CHARLESTON – Jacobs sophomore Lauren Van Vlierbergen took the baton in the Class 3A 4x800-meter relay about 25 meters behind Palatine’s Taylor Tenca and was thinking strategically.
“I was just hoping to get second,” Van Vlierbergen said, figuring a strong second out of three preliminary heats would qualify her, Molly Barnes, Tori Tamburrino and Sam Baran for the finals.
As Van Vlierbergen pressed harder, she got closer to Tenca.
“I started gaining confidence,” she said.
Eventually, Van Vlierbergen passed Tenca just before the finish line, which gave the Golden Eagles the fastest qualifying time (9:16.19) from Friday’s preliminaries at the IHSA Girls Track and Field State Meet at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium.
Van Vlierbergen also won her heat in the 1,600 meters in a career-best 4:55.40 and also will run in that race in Saturday’s finals.
Cary-Grove will send four field athletes into the finals with Nikki Freeman and Olivia Roehri in the discus, Faith Furio in the long jump and Joslyn Nicholson in the triple jump.
Huntley has Omo Tseumah (high jump) and Anthonia Moore (400) in the finals. Crystal Lake Central pole vaulter Claire Dalman qualified in her third trip to the state meet.
Barnes and Tamburrino got the baton to Baran for the third leg in Jacobs’ 4x800 in good shape, but Palatine had a sizable lead. Baran was in fifth, but worked her way to second when she handed to Van Vlierbergen.
“We wanted to just do what we’ve always been doing,” Baran said, “except now it’s more competitive and it’s really hard. I just wanted to set it up for Lauren. She can put 100 percent and give everything in this race now.”
Van Vlierbergen also qualified for state in the 800, but Jacobs coach Ryan Lemanski and assistant Kevin Christian scratched her from the 800 to concentrate on the 4x800 and the 1,600. In the 1,600, Van Vlierbergen and Prospect’s Christin Santiago battled through the last lap trading the lead.
Van Vlierbergen made her move first, then Santiago passed her. In the final 50 meters, Van Vlierbergen had enough of a burst for a 4:55.40 finish, 0.32 ahead of Santiago. Glenbard West’s Madeline Perez (4:52.21) had the only faster qualifying time.
“It’s nice to have so many people push me,” Van Vlierbergen said. “I was just trying to stay with [Santiago] and then in the last 100 meters I gave everything I had.”
Dalman cleared 11 feet to make the pole vault final, although 10-9 would have qualified. She needed her third attempt at 10-6 to keep vaulting.
“I switched to a 13-foot pole [145-pound rating] for my last jump at 10-6,” Dalman said. “That was nerve-racking. My goal all season has been to make the finals after getting here last year. Hopefully tomorrow will be even more fun.”
Dalman made 10-9 and 11-0 on her second attempt at each height, then the competition was stopped. They start over in Saturday’s finals.
Moore, who finished ninth last year in the 400, grabbed the final qualifying spot with a time of 56.95 seconds.
“Our school record is Coryn Marzejon’s at 56.1,” Moore said. “I’d like to get in the top five and get the school record.”
Furio, a senior making her first state trip, went 17-7 1/2 on her final jump to qualify in the long jump.
“My goal was to get a [personal record], I wasn’t concerned about the finals,” Furio said. “To get that and make the finals is a double bonus.”
Freeman is the freshman sister of Josh Freeman, the boys Class 3A state champion in shot put and discus last year. She and Roehri, a sophomore, have been throwing close to each other for the last three weeks. Freeman is in sixth place at 122-4; Roehri is in 10th at 120-3.
“I’m just glad to be here with such a great group of girls that we have,” Freeman said. “[Saturday] I think will be a better day.”