CHARLESTON — On the ride from Decatur to Charleston on Friday morning, Alyssa Baltimore had to do something to ease her mind.
Her options were limited to putting in her headphones to take her mind off of the ensuing Class 2A girls state track preliminaries at O'Brien Stadium in Charleston, or take a nap.
Baltimore opted with music, and it calmed her down enough for her to jump 5-foot-2 in the high jump to advance to Saturday's finals.
“I was really happy," Baltimore said. "It’s a big weight off my shoulders. Jumping 5-2 is not hard for me, so I just kick my feet over. The last time after I kicked my feet I knew. I thought, ‘Calm down. You’re good.’"
This is Baltimore's, a senior, third consecutive time at the state meet. She advanced to the finals last season, where she finished 13th with a jump of 5-1.
Saturday will be her last day high jumping before she switches her focus solely to volleyball next season at Culver-Stockton College.
“It’s my last year," she said. "I was like, ‘I really want to get it this time and I have to put it all in to today.’ I did that and the hard part’s over."
She's set her sights on hitting 5-3 early on Saturday, knowing that will likely put her in the upper-echelon of jumpers.
Then, Baltimore can continue to climb to her personal best of 5-5.
“Really, I need to get 5-3," she said. "If I can get that on my first attempt, then the rest of it is smooth sailing.”
Eisenhower also got dominating performances from twins Katina and Tina Martin in the 100- and 200-meter dash.
Tina Martin won both of her heats, turning in a time of 12.04 seconds in the 100 and 24.33 in the 200.
Katina finished second in both of her heats to advance to Saturday's final.
Monticello produces big day
Monticello turned in a dynamic performance in the prelims.
The Sages advanced six girls in individual events and the 4x100-meter relay team.
Aliyah Welter advanced in pole vault and the 300-meter low hurdles and was on the relay team.
Alyssa McPike advanced in the 1,600-meter run, Emma Helferich advanced in the long jump, Landis Brown advanced in the pole vault and Mattie Lieb advanced in the 200 and was on the 4x1 team.
Sydney Buchannon and Emelia Ness were also on the relay team.
Ness advanced in the 100-meter hurdles and 300 hurdles, and had a flair for the dramatics in the 300.
With 200 meters to go, Ness went into overdrive to pass the field and emerge as the leader of the heat, winning in 45.07.
“Coming around that corner, I usually have something left and I was taking every hurdle stride for stride," Ness said. "I was getting over and I could see the other runners were sputtering. I was like, ‘OK, this is your chance. Just go for it.’"
Saturday's 100 hurdles finals will present a big challenge for Ness. Chicago Brooks standout Imani Carothers is the favorite in the race, but Ness is still learning in her sophomore year.
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“That one I was more worried for because Imani Carothers is so good," Ness said. "She’s running 13s and I’m just trying to get better as I grow up. I looked at all the times and just had to run my times and I did.
“I know how she runs. I know she’s going to beat me and I know she’s a great competitor."
Strong-McCloud learns from state
MacArthur's Sabrie Strong-McCloud was the first to admit she was nervous on Friday.
Strong-McCloud is a sophomore who was participating in her first state meet, jumping in the triple jump.
She scratched on her first two attempts, but took some time to gather her thoughts before her third attempt.
“Just relax, have fun and go out and jump," she said of her thoughts before her final jump. "I still have two more years of high school."
Strong-McCloud jumped 35-11 1/2, good enough to advance to finals. She was the first girl to advance to state at MacArthur since 2014.
“It means a lot to me," she said. "It’s a great experience."
A torch passing
There's no calendar in the Held household that has the state meet written on it until after sectionals.
Josie and Rhiannon simply don't want to take their chances on a jinx, though for years it's been a foregone conclusion that Josie would advance.
Both advanced out of last week's Monticello sectional.
On Friday, Josie, in her senior year as a pole vaulter at Mount Zion, started the process of passing the torch to Rhiannon, a freshman.
Each advanced to Saturday's finals.
“I feel like I can teach her the ways down here and next year she’ll be ready to go," Josie said.
Rhiannon is learning from her big sister, though they kept to themselves on the ride to Charleston.
“The fact that she’s always there to support me and she’ll pick me up whenever I’m down," Rhiannon said of the perks of having Josie around.
The Braves also advanced the 4x800-meter relay team of Kaelyn Mackling, Jenny Baumann, Lucy Griffith and Taylor Fox to finals.
In her last two 800-meter runs, Clinton sophomore Payne Turney has made the event look like a cinch.
She won wire-to-wire at sectionals and cruised past the field on Friday to win her heat with a time of 2:18.12, the third-best in the field.
Turney has been to state both years in high school, and said that made the difference on Friday.
“Experience helped," Turney said. "Now I’m just ready to race. I know what I want and I can get it."
Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25