CHARLESTON – Lauren Van Vlierbergen needed some time to comprehend what she had accomplished.
Almost 2 hours after winning the Class 3A 800 meters was not enough.
“It seems so weird to say I’m a state champion,” the Jacobs junior said.
Yet it also seems appropriate. Van Vlierbergen had the best 800 times in the state and was not seriously challenged at the girls track and field state meet Saturday at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium.
Van Vlierbergen finished in 2:10.14 to become the first girls state champion in her school’s history. After crossing the finish line, she looked to her family in the crowd and smiled. Golden Eagles coach Ryan Lemanski was near tears as he hugged Sherri Van Vlierbergen, Lauren’s mother.
“I couldn’t let go,” Lemanski said. “I can’t stop shaking.”
Van Vlierbergen came back about 90 minutes after the 800 and took fifth place in the 1,600.
Three other area athletes earned two medals Saturday. Cary-Grove’s Morgan Schulz was Class 3A runner-up in the 300 low hurdles and took seventh in the 800. Crystal Lake Central’s Celeste Madda took a pair of seventh-place medals, in the Class 3A 100 and 200. And Woodstock’s Maura Beattie was Class 2A runner-up in the 3,200 and took fifth with the Blue Streaks’ 4x800 relay team.
Also in Class 3A, Crystal Lake Central’s Claire Dalman took fourth in the pole vault, McHenry’s Lauren Opatrny was sixth in the 1,600 and Huntley’s Delaney Lyman was ninth in pole vault.
Van Vlierbergen ran an aggressive race, completing the first lap in 1:02, and no one went out with her. She won by almost 3 seconds.
“We saw four girls that might challenge her,” Lemanski said. “She executed the perfect plan to get out in about 61 seconds. Everything was all about the 800 with her. After this, the 1,600 is gravy.”
Van Vlierbergen preferred going out hard, although she felt the effects of the 800 and 1,600 in back-to-back days.
“I was pretty tired, I just tried to give everything I had at the end [of the 800],” she said. “I like going out fast and not saving anything. I was feeling yesterday a little bit today.”
Schulz was trying a rare and difficult double in her races. Although her 800 time (2:16.09) was off her qualifying time from Friday, her 300 hurdles time (43.28) was close (43.02). Few athletes have attempted those two races at state, let alone medaled in both.
West Aurora senior Emma Spagnola, who will run at Minnesota, won the 300 hurdles in 42.45. Schulz, the No. 2 seed, was in Lane 6, while Spagnola, the top seed, was in Lane 5.
“I wanted to be sure to get out fast. I had Emma on my inside and I could hear her coming,” Schulz said. “I tried to hold her off as long as possible. At the beginning of the season, I didn’t know I’d be running the 800, so to be an All-Stater in that too, I was really excited. I surprised myself.”
Dalman, who will vault at Montana next year, cleared 11 feet, 6 inches, then passed at 11-9 but missed on her three attempts at 12-0 to take fourth place. Lyman tied her career-best at 11-0 for ninth. The two shared a large umbrella for shade during the competition.
“I was disappointed – I was looking beyond 12-0,” said Dalman, who made 12-3 this season. “I was confident in my jumps at 12-0, but it didn’t happen. [Fourth] is not what I was going for.”
Madda felt like she peaked at the most opportune time to qualify from Friday’s preliminaries in both sprints.
“It’s very exciting,” Madda said. “It’s hard running two days in a row. I’m proud of myself. I just wanted to get to the finals, and I ran my best times [in Friday] and did that.”