CHARLESTON -- It was a strong Thursday of preliminaries for the JG-TC area at the IHSA Class 1A Girls' state track meet at Eastern Illinois' O'Brien Field. Five from the area qualified in two or more individual events and two will run in the 3,200, which does not have preliminaries.
A-L-A-H junior Kenli Nettles unsurprisingly qualified in all four of her events: the high jump, 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles and 200-meter dash. Tri-County sophomore Kaylenn Hunt qualified in all three of her events: the long jump, triple jump and high jump. Shelbyville freshman Gabrielle Spain is going in the pole vault and the 800. Casey-Westfield/Martinsville senior Faith Frye, who is headed to Indiana State, qualified in the 100, 200, and long jump. Ailey Mitchell, a Shelbyville junior, made the finals in the 1,600. Mitchell and Cumberland sophomore Jasmyn Dittamore will be in the 3,200.
Nettles began her second straight year of qualifying in four events by going 5-2 in the high jump, meeting the qualifying mark. She was one of 16 to go 5-2.
Last year, Nettles was the 1A runner-up in the high jump (5-5), 100 hurdles (14.91) and 300 hurdles (45.72) and was eighth in the triple jump (35-9).
Nettles started at the opening height of 4-11 and made it, but missed at 5-1 on her first attempt before making the second one. She cleared 5-2 on her first attempt.
In the 100 hurdles, she shattered her own school record by .3 seconds, with a time of 14.23. Her time is the second best in all classes behind only Homewood-Flossmoor's Kayla McCall, who ran a 13.96.
"It didn't feel that fast, but I am super excited about it," said Nettles. "I consistently have run around a 14.5 throughout the season and so do this in the prelims is awesome. Mentally, I was like, 'I have to win this race.' When I saw the time I was like 'Wow, I just beat it by a lot.' In the high jump, I just kicked too early at 5-1."
In the 300 hurdles, Nettles finished with a time of 44.41 in a race that finished against a strong headwind. Her time was 1.10 seconds faster than the second place runner.
She finished the day running a 26.77 and was the ninth and final qualifier.
Nettles said the 30-minute lightning delay in the early afternoon helped her a little bit by giving her more time between the hurdle events.
"I have competed in the Junior Olympics," said Nettles. "So, I am kind of used to the pressure. It just kind of pushed me to improve my times and better myself all around. The wind wasn't too bad in the 300 hurdles, but in the 200 I had to push it really had right as soon as you got off the curve as you got hit with it pretty hard."
Nettles said she hopes to run at Big Ten or SEC school.
Hunt jumps into finals
After battling a hip injury, Hunt seems to be healthy at the right time, as she went 17-9 1/2 on her second long jump, which was nearly a foot and a half better than her previous best. She moved from a 33rd seed, according to sectional performances, to fourth place. Hunt went 17-0 on her first attempt before unleashing her best jump.
"My foot was on the board and so I moved back two inches on my mark so I let he rip," said Hunt, who fifth in the triple jump last year (35-11). "I knew it was far but I didn't think I was capable of that. I have been battling a hip injury since the Indoor Top Times meet so I have only been jumping for a few weeks now. The pain is less and I told myself I was going to jump far and that is what I did."
She also improved in the triple jump from 22nd to 10th place by going 36-5 3/4.
In the high jump, she cleared 5-2 to qualify. She alternated between the high jump and long jump, competing in both events at once.
"In junior high, I had to jump back and forth between long jump and high jump so running back and forth wasn't bad," said Hunt. "In the high jump I didn't know where the cut off would be, but they said it was 5-2 and so that is good for me."
Frye sets season-best in 100
Frye finished third in the final heat of the 100 and was the eighth of nine to qualify for finals. She ran a season-best time of 12.49, which was .23 seconds faster than prior.
In the long jump, her best was 17-3.1/4, which moved her from 30th place coming into the day to ninth. She went 18-0 indoors this season and her personal best is 18-2.
"In the last couple of meets I have been scratching a lot and so it was super good that I got my first jump in," said Frye, who scratched on her second jump before going 17-3 1/4. "In the 100 I felt really good out of the blocks and I am thinking the wind was a little helpful."
In the 200 she ran a 26.60 to qualify in that even a the eighth person out of the nine that qualified.
Spain vaults, runs into Saturday
The freshman, Gabrielle Spain, went 10-6 in the pole vault and is one of 12 to make the finals by clearing that mark. She has gone 11-0.
In the 800, Spain was in the third heat and the meet was delayed after the first heat. She finished with a time of 2:21.86, which was three seconds faster than her previous best. She was the 11th of 12 qualifiers.
"I didn't really like the delay," said Spain. "I was finally ready, but it worked out."
In the final 800, Spain sprinted toward third place in the heat, pursuing Delavan/Hartsburg-Emden's Katie Springer, but fell a tenth of a second short.
"In the first 400 I tried to get in the with the front pack, but at first I got kind of cut off and boxed in. It was rough, but I got out of it. I almost tripped five steps into the race, but I got through it and didn't go down. I am proud and happy with my 800 and pole vault."
Spain was also in the 1,600 and finished in 23rd place with a time of 5:41.08.
Mitchell shatters personal best in 1,600
Mitchell grabbed the lead in the 1,600 after the first 200 and never trailed again. She finished with a time of 5:11.67, which was four seconds faster than the second-place runner in her heat. It was her best by six seconds.
As the bell rang for the final lap, Mitchell looked at her watch to check her time.
"I just figured I want to win this heat," said Mitchell, who was 20th last year with a time of 5:40.80. "I didn't know how close she (Beecher's Hailey Janseen) was, so I just decided to pick it up in the last lap just in case. It was very important to get out in front, as you don't want to get boxed in because that can kill your whole race right there."
On the day, 17 individuals improved from their seeding after sectional and three remained the same, while only five moved downward.
In the pole vault, Shelbyville's Carson Beyers moved from 17th to 13th going 10-0. In the triple jump Cumberland's Katelyn Yaw moved from 41st to 38th with a jump of 32-8 1/2.
Sullivan senior Esther Miller moved from 23rd to 10th in the 400, missing the finals by .08. She was also in the triple jump, going 35-4 3/4 after setting the school record May 13 at the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette Honor Roll meet with a 35-6 3/4.
Miller was also on the 4x400 relay team with Natalie Drury, Emily White, and Zoe Walton. The Lady Redskins finished 22nd with a time of 4:22.09.
Shelbyville''s 4x800, which included Rachel Throneburg, Elizabeth Bowyer, Brook Schutt, and Ella Tynan, finished 32nd with a time of 11:58.59.
Cumberland's Jasmyn Ditttamore was in the 1,600 and moved up from 27th to 22nd with a time of 5:40.59.
Shelbyville's Olivia Durbin threw the discus 103-1, good for 30th place.
The meet was delayed due to lightning for 30 minutes from 12:45 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. The athletes needed another 15 minutes to get warmed up for their event.
The finals are set for 10 a.m. Saturday.