The Highland High School girls’ 4 x 800-meter relay team made its final race of all time as a quartet one for the history books on Saturday at the IHSA Class 2A Girls State Track and Field Finals in O’Brien Stadium on the campus of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
The foursome of senior Allison Zobrist, junior Sarah Beth Wiegman, sophomore Rece Portell and freshman Katelyn Marti joined forces to garner the fourth-place medal, which is the best finish for a relay team in program history with a fourth-place finish.
What made the historic fourth-place finish even sweeter was that it put a nice exclamation point on the illustrious distance running career of Zobrist, who has starred in both cross country team and track at Highland, where she also just graduated on Sunday as the co-valedictorian.
“It feels amazing to finish off my last race of my high school career with my highest medal ever,” Zobrist said. “I am so blessed to have had such amazing girls with me this season for this 4 x 800 relay. They all performed to the best of their ability; I could see it in the way they all raced. We were in tears hugging each other at the end of the race. It was just unbelievable and I’m still in shock.”
In Friday’s prelims, Highland ran a 9:52.25, which would have been good enough to nab the final medal as it ranked ninth of the 12 relay squads that qualified for Saturday’s finals.
But the Bulldogs saved their best for last by posting a strong season-best team time of 9:44.59. Their time was 3 seconds faster than the time they posted a week earlier at the Rochester Sectional and was just 6 seconds off the school-record time laid down by the quartet of Zobrist, Wiegman, Emily Holtzclaw and Jayden Shelton two years ago, also in the 2A State Finals. But this year’s team bested that team’s podium finish by three placements.
Portell gave the Bulldogs a strong lead leg with a quality time of 2:26.0.
“Rece had a great start,” Highland coach Erin Cotto said. “She got out and in a good position. Rece ran a smart race staying in the back of the place pack. They ran a fast first lap.”
Zobrist took the baton next and carried the momentum forward with a 2:26.7
“Allison really stepped it up, moving our position up from ninth to sixth,” Cotto said. “She looked good, running very relaxed in her pace”
Wiegman celebrated her 17th birthday in fine form as she clocked a season-best time in her two-lap segment with a 2:27.6.
“Sarah Beth had the leg of the day,” Cotto said. “She moved us up from sixth to fifth right behind the fourth-place runner and gave Kate (Marti) a great position.”
Despite her tender age, Marti was more than up to the challenge. Highland’s freshman posted the team’s fastest time with an outstanding leg of 2:24.4 while also moving the squad’s historic finish up to the fourth-place medal.
“The Rochester runner stepped on the back of Kate’s foot on the back stretch and ended up stumbling but luckily did not take Kate with her,” Cotto said. “Kate ran a 2:24.4, giving us a total time of 9:44.59 and an historic finish.”
In addition, Triad senior Allison Richter scored all of the Knights’ 11 team points after placing fourth in discus (128 feet, 11 inches) and seventh in shot put (40-6.75).
Triad senior Gabby Arbas finished in 10th place to miss out on a medal by just one placement. She actually tied the placers from eighth and ninth after also clearing the bar at 10 feet, 9 inches, but she needed more attempts.