CHARLESTON — For the first time in three years, IHSA State track and field competition has returned to its traditional schedule.
That meant the Class 1A qualifiers played each other in the preliminaries on Thursday to advance to Saturday’s final.
The Salt Fork Storm, who took third place a year ago, kept their hopes for another state trophy alive with four girls advancing in six events with seniors Olivia Birge and Brynlee Keeran as well as junior Shelby McGee standing qualifying each in two events.
For Keeran, it was a day of mixed results.
While she qualified for the pole vault and triple jump finals, with a personal best of 11.06 meters or around 36ft 3in, Keeran also fell just short in the long jump and the high jump.
“It’s a little disappointing,” said Keeran, who narrowly missed the long jump final by 2 centimeters and the high jump final by 3 centimeters. “It’s frustrating for sure. I know I scratched when I shouldn’t have made a good jump.
For the second year in a row, Keeran qualified for the state in four field events (long jump, triple jump, high jump and pole vault) and that required her to be in multiple places.
“Doing it last year definitely made me more confident that I could do it this year,” Keeran said. “A few officials remembered me and assured me that I would go wherever I needed to be.”
Sporting her “Wonder Woman” socks she bought for seniors’ night, Keeran ended her day on a high with her jump in the triple jump.
“That one is so tough because it’s my last event and I was exhausted,” she said. “I found a way to get through it and get my PR (personal best).”
Keeran said she will be wearing a new pair of mac and cheese socks on Saturday.
Birge, who on the advice of his coach Herb Wilkins also made a change from last year, reduced his warm-up throws before the shot put and discus events.
“Just because of the heat, we thought it would be smarter not to do a lot of warm-up pitches,” Birge said. “I tend to peak on my third or fourth pitch, so I didn’t want to lose a good one in warmups. Winning warmups doesn’t get you anything.”
It definitely paid off in the shot put.
Birge, who would barely qualify for the final with a throw of 11.00 meters on his first two attempts, threw a personal best 11.83 meters (about 38 feet, 10 inches) on his last attempt.
“You get to declare and you’re afraid you’ll foul,” Birge said. foot of the plinth.”
Birge, who is tied for ninth in the discus throw, is hoping for a better day Saturday in the event.
For McGee, she is looking to improve on a seventh-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles and a 10th-place finish in the triple jump.
The junior placed herself in good position with the sixth fastest time in the 100 hurdles preliminaries and she followed that up with the fourth best score in the triple jump at 10.58 metres.
“It’s a blessing to be in this position right now,” McGee said. “To be able to make it to the final is amazing.
“I’m really looking forward to Saturday.”
Salt Fork sophomore Macie Russell reached the 800-meter final in a personal best time of 2 minutes, 23.53 seconds, which also beat her school best of 2:26.03 she set during last week’s sectional competition.
Joining the Salt Fork contingent in Saturday’s final will be second-year Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman Haley Carlton in the pole vault, who trains regularly with Keeran with the St. Joseph-Ogden pole vaulters Payton Carter and Grace Schmitz.
“The best part is I get to do it with some of my closest friends,” Carlton said. “Having this great support system makes everything better.”
A year ago, Carlton finished 22nd with a season-best jump of 2.89 meters or 9 feet 6 inches. His personal best this year is 3.35 meters or 11 feet.
“Being in the state brings a lot of bad memories,” Carlton said. “I plan to get my PR again on Saturday.”
Westville senior Savanna Tyler narrowly missed her opportunity to compete in Saturday’s final, finishing two spots out of the 100 final and only a spot or two hundredths of a second (27.16 to 27.18) in the 200. The Tigers’ 400 relay, with Tyler running the first leg, also failed to qualify for Saturday
“After missing the 400 relay and the 100, I was very motivated to compete in the 200,” said Tyler, who will enter the Marine Corps on June 13. “It’s awful to be so close.”
Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin sophomores Ella McFarland and Amber-Christine Reed also fell short in their efforts to reach the final on Saturday. McFarland, like Keeran, missed the high jump final by 3 centimeters after clearing 1.52 meters or 5 feet. Reed finished 19th in the long jump with a mark of 4.84 meters or around 15 feet 10.5 inches.
Saturday’s finals at O’Brien Field in Charleston are scheduled to start at 11 a.m.