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CHARLESTON -- The Class 2A portion of Friday's Girls State Track Meet preliminaries provided all kinds of different motivations.

The MacArthur 4x100 relay team wanted to re-establish that it belongs with the state's elite.

The Mattoon 4x800 relay team wanted to watch for a strategy to help repeat its indoor success.

Eisenhower sprinter Stacia Lee was looking to survive and advance in her low-key return to track.

And Clinton pole vaulter Betsy Lovett needed to settle a serious case of butterflies.

Now they all get to ramp it all back up again for today's finals at Eastern Illinos' O'Brien Field.

“I feel really good, I'm really excited I made it to the finals,” Lovett said. “It's a big weight off my shoulders because I know tomorrow, now I can just come here, have fun and relax.

“When I came in today, I was super nervous.”

For good reason. Actually, two good reasons.

Lovett cleared 10 feet on Friday morning to be among the 12 to advance to today. But the Clinton sophomore had a few stumbles in there.

“It was a little bit rough because I inflamed my knee at sectionals when I landed on my feet on the mat, and I have Osgood-Schlatter disease,” Lovett said.

The gimpy knee kept her from practicing until Thursday. Days of stretching out the muscles allowed her to compete Friday with only some discomfort.

“They help, but right now I think I could use a new knee,” she said.

She was also tentative as Clinton was bumped into Class 2A this season.

“I was kind of nervous about what qualifying would be,” she said, adding that he didn't find out until competition started that qualifying would be at 10 feet, well below her season-best of 11-6.

“I approach it as a challenge and something fun and new to try,” Lovett said of competing in 2A. “It's harder, but it's fun because I am with a lot of my friends from Flying Dragons Pole Vault Club of Bloomington.”

After another night of stretching, Lovett is ready to improve on last year's eighth-place finish -- if the knee allows.

“It will be OK. Hopefully,” Lovett said. “It's sore right now, but I can tell you I will be OK for tomorrow. Nothing is going to stop me.”

Plenty motivated

The MacArthur relay team took its own tenacious attitude into Friday. After missing a trip to state a year ago when some runners opted for prom instead of sectionals, they were determined to make today's finals.

There wasn't much doubt. Competing in the day's fastest heat, the Generals were right there the whole way around. Khalyia Lawson leaned across the finish line third in the heat, but with a time of 49.40 -- nearly a full second faster than their sectional time.

Lawson said the drop in time could be attributed to some time off this week, “and getting our handoffs right, making sure we get out good, don't leave too early.”

Now it's reeling in some of these other teams as MacArthur's time was the seventh fastest of the nine finalists.

“We need to make sure we get our mind right before we step onto the track, making sure we realize how serious this race is,” Lawson said.

“And that we're just as good as any other team that's running,” leadoff runner DeAsia Snowden-Bass said.

All in the start

Lee was among the best off the start, and the Eisenhower sophomore stayed in the lead until getting edged at the end in her heat in the 100-meter dash.

Lee's time of 12.52 seconds was fifth fastest of the day.

“I did good,” Lee said of the start that propelled her. “I was pushing on the blocks, then I just released it.”

Wave ready for finals

Mattoon's 4x800 relay team set the tone for a big day for the Green Wave.

The Wave traded the lead of its heat with Lombard Montini througout the race before finishing second in a time of 9:37.76.

That was 12 seconds better than its sectional time and nearly eight seconds better than its winning time at the Illinois Prep Top Times Indoor Classic.

“It was better competition, a little better atmosphere,” anchor runner Victoria Drake said. “It just kind of helped to drop our time. It's kind of hard not to drop your time at state."

Mattoon's time was third best on the day. Now payback is in mind.

“We want Montini,” Drake said. “Hopefully coach (Troy) Haake took good notes and will figure out where we need to go -- where they struggled, where we struggled.”

Taylor Smith, a member of that relay team, will have about four hours of rest before she goes for a second medal. She had the seventh fastest time (46.57) in the 300 hurdles in her first year of running the event.

“I thought I had a really good start coming out," she said. "I came out of the blocks really well. I felt like I timed it pretty good. I felt like my first hurdle was really smooth. I was really glad I got over it. And the leader in lane five, she was definitely pushing me along through my other hurdles because she's really good.”

Two other Wave runners broke their own school records in making it to today.

Sierra Thompson went 25.48 in the 200, while Megan Shaffer finished in 5:11.58 in the 1,600.

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Sports Editor

Sports editor for the Herald & Review.

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