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La Salle-Peru junior Lesly Rocha (center) runs during the 1,600-meter run at Friday’s IHSA Class 2A State Track & Field Meet in Charleston. Rocha finished third in her heat to advance to today’s finals. NewsTribune photo/Kevin Chlum
CHARLESTON — Arriving at her first IHSA State Track & Field Meet was an exhilarating experience for La Salle-Peru’s Lesly Rocha.
“I got here and I was overwhelmed,” Rocha said. “I was like, ‘Wow.’ I was overwhelmed in a good way. I was so excited. I was excited to run and have the time on the track when everyone’s watching you.”
Rocha turned in a performance worth watching.
The junior shaved six seconds off her own school record, running a 5:08.09 in the 1,600 meters to place third in her heat and advance to today’s finals.
She is one of three area Class 2A athletes to qualify for finals along with Princeton’s Zoe Mead and Colbi Schertz.
“It hasn’t set in yet, but I feel so excited because the mile has always been what I wanted to do,” Rocha said about advancing. “I ran it in junior high, then didn’t freshman and sophomore years. Now I’m back at it and I love it as much as I did then.”
Rocha, who also will run in the 3,200 today along with teammate Megan Krolak, entered Friday’s race hoping to achieve a personal best but she didn’t anticipate finishing in less than 5:10.
“At first, I was really comfortable,” Rocha said about the pace. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is a five-minute pace? This is crazy because I feel comfortable.’ We kept going and I was just tagging along. I didn’t want to go too fast and pass them because I knew they all had really good times (from the sectional). The last lap everyone was really tough. I was just trying to tag along.”
Mead used a similar strategy to set a school record of 2:15.28 and win her heat to advance in the 800.
“It feels great,” said Mead, who broke the old mark of 2:16.8 set by Angie Noble in 1987. “I didn’t think I would be able to win the heat, so that was great. I got the school record and my best time. That’s really what I wanted coming down here.”
Mead burst into the lead on the final straightaway to earn the automatic berth to the finals.
“I was just running with her and hoping I could keep that pace with her then outkick her in the end,” Mead said.
Mead enters today’s finals with the second-best preliminary time behind Aurora Central Catholic’s Karina Liz (2:12.69), who also beat Mead at the Plano Sectional.
“It’s kind of a relief (to break the school record). Now I can just go out and run the finals and just worry about a place instead of worrying about time, which is good,” Mead said.
Mead also ran the 400 but fell short of advancing with a 59.95.
“I was just so tired after that 800,” Mead said.
Schertz struggled early Friday but bounced back for a finals-qualifying throw of 38 feet, 2 inches on her final attempt.
“It started off really bad,” Schertz said. “I could have done a lot better. My allergies were bothering me.
“I just told myself, ‘If you want to get in finals, you have to get a good mark.’ I just slowed down, took a breath and pushed a lot harder than I did before”
Schertz’s enters today’s finals in seventh place.
“It means a lot to me to go against a lot of these other good girls,” Schertz said.
Mendota sophomore Elizabeth Willis did not advance in the shot put with her toss of 34-6 1/4.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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