Girls' Class 1A state track

    Underneath everything else, two area seniors understand what’s at stake in each of their next races. Gracie Feeney of El Paso-Gridley and Dwight’s Daly Galloway are enjoying being at state, but there is still that competitive spirit that makes them great.
    On Thursday, Feeney and Galloway worked to make it to Saturday’s finals in the Class 1A girls’ state meet without losing focus on what got them to O’Brien Field at Eastern Illinois in the first place, a love for what they are doing.
    For Feeney, she will be competing in three finals after advancing in the long jump in the field and in both hurdle events on the big, blue track.
    “My main goal was to come here in four events, which I did,” Feeney said. “Going into the hurdles, I felt this was going to be my last race so I gave it everything I had.
    “I’ve been to state for three years. The others were like, I’m here, let’s go out and have fun. This year is really going to go for Saturday. We’re going to go to finals.”
    For Galloway, she only had to run once but will be running twice on Saturday. Having been in the state finals in track and cross country all four years, she’s aware of what this means.
    “Today was definitely a chill day, Galloway said. “I came out today and realized how much I need to enjoy it. It’s amazing, I love this sport. I’ve been working super hard and it’s nice to be here and enjoy the atmosphere.”
    Joining Feeney and Galloway in the finals on Saturday were Fieldcrest’s Claire Weers and Ridgeview’s 4x200 relay squad.
    Feeney’s day started early because she was in the first flight of the long jump, the first event of the day. Feeney won her heat with a mark of 16 feet, 10½ inches, securing the 12th finals spot. The it was on to the track.
    Her first run was the 100-meter hurdles and she had a little motivation to help her go.
    “I was on the edge for the 100 hurdles. I was like, ‘I’m not seeded to go to the finals, let’s give it everything I have to get in there,’” Feeney said. She did and she advanced with a school-record time of 15.5 seconds, which was good for seventh overall. She was seeded 10th coming into the meet. The finals take the top nine.
    Then came the 300 hurdles, an event that she figured to make it to Saturday based on having the fourth-fastest time after sectionals.
    “The 300 hurdles is my main race,” she said. “I was like, ‘you know what, this is what you’ve been working for so …’”
    So … she advanced with a time of 46.61 seconds, which was good enough to win her heat and get the automatic finals berth. A good kick a the end helped.
    “I could hear her but I didn’t know where she was, so I thought, this is it, give it everything,” Feeney said. “I always try to imagine someone is there because I run better with competition.”
    Her goal is now to get below 46 seconds, which would be a school record. Of which, she anchored the 4x400 relay team to a school record. The quartet of Makenna Parkhouse, Kaylynn Schlipf, Maddie Morrison and Feeney made the four circuits in 4:14.1. It was good enough to set an EPG standard but it left the Titans out of the finals.
    As for making it to the finals three times, Feeney understands where a lot of the credit goes.
    “I’m very thankful for my coaches and teammates,” she said. “They’re always pushing me in practice. My teammates are the best.”
    For Galloway, she’s had the fortune and misfortune to be competing at such a high level during the same time period as maybe the best small-school distance runner in Illinois history.
    As for her approach this time, Galloway was more philosophical in competing.
    “I took a month off of running just to kind of get better and realize how much I love it,” Galloway said, who battled physical issues a year ago. “I came into this season and I was knocking off time like no kidding. It’s such a great sport.”
    She played it cool in the 1,600 run, even though two-time defending state champ Anna Sophia Keller of (Effingham) St. Anthony was in her heat. Galloway wasn’t looking to beat Keller … at least not on this day.
    “I was lucky I was in the second heat so I could figure out what time I had to be at; I realized I could run a 5:12 to a 5:15 easy,” Galloway said. “I kind of went out a little faster than I should have. I could hear my coach yelling, ‘What are you doing? Slow down!’ So I kind of chilled. As long as I didn’t get passed in the final 100 (meters) I knew I was going to be fine. It was survive and advance.”
    Which is what she did. Galloway took second in her heat with a time of 5:12.37. Galloway will compete in the 1,600 finals on Saturday, as well as the 3,200, which did not have preliminaries Thursday.
    Fieldcrest’s Claire Weers also moved into the finals. Weers ran in the first heat of the 800 run and came in fourth with a time of 2:25.98, which was good enough to make it to Saturday.
    The other area group to advance was the Ridgeview 4x200 relay team. The quartet of Jules Grunloh, River Rosales, Elexys Rosales and Mya Tinsley placed second in its heat at 1:47.77. Three teams in the heat advanced.
    The Mustangs also put together a good effort in the final race of the day. The 4x400 foursome of  River Rosales, Elexys Rosales, Tia Hardt and Grunloh — the last three are freshmen — finished their heat in third at 4:11.69 and technically missing qualifying by less than a 10th of a second. The RHS girls ran faster than Amboy, who automatically qualified by winning its heat.
    Also competing at state but not advancing included a pair of Tri-Point Chargers, as well as three Mustangs and a Titan in individual events.
    Ridgeview’s Tinsley ran a 12.51-second 100 meters, finishing 12th overall, and Grunloh had a time of 1:02.55 in the 400. Layken McGuire had a time of 5:42.29 in the same 1,600 heat as Galloway.
    Tri-Point’s Ali Flessner ran a 2:34.95 in the 800.
    There was a bit of controversy, as well. Jacki Weller of Tri-Point ran in her listed position in the third heat, but the official results have her running in the fourth heat. It was said that Weller was originally given a DNS, but the matter was straightened out.
    Apparently, the officials felt there was no need to retry the second heat of the 100-meter hurdles. A malfunction on the main timer triggered a reaction by an official, who called for the race not to start — just as the starter was firing the gun. The timing official ran onto the track and was still in a lane as the girls tried to rush by.
    Because the backup time piece worked, it was declared an official race.
    EPG’s Schlipf was in that heat and finished third with a time of 16.26 seconds.
    Pontiac’s Sarah Christopher and the 4x400 relay team, as well as Prairie Central’s Olivia Weber, will be competing today in the Class 2A state preliminaries.