BY CHAD DARE
Not a lot of freshmen make the finals in the IHSA Class 1A State Track Meet.
On Thursday afternoon, the Salt Fork Storm had two advanced to the finals in three events on Saturday.
Jenny Kimbro left very little doubt in either hurdles race, as she ran the second fastest preliminary time in the 100 hurdles and she won her heat in the 300 hurdles.
“I think it was really good that I ran the 4-by-1 relay first,’’ said Kimbro, who was the leadoff runner for the Salt Fork relay. “I was able to get all my jitters out on that race.’’
And a little competition in the 100 hurdles also paid off.
Aurora Christian junior Peyton Wade ran stride-for-stride with Kimbro.
Wade nipped Kimbro at the finish line, posting the day’s fastest time of 15.12 seconds, while Kimbro had the second fastest of 15.20.
“We were close the whole time,’’ Kimbro said. “Being able to see someone out of the corner of your eye, or ahead of you, it makes you go faster. You have someone to strive for.’’
Kimbro admitted it wasn’t her fastest time of the year, but she’s hoping to run that in Saturday’s finals.
And while the 100 hurdles is an event that Kimbro took second in the IESA state meet last year, making the finals in the 300 hurdles is quite a shock considering how she started the year.
“The first time that I ran the 300, it was something like 50 seconds,’’ she said. “I would have never thought I would be here.’’
It’s a race that Kimbro admits she is still learning how to run.
“It’s a lot different,’’ she said. “It’s the most tiring race for me. I know before I start that by the time I’m done, I’m going to be gasping for air.
“You have to have a lot of heart to run it. In the last 100 it’s really, really hard and you get really, really tired.’’
Freshman teammate Abby Nicholson overcame a bad performance in the shot put, she failed to qualify, to have the eighth best toss in the discus.
“It was really bad. I think it was the freshman nerves at state,’’ Nicholson said. “I felt more determined when I got over to the discus to make the finals because of it.
“Everyone here is amazing and it’s just an honor to make the finals.’’
While the freshmen had all good news for Salt Fork, senior Toria Plotner saw her career end without a finals appearance.
Plotner, who was dealing with a viral infection, did run the anchor leg on the Storm’s school-record 400 relay (51.01 seconds) but she didn’t have enough to reach the finals in either 400 or 200.
“It’s very frustrating,’’ Plotner said. “I got it after sectionals and I’ve been getting better each day, but I can’t breathe like I normally do and I don’t feel like myself.
“I couldn’t go anymore. My legs were giving out. I wasn’t sure if I was going to finish.’’
Making the finals in the 400 or breaking the 1-minute mark was Plotner’s goal in the 400, an event that she qualified for state in four consecutive years.
“It just didn’t happen for me,’’ she said. “Luckily, I get to go to the next level.
“And, at least I can say that I set a school record in my final meet.’’
Plotner, who will run track next year at Rend Lake College, said she was really proud of Kimbro and Nicholson.
“Jenny is just an exceptional athlete,’’ Plotner said. “It just comes very natural to her.
“She works really hard and she deserves it.’’
While Plotner failed to make the finals in four straight appearances, Bismarck-Henning’s Mary Bass is still searching for her first spot in the finals.
On Thursday, the Blue Devil junior had a time of 13.103 seconds in the 100, just missing the finals by .23 of a second. Bass was seeded seventh based off sectional times.
“It was hotter and I was just bad out of the block,’’ Bass said. “It’s hard to make up when you don’t get off to a good start.
“I’ll just have to try it again next year.’’
Joining Kimbro and Nicholson in Saturday’s finals from the Vermilion Valley Conference will be Schlarman junior Janelle Marion in the long jump and Bismarck-Henning’s Jessica Hall in the shot put.
Marion jumped almost five inches farther than her sectional jump and he distance 16 feet, 3½ inches is ninth heading into Saturday’s finals.
Hall, who qualified for state as a freshman, threw a season-best 35 feet, 7 inches on Thursday. It’s the 10th best toss heading into the finals.
The Class 2A and 3A preliminaries are set for today at O’Brien Stadium in Charleston.
Finals in all three classes will be held on Saturday, starting at 10 a.m.