Highland senior Jayden Shelton knew she was going to have to clock her best time ever in the 3,200-meter run if she was going to qualify for state.
Shelton, a McKendree University recruit, knew that her previous personal-record time of 11 minutes, 50.42 seconds, which she posted 16 days earlier en route to winning the two-mile race at the Madison County Championships, would not be good enough. She would have to dig down even deeper.
While competing in cold, rainy conditions at the Class 2A Springfield Southeast Sectional, Shelton knew she had to stay with Rochester sophomore Madeline Campbell and Taylorville sophomore Anna Lowry. The Highland senior was able to do more than just hang with the talented duo for the grueling eight laps, but she was able to split them and come home in second place, which automatically qualified her for state.
Shelton’s time of 11:34.03 blistered her old PR time by nearly 15 seconds, which also met the state-qualifying standard for time. Shelton finished less than two seconds behind Campbell’s winnnig time of 11:32.22, while she was just more than a second of third-place Lowry (11:35.11).
Lowry’s time also hit the qualifying standard so all three runners made the grade for this weekend’s IHSA Class 2A Girls State Track and Field Meet at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
“I knew going into it there was going to be a tough top pack to run with,” Shelton said. “My plan was to hang onto the No. 1-seeded girl (Campbell) as long as I could.
“When the three of us came across at the mile mark, we were a little slow to make the qualifying time. Knowing I had to either make the qualifying time or get in the top two to make it to state was what pushed me. Thinking that we were slow, I knew I had to get at least second.
“It wasn’t until the last two laps that we created distance from the third girl. It was a close race with us three girls finishing in just a couple seconds of each other.
“Turns out our last mile made up ground and all three of us hit qualifying time which was really neat. I loved being pushed by these girls. We were all happy with the results because we all ran our best times by quite a bit.”
Shelton said she was also proud of her Lady Bulldog teammates this season, because this year has been full of injuries and low numbers.
“It was a rainy, cold day to compete, but I was proud of how my teammates ran through it, some even with their best times this year,” she said. “I can’t wait for next weekend, it’ll be a great way to end the season.”
At the Class 2A Triad Sectional, the Lady Knights had eight athletes who move on and will join Shelton at the Class 2A state meet this weekend at EIU.
Triad junior Allison Richter won the discus with a toss of 123 feet. 1 inch and was second in the shot put (40-9). Senior Claire Buck won the pole vault at 10-6, while teammate Gabby Arbas was fourth and qualified for state with a 9-9 vault.
Senior Jenniba Johnson took second in the 100-meter dash (12.34) and finished fourth in the 200. Her time of 26.38 beat the qualifying standard of 26.64. Senior Lexie Wheeler was second in the high jump (4-10) and junior Abigail Richter made it in the 800 (2:22.74).
“It was a solid day for us,” said Triad coach Brian Weiss. “We wanted to get between six and 10 out and we did get eight out. That’s a great day for us. There were some surprises and some disappointments, but overall I’m pleased. I think we have a chance to come away with eight medals. A lot of things will have to go right for that happen, but that’s our goal.”
Other Mississippi Valley Conference athletes who will move on to the state meet are Waterloo’s Genna Bourgeois, who won the high jump at 5-0, and Hannah Finnerty in the 100 hurdles (15.87); and Mascoutah’s 4 x 800-meter relay team (9:54.74).