State championship is ‘just the beginning’ for Rybak

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GLEN CARBON — It took less than a lap for Elena Rybak to establish a lead in the 1,600 meters at the Class 1A girls’ track condition meet in Charleston.

The Father McGivney Griffins rookie and Intelligencer MVP for Little School Girl Athletics spent the next three rounds achieving a dream.

“It’s something I’ve been working toward for so long,” Rybak said after his win at Eastern Illinois’ O’Brien Stadium. “Achieving my dream is amazing. Keeping that thought in mind to keep working towards this day has been so much fun. I’m super proud of myself.


Rybak was alone at the finish of this 1,600-meter race, smashing five minutes with a state championship time of 4 minutes, 59.82 seconds. She was more than 10 seconds ahead of Urbana University runner-up Kate Ahmari, who led a group of chasers in 5:10.29.

“It kind of soaked in over the last 100 yards,” Rybak said. “I understood that no one would catch me. It was great.”

Rybak, whose time of 5:10.21 two days earlier at the state was the third-fastest 1,600 in the prelims which established a 12-runner final field, led McGivney’s charge to a fourth-place team finish with 34 points. That left the Griffins a spot stripped of a state trophy that went to champion Tuscola (57 points), runner-up Newark (54) and third-place finisher Winnebago (34).

A season after Kaitlyn Hatley became McGivney’s first state medalist, Rybak became the program’s first state champion. And she added two more medals performing anchor legs in the Griffins’ 4×400 and 4×800 relays.

Rybak raced behind Hatley, Jane Cummins and Alyssa Terhaar in the 4×800 which placed second in 9:43.90, with Winnebago winning in 9:28.95. The Griffins 4×400 with Hatley, Lilly Gilbertson, Amelia Beltramea and Rybak finished sixth in 4:11.22.

Rybak began his first season as a Griffin by winning the Class 1A state title in the 1600m, winning the Illinois Top Times peloton in 5:08.00 at Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington. On the road, Rybak earned invitations to Wood River (5:01) and Collinsville (5:08) in addition to posting a personal best at the Madison County Small-Schools Meet in 4:58.13 before earning a title at the Gateway Metro Conference in 5:13.59. and the Nashville section at 5:20.21.

Rybak’s 4:59.82 left her as one of 13 girls – eight in Class 3A and four in Class 2A – to run under 5 minutes in the three-class state finals. Rybak was the only freshman in that baker’s dozen, with the other 12 breaking 5 being junior or senior.

“She’s amazing,” McGivney coach Russ Hart said of Rybak.

And the Griffins’ first year is far from over.

“This is just the beginning,” Rybak said.

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