Jasper girls track wins 21st sectional title

Photos by Traci Westcott/The Herald
Jasper's Zoe Biggs, center right, shows the sectional trophy to teammates Alyssa Skorge and Hannah Nixon after winning the sectional title at Tuesday's girls track tournament at Perry Central High School in Leopold. 

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

LEOPOLD — A lot miles have been run, hurdles have been jumped, and various objects have been thrown as the area girls track and field teams worked towards their final chance to score as a team in last evening’s sectional meet.

Tensions were high going into the last few races as the separation between the top three teams was as slim as three points at one time, but with triumphs in the meet’s final two events the Jasper Wildcats were able to pull away from the field and win the sectional championship, their eighth title in the last nine years, with 155.5 points.

“When walked away last year we felt like we had work left to do,” said Wildcats coach Dean Jerger after coming in second in last season’s sectional meet. Tuesday night’s win marked the 21st sectional championship in the history of the school. “Kids worked hard all season long and I thought that we had the team that we needed to win. We knew it was going to be a battle with both Southridge and Heritage Hills. These kids worked hard all year and it’s good to see it pay off.”

Northeast Dubois' Heidi Sander, center, leads a cheer with her teammates before Tuesday's girls track sectional at Perry Central High School in Leopold. 

“It feels good because we worked hard for it all year. Last year we didn’t have a chance to win, so it felt good to put it together as a team and come out with a win this year,” said Alyssa Skorge. The senior distance runner won individual sectional titles in the 800 (2:21.20) and 1600 (5:16.10) meter run. “It’s been four years leading up to this, so it felt good to put all that together and see how it came out.”

The Wildcats also earned top finishes in the 4x800 (10:21.00) and 4x400 (4:12.20) meter relays. Freshman Andi VanMeter took first in the 3200 meter run in 11:52.60 while senior Zoe Biggs placed first in the 200m dash with a time of 26.33.

The Southridge Raiders finished second overall with 143.5 points. The former defending sectional champions knew they had their work cut out for them on Tuesday as they faced stiff competition while dealing with a few girls who had nagging injuries, but Raiders coach Ted O’Brien praised his girls for doing everything he asked of them throughout the season and called their performance last night “gutsy”.

“These girls were unbelievable tonight, they were great all night long” he said. “This group has answered the bell night in and night out. I couldn’t be more proud of them tonight. We knew going in Jasper had a little bit of an advantage, but we gave it everything we had tonight. Made it interesting for awhile, but we came up a little bit short. Nothing to be ashamed of, Jasper’s a great team and program. It was just two good teams going at it tonight, and Jasper had an edge  and did what they were supposed to.”

Northeast Dubois' Morgan Schepers competes in the pole vaulting event during Tuesday's girls track sectional at Perry Central High School in Leopold. 

Junior Grace Sickbert took first place in both the 100 and 300 meter hurdles. She was also part of the first place 4x100 meter relay team that set the track and sectional event record with a time of 50.40 seconds, and took top honors in the long jump with a 16 foot, seven inch leap. Sophomore Monica Steckler took first overall in pole vault with a mark of nine feet.

“I think we did great,” said Sickbert. “There was a lot of stuff we had to battle through, lot of girls weren’t feeling great tonight. I think with the circumstances we had we came out and competed, and that’s all a person could ask for.”

Heritage Hills finished third overall with 100 points. Patriots coach Dawn Mix said the team finished with more points than she expected given the fact that she was dealing with about 20 less athletes on this season’s track and field team. She knew it would be difficult having less opportunities to score, so the team was pleasantly surprised with a third place finish

“I’m really happy with the way the girls performed,” she said. “We were spread a little thinner. I knew we wouldn’t have two girls in every event, so we wouldn’t be scoring as many points. But I wasn’t sure how we would come out in the end. Overall I’m really happy with third place.”

Senior Jenna Burns finished first in both the 100 (12.60) and 400 (58.30) meter dash. Burns set a new sectional record in the 400, beating the previous  mark of 58.95 set by Jasper’s Lisa Ernst in 1987. Sophomore Rebekah Gordon finished first in the shot put event with a 36 foot, 11-and-a-half inch throw.

Northeast Dubois finished fourth overall with with 51.5 points, with their top overall performance going to senior Adalie Prok who threw for 105 feet, and one-and-a-half inches in the discus event. Jeeps coach Lesie Denu was ecstatic about the team surpassing their sixth place seeding as well as sending two girls on to regional. She felt that sectional was a culmination for both her as a first time head coach and her young team as they grew together throughout the season.

Southridge's Melissa Macias, left, Baileigh Schneider, Leah O'Brien, and Paige Kendall lay on the grass between events during Tuesday's girls track sectional at Perry Central High School in Leopold.

“I felt like we did a great job and we definitely exceeded our expectations,” she said. “With a young team it took awhile to figure out what they needed from me and what I needed from them. Throughout the season we figured each other out and now we’re a family. We definitely came to compete today.

Forest Park finished in fifth place with 50 points, but Rangers coach Kacie Klem referred to the season as a confidence building year. They had dealt with the feeling of being a small fish in a big pond all season long, but the Rangers did what they’ve done all season long. They put forth their best efforts and let the chips fall where they may.

“The girls performed really well,” she said. “This meet the intent was to shoot for personal bests, and know that if we individually performed we would wind up around that fourth or fifth mark. The girls can hold their heads high knowing they did what they needed to at this meet to perform well.”

Freshman Ellie Hall (12:14.00) and senior Claire Mehling (12:15.40) finished second and third respectively in the 3200 meter run. Mehling also finished third in the 1600 meter run with a time of 5:29.30. Senior Katelyn Englert took third in the 100 (16.80) and 300 (49.70) meter hurdles.

With sectional over now each team focuses on the girls that are moving on to regionals. As the teams flesh out the final numbers based on the scratches they have submitted at the end of last night’s meet, each of the coaches is singing the same tune as far switching their lenses to a more narrow pool of athletes. The teams will take time celebrate what they’ve achieved, but the competition only gets that much more fierce moving forward. After a few days to let it all sink it, it’s right back to work for athletes in search of a state berth.

“We’ve had a lot of team momentum going on, and I think as we go into regionals we need to switch gears and start thinking about the individual aspect,” said Sickbert. “How can we continue doing our best. How can I reach the next level.”




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