CLINTON — It only took a split second for Tori Burke to see her goals coming to fruition.
On Friday at the Central Illinois Conference girls track and field meet in Assumption, Burke grunted and thrusted herself across the finish line to win the 100-meter dash.
Immediately, tears began welling in her eyes.
Her first-place finish was a complete turnaround from last year's CIC Meet in Tuscola.
There, Burke finished 6th with a :13.72 time. If someone would have pulled her aside that day and told Burke, or Clinton track and field coach Rachel Lyons, that Burke would win the same meet a year later, neither would have been a believer.
But that's exactly what Burke did.
She finished with a :13 100-meter dash time, and enters Thursday's Class 2A Monticello Sectional with eyes on a state berth.
“At first I started crying because I was like, ‘All my goals are coming true.’ Then I was like, ‘You put in the hard work. You deserve it,'" Burke said.
Lyons admits maybe even as early as Friday afternoon Burke wasn't sure if she would win the 100-meter dash.
But as soon as the starting gun sounded, she knew she had the race won.
“Honestly, as soon as I got out of the blocks I didn’t see anybody in the peripherals, and I said, ‘Keep pushing. You’re right there,'" Burke said.
In order to advance to the state track and field meet in Charleston, runners have to finish first or second in sectionals, or surpass the state qualifying time — :12.66 in Class 2A for the 100-meter dash.
Burke was also on Clinton's winning 4x100-meter relay team that won the CIC meet with a :50.86 time, nearing the qualifying standard of :50.03.
Burke's breakout season may have started that day in Tuscola a year ago. That's where Lyons saw the biggest change in Burke's demeanor.
“Confidence, undoubtedly confidence," Lyons said of the area Burke has grown the most. “Once she ran at conference meet last year, she knew that she was capable. She stole the slow heat and that was a big deal for her."
The grunt Burke let out as she crossed the finish line on Friday is typical for the sophomore. She's known as the team grunter — a way to audibly release the ferocity for which she does everything.
When Burke lifts weights, finishes a race, or even back when she threw the shot put, she let out a grunt. The noise has become a staple of a young Maroons team.
Burke embraces her role as a grunter, but is also evolving into a role as one of the top sprinters in the conference.
“She is that kid you root for," Lyons said. "She gives it her everything and she’s got a really positive attitude. She’ll be honest with you if she’s starting to feel negative. She’ll say, ‘Help me not to be this way,’ she identifies it and tries to rectify it."
Last season, Lyons said Burke was "no where close" to advancing to Charleston.
This season, Burke already arrived to the team ripe with confidence, but it escalated when she recorded a personal best of :8.37 in the 60-meter dash at the Clinton Last Chance Invite on March 19.
"Ever since then I knew good things were going to come," Burke said.
The Monticello sectional is loaded with talent in the sprints, highlighted by reigning Class 2A 100- and 200-meter champion Katina Martin of Eisenhower and her twin sister Tina Martin.
But the offseason training Burke did, both mentally and physically, have her confident headed into sectionals with times substantially lower than last season.
“I put a lot of thought into it," Burke said of going to Charleston. "I would really like to go (to state) and I think we have a really good chance of going if we put in the work and think positive. We can get somewhere."
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