Even though its sprint relays both missed qualifying for Saturday finals by one spot, it was a smashing success at the IHSA Class 1A state track and field meet for the Oregon girls.
Cydney Long and Shannon Cullen came up with third-place medals to stake the Lady Hawks to their second highest team point total in at least 15 years.
Oregon scored 14 points to tie four other teams, including Byron, for 17th place.
Moweaqua Central A & M edged Erie-Prophetstown for the championship 60-56.
“I’m impressed with how well we did,” Oregon coach Lynn Ahlgrim said. “There was no faltering downstate and Cydney and Shannon were amazing.”
Long ran a school-record time of 15.20 in placing third in the 100 low hurdles. The winner, Peyton Wade of Aurora Christian was clocked at 14.86.
“The hurdles really connected with her this year,” Ahlgrim said. “Before, she thought there were girls in the area she couldn’t beat. She got over that hump and also so the 3-step consistently. That’s a key in the hurdles.”
There was a false start in the hurdles and long initially thought she may have been the guilty party. Instead, the runner next to her was disqualified.
“That was an advantage for Cyd,” Ahlgrim said. “On the first gun, she led with the opposite (wrong) foot. Having a second start enabled her to get out of the blocks the right way.”
In the preliminaries, Long and Taylor Adcock of A & M had identical times of 15.77. Officials carried it over to the thousands of a second and awarded the win to Adcock. Long still qualified on time. In the finals, it was Long getting the upper hand against the 2012 state-placer, who took fifth.
“Cydney ran both her preliminaries and finals smooth,” Ahlgrim said.
Cullen stood in fourth place after the first day of the shot put with a best of 38-2. On Saturday, she moved up to third with a 38-10 mark.
“She learned from being down here last year (10th place),” Oregon throwing coach Doug Engle said. “She had a much improved technique. From a competitive nature, it was her best meet of the year. Distance-wise, we have yet to see what she is capable of.”
Finishing first and second were a pair of seniors, Megan Lauzon of Rushville (41-6) and Freya block of Kewanee (40-4). Four of Cullen’s six throws were over 38 feet, making her a model of consistency.
“That's comparable with Tabitha Smith and Allison Kereven,” Engle said. “She wasn’t concerned about first, second or third. She wanted to throw her best. It’s looking good for next year.”
The only major disappointment of the meet was the sprint relays missing out on being in Saturday’s finals.
The 400 relay finished second in its heat to Byron 50.53-50.93, but had hoped to advance based upon time. Things were looking good until the final heat when the Fisher Bunnies ran a 50.60 to grab the ninth and final spot.
In the 800 relay prelims, the separation between No. 9 and No. 10 was even closer, 1:47.56 for Oregon and 1:47:54 for Port Byron Riverdale.
The same four girls (Emy Wright, Whitney Long, Devyn Absher, Cydney Long) ran on both relays.
“All ran clean, with good handoffs,” Ahlgrim said. The 1,600 relay of Wright, Absher, Mackenzie Skoumal and Sam Judge ran 4:13, well below the 4:09 needed to make the finals.
“Each relay was a PR. You couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Ahlgrim said.
Cydney Long, likely feeling the effects of having run three races that day in the heat of Charleston, was unable to advance in the 200.
In the triple jump, sophomore Sarah Lauer (32-9) just missed by making the finals by five inches.
“Sarah’s progressing, but some of the fine tuning she has done can be a setback to that progression,” Ahlgrim said. In the pole vault, 2-time state qualifier Ryan Starkey did not make the finals and closed out her high school career. “I’m proud of every girl on the team. There was no quitting,” Ahlgrim said.