Highland freshman Grace Meyer will take her meteoric first year of high school track and field to the final day.
Six days after turning heads by being crowned the Mississippi Valley Conference champion in the 3,200-meter run, Meyer advanced through Wednesday's Springfield Lanphier Sectional in the sport's longest event and will now get a chance to compete among the state's elite distance runners in Class 2A.
Meyer crossed the finish line in second place to qualify for the IHSA Class 2A Girls State Track and Field Meet at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. She clocked an eight-lap time of 12:40.23.
"I'm really happy for Grace," Highland coach Doug Bradley said. "She's a hard worker and a very coachable kid so to see her rewarded with a trip to state is terrific."
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Highland's two seniors will not make a return trip to state, but the duo of Rece Portell and Alyssa Freimann, who are multiple-time state qualifiers, competed very well in the last races of their illustrious career. They both earned medals in all three races they competed in after teaming up with freshmen Olivia Wilke and Bella LaPorta to finish third in the 4 x 400-meter relay and fifth in each of the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relays.
"They were state-qualifiers several times over during their careers," Bradley said of Portell and Freimann. "They each won three medals tonight, and in last race of their career, Rece anchored the 4 x 4 with a 62-second leg and Alyssa ran a 60 in leg two. I was lucky to be their coach in their first meet and last meet. I thought they ran great. They will be huge pieces to replace. They had so many ways that they could be utilized and brought so much experience to the team. Both are on to pursue bigger and better things, and I'm happy that I saw smiles on their faces at their last meet."
In addition, sophomore Samantha Hengehold, freshman Taylor Kesner and juniors Abby Beyer and Megan Griesbaum all competed very hard competed hard in their events and came up with medals but no advancement.
"They will get another chance next year," Bradley said. "It was the first year of track for three of them, and I think they all have a better idea of what it'll take to get them to Charleston in the future."
Taylor Kesner finished fifth in the shot put, Beyer was sixth in the discus, and Griesbaum wound up sixth in the pole vault.
"It was a successful season for the Bulldog girls at the track this season," Bradley said. "We had 23 girls (17 first timers) who really brought great attitudes and terrific energy. (I'm) very happy with where the program is at and excited for its future."
Triad qualified for state in six events, led by senior Kelly Pottorff, who was the sectional champion in both the shot put (41 feet, 11 inches) and the discus (119 feet, 6 inches). The Knights' 4 x 800-meter relay team also was a sectional champion with a winning team time of 10:05.40.
Also making the cut for state for Triad were sophomore Denise D'Antonio, second place in the triple jump (34-00.50); senior Maddie Keller, second place in the 1,600 (5:32.51); and the 4 x 200-meter relay team, second place (1:47.97).