CHARLESTON — Never has the timing mattered so much.
Not only has the girls track season been pushed three weeks later into June, but when competing in four events like Tuscola's Alyssa Williams was on Thursday at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, ever minute of free time between events to rest, relax and rehydrate is critical after running in the sun where the heat index felt like it was 95 degrees.
Complicating matters further, as the Class 1A girls state track meet fell more and more behind schedule, officials, hoping to keep the athletes out of the sun as much as possible, instituted a running schedule in which one event would be run immediately following another.
This gave Williams less than 45 minutes between the 100 meter and the 4x100 relay, making her long day with three state championships — in the long jump, 100 meters and 200 meters — all the more impressive. Williams also ran the first leg of the Warriors 4x200 meter relay that medaled with a sixth-place finish.
"This was absolutely insane. This was my first state meet ever and it was incredible. I just can’t believe it. I was really happy," she said. "I just wanted to go out and run my fastest (in the 200 meters). It was the last race of my junior year. I wanted to make the most of my junior year after missing my sophomore year. I had a really good start to the 200 and I knew I had to get out fast because those other girls are fast."
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Tuscola coaches did their best in managing the heat of the team.
"We took a couple vehicles down so they could sit in the air conditioning a little bit. We've got ice in the tent and we had a well thought out plan to make sure that we were covered," Tuscola girls track coach Drew Sterkel said. "(Alyssa) is a machine. When you think about it, it is incredible for someone to compete in three events, let alone win all three. We talk about mental toughness and that is what it took today.
"I couldn't be more proud of her and she is someone who truly deserves it. You see her in the hallways and you see her in the weight room and she does stuff the right way all the time."
After losing her sophomore year to a COVID-19 cancellation, Williams put in a lot of gym time and played on the Warriors football team at running back.
"I would get myself out of bed and went to the gym and I went for my second year on the football team. That was one of the best decisions I ever made," Williams said. "(Coach Andy Romine) was always keeping us excited and in shape and in a good position to make a good day out of something."
It started with the long jump, where Williams jumped 5.57 meters. In the 100 meters, she won with a time of 12.10 seconds and finished her day with a 25.32 time in the 200 meters. Outside of the gold medals today, Williams had another goal.
"I’m really happy to be here and thankful for the opportunity and having coaches that have helped me achieve this," she said. "(Coach Sterkel) told me to relax and have fun with my friends and that is exactly what I did today.
Maroa relays get silvers
Maroa-Forsyth took home silver medals with two second-place finishes in the 4x100 and 4x200 meter relays. The Trojans — Carlyssa King, Livia Binder, Leah Adlah and Bekiredamaje Williams — ran 50.79 in the 4x100 and ran 1:48.02 in the 4x200.
Williams is a senior who had already graduated from high school, earning two final graduation presents in Charleston.
"This feels great today. We knew today that we were going to push ourselves as hard as we could," she said. "Our coaches told us that we needed to win today. I never thought we were going to run for my senior year after losing my junior year and so I feel on top of the world right now."
In the second leg of the 200 relay, Binder ran her personal best by three seconds. She had spent more of the first half of the day competing and medaling in the pole vault.
"I am so excited to finally make a high school state. On the bus, they couldn't keep me quiet," she said. "I had the team counting on my so I had the adrenaline pumping and I was feeling good. I wasn't expecting to run the fastest 200 meters of my life."
Warrensburg's Oakley medals twice
Warrensburg-Latham's Brooke Oakley medaled twice on Thursday, taking fifth in the high jump and seventh in the 400 meters.
The Cardinals junior jumped a height of 1.57 meters and ran the 400 meters in 1:00.24.
"I was in the second flight today (in the high jump) which I think was to my advantage because I could see exactly what I needed to and what everyone had already done," Oakley said. "I was really nervous coming into today but I told myself to focus on what I could do and try to PR in all of my events. So far we have had a really good outcome."
Okaw Valley's Stauder sisters compete in pole vault
As the pole vault event continued on Thursday, the jumpers had a lot of downtime between vaults but Okaw Valley's Kylie and Karlie Stauder had some company under their large umbrella as the twin sisters could push each other to new heights.
"When I'm not competing, I try to focus on what I'm going to do next. Getting a good plant, swinging up and getting over the bar," Karlie Stauder said. "We push each other a lot. (Kylie) is definitely my best competition at practices and meets. It really helps a lot and it is different than just another competitors."
Although the juniors, who also play cross country, golf, and volleyball for the Timberwolves, lost their sophomore track season in 2020, the sisters aren't certain if they would have made state last year. In fact, it was the quarantine downtime that let them focus on their pole vaulting performances.
"We have been preparing for this for over a year and we have been working our butts off," Kylie Stauder said. "We would lift a lot and we have a club up in Champaign called the Pole Vault Junkies and we went there. We would practice three times a week jumping into a pit."
Kylie entered as the fourth-seeded pole vaulter from the sectional results and Karlie was No. 11. The sisters finished 11th (Kylie) and 12th (Karlie) on Thursday with jumps of 3.19 meters. That was an improvement of more than a foot and half from last season.
"It was my first year here at state and I was just happy to be here. It's not exactly what I wanted but I'm grateful to be here and I'll be back next year," Kylie said.
Said Karlie: "I think it went pretty well for both of us. It wasn't one of our best days but I think he had a good chance for our first year at state and we are ready for next year."
Okaw Valley's Mia Harris finished third in the high jump with a height of 1.6 meters and Macie Fleshner was ninth in the 100 meter hurdles with a time of 15.86.
Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten