Lick Creek Lady Eagles win Class S state track title
After literally running away with the Region 1 regional track trophy and qualifying in several events for the state meet, the Lick Creek Lady Eagles track team knew they could be in the running for a Class S state title.
The Lady Eagles scored 43 points, followed by Giant City with 33, Adams School with 30, and New Athens with 28.
The Lady Eagles took to the track Saturday at the Herrin Sports Complex on what turned out to be about as bad a day as it could be for a track meet.
The temperature stayed in the low 50s with steady rain for the entire day, but that didn’t seem to bother the Lady Eagles.
Kaylee Stover and Shea Thorne both competed in the high jump. Stover actually finished in a tie for 8th but just missed out on points through the tiebreaker process by the number of misses.
“Kaylee jumped very well today given the conditions. She just missed out on placing,” Lick Creek track team coach Matt Denny said.
Thorne also competed in the long jump, but just never got going.
“Shea never really got her steps down good for some reason today. She was having to adjust on the fly, it was just one of those days,” Denny said.
Once the Lady Eagles stepped onto the track, they were solid all day long.
First up was Hailey Wright in the 100m hurdles. Wright ran a good race and finished in 14th place.
“Hailey came a long way this year. The experience was good, with her just being in the 7th grade this will help her for next year,” Denny said.
Next up was the 4x100 meter relay team of Stover, Jadyn Gerardi, Thorne, and Brodie Denny. They came in seeded 4th but came away with a 2nd place finish with a time of 56.95, which was a big relief and got the Lady Eagles on the board with 8 points.
The very next race was the 400m dash in which Brodie Denny came in as the number 2 seed. Denny was able to grab 2nd place with a time of 1:04.94 behind a new state record time of 1:01.62 from Lidiah Hoffarth of New Athens.
“Brodie knew that we needed a good finish to keep us scoring well and was able to get that done,” Denny said.
Next up was 4th grade standout Jadyn Gerardi in the 1600 meter run. Gerardi came in as the 4th seed, but hadn’t lost a race all year.
Gerardi was able to run a personal best time of 5:39.78 to finish 2nd place holding off Alexis Kampwerth of St. Rose who was just 1 second behind. Gerardi grabbed another 8 points for the Lady Eagles which was critical in keeping them in touch.
The 1600 was won by St. Joseph Olney’s Tatum David, who won with a time of 4:57, also setting a new state record. David is one of the top runners in the United States.
“Jadyn is special too, she not only has a natural talent but works super hard all year long, and also understands the “racing” aspect and “competition” very well,” Denny said.
The Lady Eagles had a bit of a break in the middle of the meet trying their best to stay warm and dry, but that was a very tough task.
The next event was the 800m run, in which both Denny and Gerardi were competing. Denny came in as the number 2 seed and Gerardi came in seeded 11th.
Denny was able to finish in second place with a time of 2:34.79 for the Lady Eagles adding another 8 points to their total. Gerardi was able to grab 8th place from the first heat to add another point for the Lady Eagles. Tatum David set another state record winning the 800m with a time of 2:26.95.
It all came down to the last event of the day, the 4x400 meter relay. “We knew the scores were extremely close going in to the 4x400, we knew if we won the race we win the meet, the girls knew that and really stepped up after a very long, cold, wet day,” Denny stated.
The 4x400 relay team of Stover, Thorne, Gerardi and Denny were able to overcome Okawville to take 1st place in the event with a time of 4:35, which gave them the state title.
Brodie Denny was about 20 meters behind when she got the baton for the final leg and was able to overcome Madison Wienstroer of Okawville on the backstretch and was able to hang on for the victory.
“The 4x400 wasn’t just about winning the championship, they wanted this race. We had broken the state record the last two years only to finish second both times. Brodie said that wasn’t happening again. Every girl hit their marks and ran exactly what we told them we needed to win,” Denny said.
“This group made a commitment early in the year to make a go at this. I talked with several of the parents and kids who decided not to go on vacation over spring break so we could attend a few meets and continue to practice, and I firmly believe this made the difference. I tell people it’s not magic, just commitment and hard work. Put in the quality practice time and good things will come. I am so proud of this group, they have been a part of 4 state championships, 3 in cross country and 1 in track, they really know what it takes to win,” Denny said.
The Lick Creek boys’ 4x200 7th grade relay team of Evan Hall, Payton Denny, Chris Wright and J.J. Gerardi finished in 5th place with a time of 1:55.10.
Gerardi just missed a medal finishing 10th in the 200m and 9th in the 7th grade 100m.
The boys 4x400m relay team of Hall, Denny, Gerardi and Louis VanMuylder finished 10th as well.