet two years ago, and Claire was willing to do it,” Bradley said. “She’s been working at it ever since. She’s got some athleticism, and her confidence in the event has steadily grown. She was close to qualifying last year, so it’s terrific that she advanced this year and then had a great throw at state.”
Eighth-grader Jessica Borror crossed the finish line in fourth place in the 1,600-meter run with a four-lap time of 5:45.45.
“Jessica has had a bumpy season, but she ran great today,” Bradley said. “Cold and flu season lasted into March, and that wreaked havoc on her training early. Then, she lost a meet and a few practices to wet weather, and she lost another meet to a class field trip. I was worried she wouldn’t be ready to run this fast when she needed to, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Like every great runner, she felt like she had more to give at the end of the race, and that tells you she’s still figuring out this racing thing. She’s going to be a big contributor to the high school cross country and track programs.”
Eighth-grade boy Sam Buck wound up with a fifth-place medal in the shot put after a best throw of 42 feet, 6 inches.
“Sam likes to throw and works hard at it,” Bradley said. “He would borrow throwing implements as a sixth-grader but then secured his own, and he’s made himself better and better. He’s been throwing consistent 40-footers for a least three weeks now, so I knew he could pop a big throw at any time. I’ve seen lots of throwers struggle with the larger crowds and pressure of the state meet, but he handled it by throwing a bomb out there. He’s got a bright future in both throwing rings.”
Eighth-grade girl Chloe Marti capped off the placers for HMS after taking seventh in the pole vault at a height of 7-0.
“Chloe’s kind of our Swiss army knife on the girls track team,” Bradley said. “She can jump, vault, sprint, run distance, and probably even throw, if she was asked. Her versatility and willingness to take on any assignment is what led her to the pole vault. She vaulted last year and took home a medal from that meet, too. Early this season, she struggled a bit getting enough speed to get a good vault in, but as she worked on her conditioning, she was set for another successful vaulting season.”
Krista Eads did not quite place after clearing the bar at 6-6 in the pole vault, but she gained the honor of being the first-ever sixth-grader at HMS to qualify for the state meet.
“She’s a lot like Chloe, with a great deal of versatility on the track and in the field,” Bradley said. “We are really excited about her future. She’s getting more and more comfortable on the pole vault runway, and that comfort will pay off down the road.”
Bradley added that none of the kids made it to state by accident.
“They are all hard workers, and we knew they were good at what they did, but we participate in the toughest regional in the organization,” he said. “In fact, teams from our regional finished first, second, third and fifth at the boys state meet and second, third and fourth at the girls state meet. Getting a kid to advance out of our regional is brutal. Once these kids survived that round, we knew they were medal worthy.”