The last 100 meters of Katie Adams’ high school running career were not particularly pretty.
The Marengo senior labored hard down the stretch at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium, her legs screaming and no finishing kick to be found.
It didn’t matter. Adams already had poured her angst and frustration into the race and left her competitors behind. When she crossed the finish line, she again was the Class 2A 1,600-meters champion at the girls track and field state meet and had run her fastest time ever (5:00.84). Teammate Allie Sprague was second in 5:07.19.
“It was the greatest feeling ever, knowing I had nothing left when I crossed the finish line,” Adams said. “There are no words to describe that incredible sense of pride and accomplishment I felt by leading that race from start to finish. I wouldn’t have wanted to end my high school career in any other way.”
For winning her second 1,600 state title, Adams is the Northwest Herald Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year, chosen by the sports staff with input from area coaches.
There was no shortage of candidates this season as Huntley’s Omo Tesumah (Class 3A high jump) and Woodstock’s Maura Beattie (Class 2A 3,200) also won state titles, and Jacobs’ Lauren Van Vlierbergen finished fourth in the Class 3A 1,600 and anchored the Golden Eagles’ fifth-place 4x800 relay team.
Adams, who also was the Northwest Herald Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, could not grab the distance double she coveted because Beattie, who lost to her three times previously this spring, ran a strong tactical race to win the 3,200. Beattie pushed the pace hard early in the race and grabbed an insurmountable lead.
“I figured if I ran my race I’d be where I wanted to be,” Adams said. “I have to give Maura a lot of credit, she had such a great race strategy against me. She took it out really fast and I couldn’t react to that pace because I wasn’t used to running that quicker pace for the first mile. She deserved that title, she really did. It wasn’t what I wanted.”
Adams looked distraught, but after receiving her 3,200 medal she went about refocusing mentally on her final high school race. Scott and Lori Adams told their daughter to leave that race behind and to go run the 1,600 for herself. By the time the 1,600 started, Adams was ready.
“I didn’t really say much to her because she was pretty bummed,” Marengo coach Brian Tveter said. “She knew what she needed to do. She came out and ran great in the 1,600.”
Adams channeled all the negativity from the third-place finish in the 3,200 to her advantage.
“During that entire (1,600) race, I ran aggressive and ran like I was mad,” Adams said. “I took control of that race and got everything out. I wanted to take it from the gun and leave everyone behind and prove that I could do it.”
Adams, who will run at Iowa next year, leaves her high school with a most impressive legacy of nine state medals (six in track, three in cross country). Marengo’s girls cross country team was fifth in Class 2A last fall, its best finish ever.
“Some of the stuff she’s done is crazy,” Tveter said. “I don’t know if we’ll see people break these records for a long time.”
Adams lauds her coaches and teammates for being able to assume her spot in Indians’ running history.
“It’s been truly amazing,” Adams said. “It’s so unreal to think of what I was able to do in my four years at Marengo. It’s hard to describe how much joy that brings me to know I made a difference there and really kind of left my mark on the school. One of the things I’m most proud of is my consistency at the state level. I went to seven straight state meets and I medalled in every one of them. That is not something many people can say they accomplished.”