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Henry-Midland senior Nicole Woodall (second from left) receives her Class 1A 3,200-meter relay fourth-place medal Saturday as teammates Erin McKee (second from right) and Amber Kereta wait to recieve their medals. NewsTribune photo/Genna Ord
Henry-Midland senior Nicole Woodall (second from right) takes off for the first leg of the 3,200-meter relay Saturday at the IHSA State Track and Field Meet in Charleston. Woodall along with teammates Erin McKee, Alyssa Martynowski and Amber Kereta placed fourth in a school-record time of 9:50. NewsTribune photo/Genna Ord
CHARLESTON — On the way home from the IHSA State Track and Field Meet last year, Henry-Midland’s Nicole Woodall told coach Clark Owsley she wanted to be on the podium next season.
Woodall helped the Lady Timberducks reach the medal stand in the 3,200-meter and 1,600-meter relays Saturday at the Class 1A State Track and Field Meet at Eastern Illinois University.
“To be on (the podium) twice this year, I just can’t believe it,” said Woodall, who missed her graduation from Midland to run Saturday.
Henry-Midland won its first relay medal in program history by placing fourth in the 3,200 relay, and then added to it with an eighth-place finish in the 1,600 relay. “It was a special day for sure,” Owsley said.
The Lady Timberducks entered the 3,200 relay final seeded ninth among the 12 teams, but Woodall ran the opening leg and had H-M in first place when she handed off to Erin McKee.
“It went really well,” Woodall said about her leg. “I started out pretty far behind, but I just kept going. The first lap I thought I went too fast, but I just knew I had to hold on. I never, ever, thought I could lead off the 4by8 in state and I did. It’s crazy.”
McKee handed to Alyssa Martynowski in third place.
“I went out faster than I did (Thursday),” McKee said. “Nicole gave me an incredible lead going in. I wasn’t expecting that. I wanted to honor her and keep that.”
Martynowski kept the Lady Timberducks in third place as she passed the baton to Amber Kereta for the anchor leg.
“The first lap I was kind of feeling it because I went too fast Thursday,” Martynowski said. “Then the girls started catching up to me. They pushed me. I think having the competition around me actually helped a lot.”
Kereta ran the final two laps to help H-M finish in a school record time of 9:50, which is 13.37 seconds better than its preliminary and school-record time.
The first three runners each took two seconds off her best split, while Kereta ran seven seconds better than her personal-best split.
“I did not picture that happening at all,” Kereta said. “Coach was like, ‘I think you can run a 2:28, 2:27. I’ve been running 2:33 the whole year. Getting 2:25, that’s one of the best feelings ever.”
Woodall and Amber Kereta returned to the track later with Melanie Yanke and Amanda Kereta to run a school-record 4:06.27.
“I think we were just determined and ready to beat the record,” Yanke said. “For Nicole, this is her last race at state. We wanted to make it a memorable one.”
The Lady Timberducks were greeted by family, teammates, friends and Owsley when they left the blue track at O’Brien Stadium.
The four H-M runners hugged friends and family and took pictures with each other and Owsley.
“It feels amazing,” Amanda Kereta said. “No words can explain being up there (on the medal stand) as a sophomore. I never imagined this last year when I first came into (high school) track.”
Woodall credits Owsley for helping the Lady Timberducks reach their goals.
“I feel like we overlook our coach and how much he’s trained us through this,” Woodall said. “He needs more credit for everything he does. He dedicates so much time to us. He’s really built us into the athletes we are today.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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