CHARLESTON — DaeLin Switzer had to come to an honest realization on Wednesday.
For years she had felt pressure of performing for her team, which she loves and knows the value of having around her. She felt like she had to win to send the team to a team trophy. It's a lot to put on Switzer's shoulders while she's vying for her fourth straight high jump championship and also on a short list of favorites to win in the 100-meter high hurdles and 300-meter hurdles.
She realized that if she focused on herself, the personal bests would come and so would the trophies.
On Thursday at the Class 1A girls state track and field preliminaries at O'Brien Stadium in Charleston, Switzer did just that. In the least surprising news of the day, she punched her ticket to finals in the high jump, both hurdles and the 200-meter dash while winning her heat in all three running events.
In the 200, in particular, she knew she had to dig deep.
“In that last 200 I was like, ‘No, I can’t lose. I have to go into this having a good time so I can get a good lane on Saturday,'" said Switzer, who is signed to Northern Illinois University. "I’ve been working so hard this year and everything is for Saturday and this is the meet that gets you there. This is one of the most important meets also, so you just have to continue to push yourself."
Switzer ran a 14.76 seconds in the 100 hurdles, 45.15 in the 300 hurdles and a 26.28 in the 200.
If there's any pressure left now after Switzer's ah-ha moment, it's in the high jump.
“The only thing I really have pressure on is high jump because I want to win all four years in a row, obviously," she said. "Everything else is just: Go out there and do your best, because what do you have to lose? It’s your last year."
Nettles' monster day
Like Switzer, Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond junior Kenli Nettles advanced in all four of her events: Both hurdles, high jump and the 200. After the 100 hurdles, Nettles turned and looked at the scoreboard at saw her time: 14.23 seconds. She shattered her own personal record of 14.53 and celebrated on the track with a smile.
“I was like, ‘It didn’t feel that fast.’ I was super excited about it," she said. "I have consistently run 14.5 throughout the season, so to PR in prelims is awesome."
She ran 44.41 in the 300 hurdles and 26.77 in the 200. She's become more recognizable after exploding onto the scene at last season's state meet.
“I’ve competed in the Junior Olympics, so the pressure, I’m kind of used to it," she said. "It pushes me to improve my time and just better myself all around."
Moyer makes it in two
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Not to be lost in the Switzer-Nettles battle in the high jump was Meridian's Chloe Moyer. She advanced to finals in both hurdles — just a tick behind Nettles in the 100 hurdles with a time of 14.52 and winning her heat in the 300 hurdles (46.32). She knew going into her race what she needed to do.
“A lot. I was like, ‘Look, I’m either going to have to get a 46 in this heat or I’m going to have to win,’ and I won and got both," Moyer said.
Moyer advanced in the 300 hurdles as a freshman last season. She wanted more but learned how to handle the meet, which can be a bit of a bear for first-timers.
“I was pretty stressed last year because I was a freshman and everything was all new," she said. "I didn’t know what was happening. This year I’m less stressed."
So when exactly did Moyer, who is humble by nature, realize that she was going to win in her 300 heat?
“It was the last stretch, I was like, ‘Wait, am I really winning right now? I thought I was slow. What’s happening?'" she said.
Mitchell, Spain advance
When Ailey Mitchell heard the bell for her final lap of the 1,600-meter run after leading the first three laps, she looked down at her watch.
She was fairly familiar with her splits for each lap, but she found another gear for her final lap and broke free to win her heat with a time of 5:11.67 to take the second-best time into Saturday's finals.
“I just figured I wanted to win the heat," Mitchell said. "I didn’t know how close (Beecher's Hailey Janssen) was to me, I just needed to pick it up that last lap, just in case."
Mitchell didn't qualify for any race on Saturday last season. This year, she'll run in both the 3,200 and 1,600. Naturally, she was out to prove something.
“This year I just really wanted to prove that I could do it and prove that last year was nothing and I could do it this year," she said.
Joining Mitchell on Saturday will be Rams freshman Gabrielle Spain, who qualified in pole vault and the 800 (2:21.86). It's her first experience at state track and Spain tried to block the thoughts out all week. She wanted to trust her training and knew the rest would work.
She didn't qualify in the 1,600, but she'll take a 2-for-3 day.
“I’m happy with it," she said. "I was just hoping to make it in at least one. I ended up making it in two. I was hoping to make it in the mile also, but I didn’t really feel that good."