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CHARLESTON — After the 3,200-meter relay preliminaries Thursday at the IHSA Class 1A State Track and Field Meet, Henry-Midland coach Clark Owsley and his four runners were forced to wait to see if they made the finals.
Owsley suggested one of the girls use her phone to look up the IHSA website to see if the results were posted there before the result sheet was brought down from the press box.
The Lady Timberducks kept waiting.
Finally, the P.A. announcer began reading the qualifiers for Saturday’s finals, and Owsley and his runners perked up.
When the announcer said, “Henry-Senachwine,” Amber Kereta and Erin McKee screeched and hugged.
Kereta broke down in tears and McKee’s eyes welled up.
“That was not cool,” Kereta said about the wait. “I was getting very, very antsy. … It’s just unbelievable (to make finals). It’s been one of my dreams and it’s actually coming true.”
The Lady Timberducks had another wait after the 1,600 relay, but this time it was shorter and the IHSA website was updated quicker, and that’s how the H-M runners found out they qualified in a second relay.
“It’s the first two times a relay has made the finals in school history,” Owsley said. “It’s just a big step for the program. For the girls who did it, I couldn’t be happier. They’re so deserving. They’ve worked so hard. I’m excited to see what Saturday brings.”
The Lady Timberducks ran a school-record 10:03.37 to place second in their heat and earn the ninth of 12 spots in the 3,200 relay final.
“I think we knew we really had a shot (to advance) and because of that we were going to give it our all,” said McKee, who ran the second leg and has cut 16 seconds of her split over the last three weeks.
Senior Nicole Woodall started the relay for H-M and had the Lady Timberducks in first place when she handed off.
“I had a goal this year to always win the first leg, and I’ve done it except indoor state,” said Woodall, who passed St. Thomas More’s Gen Harrington in the final 25 meters. “I just focus on not going out too quickly. That’s what a lot of girls do. To get her really meant a lot because it really shows my hard work is paying off.”
H-M slipped to second place and maintained the position the rest of the way.
The Lady Timberducks hope to lower the school record Saturday and earn a medal. “I’m glad we got there,” said Alyssa Martynowski, who ran the third leg. “We want to have fun. We definitely want to break 10 (minutes). I think we’re so pumped that it’s really possible.”
The 1,600 relay of Melanie Yanke, Woodall, Amber Kereta and Amanda Kereta - which was seeded 11th - ran a 4:08.72 to earn the eighth of nine spots in the finals. Amanda Kereta, who scratched the open 400 to be fresh for the relay, passed Deer Creek-Mackinaw’s Taylor Mohr in the final 100 meters to give H-M a second-place finish.
“It means so much (to reach the finals),” said Amanda Kereta, who ran three seconds faster on her leg than she did at the sectional. “I scratched the 400 just to put down a good split in the 4by4. I just wanted it so bad. I cried when my heat of the 400 was going because I love the 400. That was hard. But it was definitely worth it. I don’t think if I ran that 400 I could have ran that split in the 4by4.”
The Lady Timberducks hope to break the school record in the 1,600 relay - a 4:08.43 set at state last year - but no matter what they will bring home a medal. “It’s just so exciting,” Amanda Kereta said about winning a medal. “It puts a smile on my face. … I’m just so proud.”
Aside from the relays, the Lady Timberducks had three individuals compete, but they did not advance.
Woodall ran a 2:25.44 in the 800 and finished one spot shy of advancing. Yanke ran a 48.79 in the 300 hurdles and finished fourth in her heat. “I think it went pretty well,” the Henry junior said. “When I got to the backstretch, I started feeling the heat. That’s when everything hit me, but otherwise it went very well.”
Freshman Ronna Pettis ran a 5:50.4 and placed ninth in her heat of the 1,600. “I’m OK with it,” said Pettis, who added her nerves were “off the charts” before the race. “I wish I could have gotten a better time, but I’m just glad I’m here. … It was a lot of fun and I think it will help me push myself next sectionals to maybe go above and beyond and get here again.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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