CHARLESTON — The Mount Zion girls track team arrived at Friday's Class 2A Girls State Track Meet with the the second-largest contingent of athletes in the state with 20 athletes competing in the second-largest amount of events with 14 (11 individual and three relays).
The Braves were coming off their first sectional championship in program history a week ago and with strength in numbers, the sky was the limit for a team trophy at state.
It was all about the performances, and Mount Zion girls didn't disappoint. Braves senior Sara Addai became state champion in the 400 meters and senior Morgan Pilate medaled in four events, including a second-place performance in the triple jump. As a team, the Braves finished in fourth place, their highest girls team performance at state in program history.
"It was exciting to be in the state title race. These girls couldn't have run any better than they ran today," Mount Zion coach Kelly Fox said. "Sara has worked so hard this year. She is a talented young lady and medaled in three events today with the 4x100 relay and the 200 meters. She did an awesome job in the heat today.
"Morgan's hurdles has come so far. She busted out an 18-foot jump in the long jump and from there the endorphins kicked in and that's what she needed today to carry those performances."
Chicago Latin won the meet with 69 points, followed by Geneseo with 60 and Aurora Rosary with 46.
Pilate began her day with a fifth-place medal in the long jump with a leap of 5.50 meters. She went on to set a personal record and won the silver medal on the triple jump with a jump of 11.36 meters. She finished fourth in the 100 meter hurdles with a time of 14.94.
"When I jumped my first triple jump, I knew. It felt perfect and it was exactly what I needed to do. It felt like slow motion," Pilate said. "I am proud with my progress and that I was able to go as far as I did and some out and compete to the ability that I knew I could.
"I love this season and it has been one of the greatest season we have ever been in. We have worked so hard to get here and we wouldn't stop until we get where we need to go."
Mount Zion junior Rhiannon Marshall finished fifth in the high jump with a clearance of 1.58 meters.
The Braves' 4x800 team (Ashleigh Anderson, Emma Mallory, Camille Mavis and Sofia Munoz) won an 8th-place medal with a time of 9:58.37 and the 4x100 relay (Pilate, Hillary Owens, Madison Inman, and Addai) won a 7th-place medal with a time of 50.00.
"I believed in my girls and I knew that they were amazing and hard working. When I got out of the blocks, I just knew we had it. I told them we knew the assignment and I told them to finish the assignment," Pilate said.
Addai's win in the 400 (56.68) was by more than a second and she was in control of it throughout. She will be headed to Cornell University next fall and doesn't intend to continue on in track, although she may be getting some calls and texts from coaches double checking on that now that she is state champion.
"I feel really good today and I'm really excited. I'm happy that I got the opportunity to compete this year. I feel so great about our team's performance today," Addai said. "(Winning today,) doesn't really change my mind about running in the future. My goal was to win today and I think that is a good finish."
Monticello 2nd in 4x800 relay
Monticello entered Friday's state meet as the ninth seed coming out of sectionals in the 4x800 meter relay, but finished with the silver medal as Grace Talbert, Mabry Bruhn, Estella Miller and Rachel Koon ran a 9.39.82.
"I feel really good about this race and it felt good the whole time. I don't have a very fast 200 but from there I go and pick people off and I did that this time around," Talbert said. "This was my last 800 as a high school student and it was important for me to run really fast. I think I pulled it off."
Miller had the Sages in the lead during the third leg of the race and Koon kept the Sages at second after Chicago Latin moved into first.
"It was a very fun race to watch and very intense race to run. It felt good to be able to shout at my teammates from the sidelines," Talbert said. "It was a big deal to be able to come out and run today. Having my team get second place is a really awesome feeling to finish my track season on a high note."
Talbert's sister, Rose Talbert, finished fourth in the 400 meters and Mabry Bruhn medaled in the 3,200 meters (eighth place) and the 1,600 meters (ninth place).
Charleston's Garrett 5th in 800 meters
Charleston senior Megan Garrett enjoyed a friendly crowd and a homefield advantage running at Eastern Illinois' O'Brien Field on Friday as she medaled with a fifth-place finish in the 800 meters.
"It is surreal, getting to drive just four minutes to the state meet. For most people, it is a long drive and I get to sleep in my bed," she said. "I don't have to worry about traveling the day of and it is really nice that my routine stays the same."
Garrett used a burst of speed in the last 300 meters to secure her medal.
"Starting off, I felt pretty good and then I felt like I got pushed to the back right away. I tried to make a move at the 200-meter mark but I couldn't get around people," Garrett said. "I found myself in ninth and I was thinking about the runners in the first heat and kind of freaking out."
Garrett ran into trouble during her sectional qualifying in the 1,600 meters last week at Mount Zion and was only able to qualify in the 800 meters. That made her preparation for race day on Friday in the extreme heat a little easier.
"I feel way better today. I cramped up really bad at sectionals. My lower stomach was cramped and when it happened I thought, 'Well not today,'" she said. "Sometimes your body doesn't let you do it and it just shuts down.
"I felt better about heat because I was only going to be running for two minutes. If I was in the two-mile, I don't know how I would feel about this heat. Since I knew I only had one race and it was just two minutes long, I knew the heat wouldn't matter all that much."
Friday's run was Garrett top placement at state after finishing sixth in the 800 meters as a freshman and sophomore. Her junior track and field season was lost to a COVID cancellation.
Garrett will move on to run cross country and track at Adams State University in Colorado next season.
"It is crazy that it is over and it really did fly by. I'm so pumped and I'm ready. I am so sad to leave Charleston and I loved my experience here, but I am excited for a new start," Garrett said. "I'm thankful for all of the support I got and I know so many of my friends and family came. I love them all and I appreciate it a lot."
Mattoon junior Maya Cook finished 12th in the shot put with a throw of 11.18 meters.
Charleston's Makenna McBride finished 19th in the 100 meter dash with a time of 12.85.
Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten