The Highland High School girls track and field team dominated host Granite City to win its outdoor season opener by the lopsided final team score of 94 to 42 on Thursday at Granite City High School.
The Lady Bulldogs conquered first place in 13 of the overall 17 events, including all six field events.
"We finally had nice weather," Highland coach Doug Bradley said. "It's been so bad we haven't even practiced the field events this season. It was fun to be outside and actually doing track. The girls were terrific. I saw smiles all afternoon. We had some quality performances, too. It's a very good start to what should be an exciting season. We dominated the field events. We literally won every one... The girls worked so hard in every event. My optimism-meter is on the climb. Now, my fingers are crossed for warmer days."
HIghland senior co-captains Rece Portell and Alyssa Freimann each won two events apiece. Portell captured first place in the 800-meter run (2:40.1) and tied sophomore teammate Sam Hengehold for first place in the high jump (4 feet, 2 inches), while Freimann was first to the finish line in the 400-meter run (1:03.9) and the pole vault (6-0).
"At the end of the night, Alyssa and I looked at each other and said,'This is going to be a fun year,'" Portell said. "The 14 freshmen all bring so much energy and talent to our team. I think everybody just really shattered the expectations (Thursday), and I can’t wait for more meets with this team."
Bradley added about his two senor co-captains: "Alyssa Freimann and Rece Portell both put together confidence-building races in their respective marquee events (400 and 800). They were both challenged by Granite City girls and had to come up big to get the wins. "
Bradley said he was also impressed by freshman Olivia Wilke's win in the long jump (14-10), freshman Taylor Kesner's win in the shot put (35-2), as well as the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relay teams.
Bradley said assistant coach Ted Cipicchio has really been hammering home the value of good handoffs and the results paid off for the 4 x 100 relay team as the quartet of Freimann, Portell, freshman Kayla Thompson and freshman Lexie Korte won the event with a time of 53.7 seconds.
Highland's 4 x 200 relay team was edged at the finish line, but Bradley said the foursome of WIlke, freshman Bella LaPorta, Kesner and sophomore Reese Tackett shocked him some with their speed.
"I would've guessed we were primed to run something, like a 1:58 or so. But they ran a 1:55 in March, and I was speechless," he said. "The three St. Paul freshmen are amazing, and Reese Tackett really put the heat on Granite on that last leg."
Other winners for Highland were:
▪ junior Abby Beyer in the discus (85-3),
▪ LaPorta in the triple jump (29-11.5),
▪ freshman Chloe Marti in the 300 hurdles (54.5),
▪ freshman Grace Meyer in the 1,600 (6:04.2),
▪ Hengehold in the 3,200 (12:30.2), and
▪ the 4 x 800 relay team of freshman Paige Schaible, freshman Julia Loeh, freshman Alysha Robles and Meyer (11:34.0).
Other athletes who placed in the top three in their respective events for the Lady Bulldogs were:
▪ Wilke, second place in the 100 (13.4) and second place in the 100 hurdles (19.1);
▪ Beyer, second place in the shot put (30-9);
▪ Kesner, second place in the discus (71-06);
▪ Tackett, second place in the pole vault (5-3);
▪ Robles, second place in the 1,600 (6:22.7);
▪ the 4 x 400 relay team of Freimann, Hengehold, Korte and Portell, second place (4:32.1);
▪ Wilke, third place in the 200 (28.1);
▪ junior Mackenzie Nigh, third place in the 3,200 (15:30.6); and
▪ Loeh, third place in the 800 (2:57.5).
Charleston Indoor invite
On Saturday, March 10, the Lady Bulldogs competed indoors at the Charleston Indoors Invitational. Bradley said the team had an incredible performance out of one athlete, the freshman Kesner.
"She was the only athlete that scored or medaled for us," Bradley said. "Taylor Kesner had an incredible day. She had some really good shot put throws that earned her a trip to the finals in that event."
While waiting on the finals to begin, Kesner got called to run her 200-meter dash. She changed her shoes and won her heat of the 200 in 30.54 seconds. After another quick shoe change, she was back at the shot put and threw three bombs. The longest was 38-6, and that throw was good enough to get her fourth place and has her currently ranked seventh in Class 2A in the state of Illinois.