The IHSA Class 3A sectional championship may have eluded the OTHS girls’ track team. However, an impressive contingent of blue and gold clad athletes will be vying for state honors this weekend on the Eastern Illinois University campus, site of the state finals.
The Lady Panthers will be competing in 10 events beginning with this Friday’s preliminary rounds. The Class 3A meet, hosted by Belleville West, featured speed, speed, and more speed. Eight teams qualified for the state finals in the 4 x 200, seven qualifiers emerged out of the 4 x 100 relay, and a whopping twelve sprinters advanced in the 100 meter dash.
East St. Louis, led by Rokelle Stanley’s sweep in the hurdle events, had enough firepower to overcome an early point advantage by O’Fallon to secure the sectional title. The Flyerettes finished the afternoon’s competition with 91 points, 22 more than the second place Lady Panthers.
“We had some exceptional efforts — in the sprints and field events especially — but not enough to overtake East St. Louis,” said Panther coach Neil James. “Our 4 x 100 team ran a season-best time of 47.09, and our 4 x 200 group also turned in their top performance of the year with a 1:39.71. I expected our girls to go under 1:40 in the 800, but I anticipated that milestone to come in the state finals.”
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The winning times by the OTHS girls in the two relays established new 2017 best times in the state. The record-setting races were fueled by O’Fallon’s trio of senior sprinters, Kersten Douglas, Tamiya Houston and Mia Watson-Blake. Chloe Lambert joined the threesome to complete the 4 x 100 team, while Dartrenetta Holman filled the fourth spot in the 4 x 200.
O’Fallon will also be sending a third relay team to Charleston this weekend, the Lady Panthers’ 4 x 400 team, composed of Watson-Blake, Lambert, Taliah Reese, and Ally Foote, finished second — good enough to earn a spot in the state field.
O’Fallon’s dynamic duo of Kersten Douglas and Tamiya Houston will be stepping into the blocks in two individual sprints. Both ran qualifying times in the 100 meter and 200 meter races in the West sectional. Mackenzie Ryan will be the third individual track standout representing O’Fallon by virtue of her qualifying performance in the 100 hurdles.
The Lady Panthers’ sizable contingent of athletes making the trip to O’Brien Stadium on the EIU campus also will include four field event participants. Mackenzie Ryan doubles up with a slot in the triple jump. Abby Carney and Mia Watson-Blake will compete in the high jump after tying for second place in the event at Belleville West. Amy Wagner completes the impressive list of OTHS state qualifiers after finishing in fourth place in the discus. Wagner will be the first Panther discus thrower to compete in the state finals since 2002.
“It will be a busy and exciting weekend for our girls,” James said. “The state finals, hopefully, will bring out our best effort. This year is particularly unique in that we have so many athletes competing in multiple events. For most of our girls, this is their final trip, so we hope it will be a memorable one.”