The Highland High School girls track and field team's first home meet of the season turned out to be an ultra competitive quadrangular meet between the top three teams.
Cahokia dominated the event, taking the title in eight of the 18 total events, compared to 10 combined for Mascoutah (four), Highland (three) and Jerseyville (three). However, the Indians and the Lady Bulldogs placed well enough in their non-winning events to keep the Comanches from running away with the team title.
Cahokia finished with a meet-high 86 points to eclipse second-place Mascoutah (75) by 11 points for the team title. Highland was just six points behind the Indians at 69, while Jerseyville (45) was a bit farther back in fourth place to round out the quad.
"I'm really pleased with the girls tonight," Highland coach Doug Bradley said. "I asked a lot of them, and they really responded well. I had to learn how tough we are and I saw nothing tonight that suggests that we are anything but tough. Sure, there were a few team members that doubted themselves a bit here and there, but a pat-on-the-back or a-kick-in-the-pants and they put their nose right back on the grindstone...
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"We tested pretty well against two conference opponents," Bradley added. "The Triad girls are terrific, and so is Waterloo. If we can compete with those schools like we did with Mascoutah, we'll be in great shape."
Powered by junior Abby Beyer and freshman Taylor Kesner, Highland owned the throws. Kesner won the shot put with a heave of 35 feet, 1.5 inches and finished second in the discus (83-6), while Beyer celebrated her 17th birthday by capturing the discus title with a fling of 86-10. Beyer also placed third in the shot put (30-0).
"We flat out dominated in the throws.," Bradley said. "Abby Beyer took a first and a third at the throwing rings on her 17th birthday. She's also been working on her coaching skills, which is a big deal for her team and especially her younger teammate, Taylor Kesner. Taylor won the shot put and finished second in the discus."
On Saturday at the Illinois Top Times Indoor Championships in Bloomington, Kesner garnered sixth place in the shot put with a mark of 35-9.5.
Sophomore Reese Tackett, who qualified for state last year in the pole vault, won the event at the Highland quad meet because she needed the fewest attempts.
"The pole vault went really well for us," Bradley said. "All the competitors cleared 6-6, but the cleanest was Reese Tackett. She was clean on the first three heights before missing three times at 7-0. She's been banged up some, and it was nice to see her get some confidence in the vault."
Freshman Megan Griesbaum finished in third place in the pole vault.
"Megan is coming to us from a cheerleading and gymnastics background, and she has really been working hard to learn the art of vaulting," Bradley said.
Bradley wanted to give a special shout out to sophomore Sam Hengehold for her work load in the meet, which was highlighted by a second-place effort in the 1,600-meter run with a four-lap time of 6:00.6. She also finished third in the 800 (2:39.2).
"Sam Hengehold was given a bear of an assignment tonight," Bradley said. "She ran a leg in the 4 X 800 (third place), then competed in the open 800, followed by the 1,600. She also did three triple jumps. She ran hard in every event. A coach never tires of seeing a kid fight for every stride. She's on an upward trajectory."
Freshman Olivia Wilke also deserved kudos after scoring a second place finish in the 200-meter dash (28.6 seconds) and third place in the 100-meter dash (13.7).
Also securing second-place finishes for Highland were senior Rece Portell in the 400-meter dash with a one-lap time of 1:05.8 and freshman Chloe Marti in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles at 54.8 seconds.
Bradley said he was really ecstatic with the way both the 4 X 100 and 4 X 200 competed after they both earned third-place finishes. The 4 x 100 team of senior Alyssa Freimann, Griesbaum, Wilke and freshman Bella LaPorta joined forces for a team time of 54.5 seconds, while the 4 x 200 quartet of Wilke, LaPorta, Kesner and Griesbaum teamed up for a time of 1:57.1.
"Coach Ted Cipicchio has done a great job with the sprint handoffs, and he's really confident that we can take more time off," Bradley said. "The sprint relays were going against some really tough opponents in Cahokia and Mascoutah."
Also placing for the Bulldogs in their respective events were:
- freshman Julia Loeh, third place in the 3,200 (13:30.4)
- Portell, fourth place in the high jump (4-0);
- Marti, fourth place in the 100 high hurdles (20.2);
- junior Mackenzie Night, fourth place in the 3,200 (14:41)
- junior Mackenzie Schoek, fourth place in the triple jump (27-5.75); and
- freshman Paige Schaible, fourth place in the 1,600 (6:23.6).