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Sense of belonging: Erie-Prophetstown stands pat against bigger schools

Erie-Prophetstown senior Cassie Reiley lands during the triple jump Friday during the Sterling Night Relays. The Panthers hung with the much-bigger schools in the eight-team field and placed fourth.
Erie-Prophetstown senior Cassie Reiley lands during the triple jump Friday during the Sterling Night Relays. The Panthers hung with the much-bigger schools in the eight-team field and placed fourth.

STERLING – Erie-Prophetstown was not picking on somebody its own size. It was picking on somebodies considerably bigger.

The Class 1A Panthers went toe-to-toe with fierce 2A and 3A competition at the Night Relays on Friday night at Dietz Track.

Erie-Prophetstown won the 800- and 1,600-meter relays and got four individual-event wins. The Panthers scored 80 points to finish fourth in the eight-team meet.

“They belonged just as much as anybody else here tonight,” said Sterling coach Tyler Gaumer, whose squad got one team win and two individual victories.

Sterling showcased its depth, finishing second to Rock Island, 117-91. Geneseo was third with 84.5 points. Rock Falls took fifth (48 points) and Dixon sixth (35.5).

Erie-Prophetstown left no doubt in winning the 1,600 relay as the quartet of Courtney Cobert, Paige Rus, Cassie Reiley and Rachel Cobert had a time of 4:09.27, nearly 3 seconds better than Rock Island.

The 800 relay win was much more nerve-racking. The Panthers and Rock Island were neck-and-neck until the last exchange.

“Me and the Rock Island girl [Troy Jackson] took off, then all the sudden I coudn’t see her anymore,” EP anchor Rachel Cobert said.

That’s because Jackson and Olivia Brooks had a horrific final exchange. Jackson made a heroic charge but Cobert appeared to hold her off, although the Rocks were disqualified for the bad exchange.

“I had a little spark of hope get in me,” Cobert said. “But, she made it real close at the end. She scared me a little bit.”

Paige Rus broke the school record in winning the triple jump (36-5). She also tied for first in the high jump (5-0). Her sister Peyton won the long jump (17-3).

“My goal throughout high school has been to beat the school record,” Paige Rus said of her record-setting triple-jump performance. The old record was 35-9. “I’ve been an inch and half away for the past 2 years. Things finally came together tonight.”

Sterling won the team high jump (14-4), with Krista Loos winning individually. Her teammate, Lauren Zuidema, dominated the pole vault, winning by 2 1/2 feet with her PR effort of 10-9.

“It was perfect conditions. This is a confidence boost,” Zuidema said. “It was actually pretty easy. Hopefully I’ll make 11 [feet] soon.”

Dixon won the 3,200 relay (10:04.07) and 1,600 team race.

“It was great because we haven’t really run as a team yet,” said Maggie Bushman, who anchored the 3,200 relay. “That’s the fastest I’ve ever run the 800. It was pretty tiring.”

Dixon’s Brittany Schwarz won the 1,600 individually.

“It was the first time I ran it this season,” she said. “I kind of forgot how to run it. I just wanted to stay in the lead pack and get it at the end.”

Gaumer was thrilled with his team’s performance.

“I pointed this out, and we were seeded fourth,” he said. “So for us to get second it above and beyond. We’re getting to the right place at the right time. It’s exciting.”

Rock Falls won the fresh-soph 1,600 and 1,600 medley relays.

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