Rivals ready for McHenry County track meet

Jacobs’ Lauren Van Vlierbergen and McHenry’s Lauren Opatrny will be pushing each other late Friday night in what could be the fastest girls 1,600 meters race ever at the McHenry County Track and Field Meet.

They also will be chasing Woodstock’s Kayla Beattie’s record of 4:56.57, which seemed in 2011 like it might stand for many years. Now, three years later, two junior runners who just broke 5:00 last week are poised for an historical run.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Van Vlierbergen said. “I hope we push each other a few times, we’ll be going against each other a lot.”

The county meet starts Thursday at Huntley’s Harmony Road Campus Stadium with field events at 4 p.m. and running semifinals at 4:30. All field events should be completed on Thursday, with running finals starting at 5 p.m. Friday.

Van Vlierbergen ran a 4:55 1,600 to win the Illinois Prep Top Times Indoor Classic last month and ran a 4:56 last week. Opatrny was thrilled last Saturday when she ran 4:59.85 at Marengo’s Ed Reeves Invitational, setting a meet record and edging Woodstock’s Maura Beattie, Kayla’s sister, by four seconds.

“It’s going to be a battle,” Opatrny said. “Racing with [Van Vlierbergen] is so fun, she’s so fast. The county record could be broken. That’s really what it takes is someone right in front of you.”

There are other factors, such as temperature, wind and fatigue to consider. Van Vlierbergen will run a leg of Jacobs’ 4x800 relay team and run the 800 meters as well. She will take a shot at Crystal Lake South’s Marianne Collard’s 800 record of 2:19.24.

Then, Van Vlierbergen will see if she has enough left to take on Opatrny, who is running only the 4x800 and 1,600, and perhaps break Beattie’s record.

“I’m hoping I have enough left to be able to run my race,” Van Vlierbergen said.

Van Vlierbergen said having the boys races in between girls races, with several heats, will give her more recovery time between the 800 and 1,600. The 4x200, 400 and 300 hurdles are between the 800 and 1,600. Plus, last year Van Vlierbergen ran the 800 and 1,600 in a lot of meets with great success.

Maura Beattie also could be a factor in the 1,600, but she will have run the 4x800 and 3,200 before that race and the 3,200 looks like her stronger race.

“Our [Fox Valley Conference] is really amazing,” Van Vlierbergen said. “We have a lot of depth in the mile [1,600].”

As often is the case with runners, Van Vlierbergen and Opatrny have struck up a friendship through competition. After the indoor state meet, they cooled down together. Van Vlierbergen expressed happiness for Opatrny’s breaking 5:00 and McHenry’s school record last week.

“It’s so hard to get over that mental barrier against [Van Vlierbergen],” Opatrny said. “I need to try to get a good start and not let her get too far in front of me.”

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