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CHARLESTON — This season will prove to be an important year for Clinton girls track and field.

The Maroons brought athletes in eight events to the Class 2A state track and field meet on Friday, the most since moving to Class 2A in 2014.

Led by Herald & Review Area Cross Country Runner of the Year Payne Turney, who won her heat in the 800-meter run and also qualified for the Saturday’s finals in the 1,600, the young Maroons’ team earned an incredible amount of experience Friday.

"We have a ton of new people who have never been to state before besides Payne," Clinton co-coach Rachel Lyons said "There has been a lot of learning and they have worked hard. It's important to get to see the state experience and then you can come back and be more prepared next time."

Freshman Mallory Cyrulik came within six one-hundredths of a second from advancing to Saturday’s finals in the 300-meter hurdles, but she took a lot from her first trip to Charleston.

"I was nervous at first and I was a little too fast into the first hurdles so I slowed down and had to catch up my steps on the second hurdle. I was worried but then I came back and finished strong," she said. "I was coming in just get some experience in my first year and see how the experience was.”

Like many of her teammates, Turney could see success in Cyrulik's future early on in the season.

"Mallory is great — she's so self motivated and a great asset to have on the team because she works hard and is passionate about what she does," Turney said. “You can just look at her and you know she's good."

For Lyons, Turney and Cyrulik played key roles on the team through the season.

"Payne is the leader in action — she's not bossy and leads by her hard work," Lyons said. "We knew Mallory was going to be good coming in but she still surprises me every time she runs. Hurdlers are often times over-thinkers on the track, but Mallory just shows up and runs."

The Maroons had seven athletes competing in eight events on Friday and those state qualifiers unified as the postseason approached.

“We had so many athletes who rose up together as a plume. They were getting better all the time and coalescing,” Clinton pole vaulting coach Ken Lovett said.

Turney finished seventh in the 800 last season and ninth in 2017. She was excited for a little more company at state.

"It's amazing — it's so crazy to have so many people here. The last few years it has just been two or three and it's amazing how much a team can elevate you," Turney said.

Clinton's coaching structure features co-head coaches in Lyons and Leann Sosamon. The duo were childhood friends and Clinton track alums, and as coaches they create a nice balance.

“(The coaching system) works awesome," Lovett said. "They each have different strengths but they bring out the best in each other and the best in the girls.

“Our throwing coach (Darren Moser) and I are cheerleaders for the track events and the girls enjoy being together. They push hard and they work hard and it’s great being around them.”

In her first high school track season, Cyrulik has received support from her coaches and Turney.

"It was a big difference from junior high and I was really excited to run today. I was a little nervous but Payne has helped me a lot with my nerves," Cyrulik said. "My coaches are amazing. They are always by my side and supporting me every single section. This is the first year that we have had a lot of Clinton go to state and we have all been so supportive of each other and happy for everyone."

Clinton's track and field future is bright with Turney returning for her senior year next season and she will be joined by returning state qualifiers: Junior sprinter Tori Burke, junior pole vaulter Olivia Earl and sophomore relay team members Olivia Peterson and Hadley Wilson.

“I think truly that they are good girls and that they are very positive and they are proud of each other and that makes us really proud,” Sosamon said.

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Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten

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Reporter

Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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