METAMORA — Morton coach Joe Zeller said priority No. 1 of the girls track and field sectional was to get as many girls to state as possible. And winning a sectional championship would just be icing on the cake.
Well, the Potters figuratively tasted that Cherry and Grey icing Thursday, capturing the Class 2A Metamora Sectional title by one point over No. 4 ranked Normal University, 86-85.
“That’s pretty unbelievable,” Zeller said of getting Morton’s first sectional crown in recent memory. “We knew coming in, we scored out the seed and we were down by seven. So we knew we had a shot at it. We just needed everyone to perform and they did.”
Morton received a distance double from senior Aspen Gordon to highlight seven individuals in eight events moving on to next weekend’s state meet at Eastern Illinois University.
“Everyone we thought had a chance to qualify, qualified and they all did exactly what we needed them to,” Zeller said. “They performed on the right day at the right time and the odds of that happening are not that great and they all pulled it off. It’s absolutely fantastic.”
Gordon won the 3200 in 11 minutes, 2..01 seconds — ahead of second-place teammate Meagan Moreno (11:19.56). The University of Tampa recruit later out-kicked U-High’s Ella Bittner to win the 1600 in a season-best 5:11.07 — just .12 seconds ahead of Bittner.
“Today I had the mindset of what I want to go into next week (at state), having that mindset that I’m going to have to run a hard two (mile) and run a harder one (mile).” Gordon said. “It’s a good group of girls and I knew I needed to push it tonight and give it all I’ve got, so I can prepare for next week.”
The Potters also received a title from sophomore Lauren Doerr in the long jump (school-record 18-3 ¼) and Haven Lyons shared the high jump championship with the Metamora duo of Carly Tucker and Haylee Davis (at 5-1).
Notre Dame finished third with 74.5 points — powered by titles in the 4x200 meters, 4x400 and Lucy Czirjak in the triple jump (35 feet, 5 ½ inches). The Irish qualified four individuals and two relays.
“The girls looked really good tonight,” said ND coach John Cummings. “We achieved what we hoped. The girls we thought would get through, got through and ran some good races. The 4x2 ran a fantastic race, that was a little unexpected.”
Freshman Aliza Welker provided a strong anchor leg in the 4x200, as the Irish outgunned top seed Richwoods (1:48.86) by more than a second (1:47.48). Also running for ND were Gillian McDaniel, Bella Welker and Grace Nogaj.
Notre Dame had extra motivation going into the meet.
“It was really nice because the girls really wanted to go (to state), doing it for our coach Sean, who’s in the hospital right now,” Aliza Welker said, referring to assistant coach Sean Gillen, who is in a medically induced coma after suffering a heart attack on Monday. “We did it for him.”
Notre Dame’s 4x400 finale win — with Maddie Cave, Nogaj, Aliza Welker and Teagan Cover — coupled by top-seed U-High’s fourth-place finish, helped give Morton the team crown.
Richwoods received a title from Alix Rule in the pole vault (11-6), an event that had six state qualifiers, to go along with the runner-up finishes from the 4x100, 4x200 and Seven Hicks in both the 100 and 200.
“We had a pretty good night, considering the elements,” Richwoods coach Matt Luckey said. “We fought through a couple battles (in the relays). I’m pretty proud of them for sticking it out. Alix won the pole vault and that’s a good bounce back win for her (after placing fourth in the Big 12 meet).”
Eureka qualified five individuals, including 800-meter champ Tessa Wiegand (2:22.84), as well as the second-place 4x400 and 4x800 relays.
Galesburg’s Tegan Rehn swept the hurdles, winning the 100 in :15.86 and the 300s in :47.28.
“It’s amazing,” Rehn said. “I can’t even believe it, I’m just so overwhelmed and excited and thankful I could do it today. I love this sport, so I just really pushed it with everything I had.”
Stan Morris can be reached at 686-3214 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @stanmorrispjs