BURLINGTON – There was nothing slow about Emily Crossley's performance in one of the slow heats of the 400 at the Class 2A Burlington Central Sectional on Friday night.
Crossley ran the race of her life to finish second in the race and earn a berth in next week's state meet in Charleston. She will be joined by four other Golden Warriors at state. Rock Falls and Dixon each qualified in three events.
There were four heats in the 400, and Crossley, with a previous best of 1 minute, 2.62 seconds, was in the third heat and a longshot to gain a spot at state. She blazed to a time of 1:01.85 to easily win her heat, then had to sweat out the final heat.
Hampshire's Ashley Fouch won the race in 1:00.56, while Freeport's Lakonka Collins was next in 1:01.93. A Pretzels coach actually wanted to view a tape of the third heat to make sure Crossley's time was legit. His request was denied, and Crossley became an unlikely state qualifier.
"Going in and knowing I was in the third heat and not in the fast heat, I just thought it was against the clock and nobody else, and that worked for me," Crossley said. "I don't think I could be any more proud."
"You always hope that your seniors will rise to the challenge," Sterling coach Tyler Gaumer said, "and that was absolutely, 100 percent what Emily did."
Three more Golden Warriors finished second to earn state berths. They were Peyton Cater in the 100 (13.00), Mercedes Sanchez in the 3,200 (11:38) and Lauren Zuidema in the pole vault (10-3).
Sanchez ran a personal best by 3 seconds, while Cater's time was also a best by 32-hundredths.
"I just went out hard and did the best I could," Sanchez said. "I tried to stay up with the leaders."
Also earning a berth was Morgan Zuidema, who cleared 5-2 in the high jump. She finished third, but equaled the qualifying standard.
It was the first time the sophomore cleared that height, after making 5-0 at least six times.
"We worked on arching our back this week in practice, and that helped a lot," Zuidema said.
Leading the way for Rock Falls was Shasta Day, who won the 100 (12.88) and took second in the 200 (26.95).
"I'm just happy I made it," Day said. "Last year, I got third place and didn't even make it. To get first place [in the 100], that's just awesome."
The Rockets also qualified in the 800 relay. Day, Sydney Arickx, Michaela Busch and Dallas Clevenger took second in 1:50.68.
Dixon was paced by Lexy Duncan, who won the long jump (17-1 1/4) and 200 (26.65). Her previous best 200 time was 26.91.
"I felt good," Duncan said after winning the 200. "I felt like I was a new person after that. I was so pumped."
The Duchesses also moved on in the 3,200 relay. Brittany Schwarz, Maggie Bushman, Clare Thorpe and Katie Pitman finished second in 9:53.96. It was a season best by nearly 11 seconds, and broke the school record 9:54.1 set in 2012.
Kaneland won the meet with 83 points, nine more than runner-up Hampshire. Burlington Central (69), Sterling (58) and Sycamore (52) rounded out the top five squads.
Rock Falls (40) finished sixth, while Dixon (37) was eighth.