CHARLESTON – As soon as the 200-meter dash finished, Lizzie Rupkey had a sinking feeling.
She wasn't unhappy with her time. It was just 0.2 off her personal best that she ran in sectionals and made her one of the favorites to get to the podium at the Class 2A Track and Field State Finals.
But Monticello standout was having a hard time being positive.
“I'm kinda disappointed in myself,” Rupkey said on Friday morning, before she could catch her breath. “I know I could do better. With this being state, I wanted to PR. But I guess today just wasn't my day.”
It sure wasn't.
It would be a while, but the senior who will run at Butler University next year would eventually recognize the heartbreak that can happen at state.
And not just the once.
Or even twice.
How about three times.
Rupkey missed making today's finals in the 200 by .03 seconds.
She would also find out she missed moving on in the 4x100 relay by .08 seconds.
Then she missed finals in the 100 again by .03.
“There were some girls who came out ready to roll,” Rupkey said. “You never know.”
Rupkey eventually would learn that she will get a last chance at state to medal as she came up big in the 4x200 relay. That squad set a PR by a full second and qualified with the fifth fastest time at 1:43.75.
“I'm proud of that race,” she said. “I'm excited to go tomorrow.”
Overall, it was a tough day for area athletes in Friday's 2A portion.
Eisenhower's Stacia Lee finished fourth in her heat of the 100 with a time of 12.71 and was well off the qualifying standards.
The Mattoon 4x200 foursome was the last team left out despite setting a school record.
And Charleston freshman Sarah Flight, who had gone as high as 5-foot-6 in the high jump this season, couldn't clear 5-1 on an overcast day.
But, as expected, there was nothing but laughs and cheers at the pole vault pit – even if some of the state's best regardless of class try to tell you they were uptight.
Monticello's Aliyah Welter, Mount Zion's Jose Held and Clinton's Betsy Lovett easily got past the 10-6 height needed to make the final field of 14.
And the three will be favored to be battling each other to the end today. Yet Friday still held a little trepidation for them.
“It's a little bit nervewracking having to jump in prelims and having to hit a qualifying mark,” said Held, who was fourth at state a year ago as a freshman. “But once you jump (qualifying), it's just such a breath of fresh air.”
Lovett, who placed third a year ago, confessed to some jitters despite having gone as high as 12-6 during the regular season.
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“There's still that moment of relief that, 'OK, you made it. You can just go have fun at finals.' ” Lovett said. “To me, prelims is the most stressful thing. It's like everything can be going fine and you can easily make it to finals, but something could go wrong.”
Welter, second a year ago and definitely the most laid back of the three, wasn't when she talked about today's finals.
“I would like to make 13-0. That's my goal.”
Also having a big day was Morgan Sherwood, even if it wasn't the day she originally desired.
She started the day missing at 5-1 in the high jump, taking her out of that.
But she made good on the rest – qualifying in the triple jump, long jump and discus. And she left herself room for improvement.
Her best showing was 17-4 in the long jump to place ninth. That is still 5 1/2 inches short of her best this season.
She's in ninth in the triple jump – almost a foot and a half short of her school record of 36-11, set earlier this season.
And she went 119-4 in the discus – more than four feet short of her season best.
“Obviously none of the numbers were what I wanted, so it’s a little frustrating,” the senior said. “Knowing I’ve got tomorrow to compete and earn my spot helps. Tomorrow I just hope to come out and do better than what I did today and bump my name up a few spaces where I know it should be.”
JUMPING STRONG – One of the anticipated moments of recent track meets is the unveiling of Betsy Lovett's sock choice.
On Friday, it was a pink and black striped, knee-high choice with the phrase “Catch me if you can” running up the back.
“I've always had good meets wearing them,” said Lovett, who – surprise – admits to being superstitious. “I broke them in and, I have a whole bunch of new ones that are really cool, but these are my special ones. I've done good in these before.
“I don't want to wear a brand new pair in prelims.”
For today's finals? She has another bright pair with the word “Strong” on them.
“I like to remind myself to be strong,” she said. “That's really important to me because sometimes I really doubt myself and so I feel if I look down and I see that it says 'Strong', it's a reminder that, 'OK, you're strong, so let's do this.'
“That's my main goal for picking out those.”
BRANCHING OUT -- There is a comradery among pole vaulters that is unlike that among any of the other competitors. Lovett said part of it is the group sharing the experience of “throwing yourself up in the air on a small pole made of carbon.”
But two vaulters pointed out that there is fun outside the pit, too.
Lovett's track portion of her high school career came to an end Friday when the Clinton 4x100 team failed to advance.
“That was really sad because the girls on the relay have really shown me what a team is outside of pole vault," she said. "Being on relays showed me another side of the track team that I hadn't seen before.”
Welter is part of Monticello's 4x200 that advanced, giving her a distraction from today's pole vault finals.
“I really enjoy the relays because I like having multiple people to celebrate with once you accomplish something,” the sophomore said.