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Feels a lot like home

Bureau Valley's Lindsey Hoffert and Oregon's Cydney Long run next to each other during the 1A state preliminary of the 200 in Charleston.
Bureau Valley's Lindsey Hoffert and Oregon's Cydney Long run next to each other during the 1A state preliminary of the 200 in Charleston.

Imagine, if you will, traveling 4 hours in a car. Now, imagine if, when you reach your destination, you get out of your car and see the same people you saw before you left.

Seems silly to drive all that way, just to see people you could easily visit less than an hour from your hometown.

Yet here were Bureau Valley sophomore Lindsey Hoffert and Erie-Prophetstown freshman Peyton Rus, a pair of Three Rivers gals who battled it out in the Erie Sectional last weekend, once again standing side by side in the long jump.

If that wasn't enough, teammate and classmate Rachel Cobert was having an equally eerie experience. Everywhere she looked during Thursday's Class 1A preliminaries at the IHSA girls state track & field meet in Charleston, she saw familiar, friendly faces. 

Besides the three finals-qualifying relays she spent celebrating with the rest of the E-P crew, Cobert also wound up competing alongside teammate Paige Rus in her lone individual event, the triple jump (she qualified for the finals in that, too).

"It's just kind of weird," Cobert said, "coming all this way to spend the whole day with people you run with every day at practice and see in the halls at school. It felt kind of like a regular meet – but it was really cool to have such a special experience on one of the biggest stages we'll ever see."

It's not always competing with and against teammates on the famous blue track that provides a special memory. Sometimes, it's area rivals that provide the extra spark and incentive to pick up your game.

Hoffert was the perfect example of that Thursday. After being placed in the same flight with Rus – and actually leaping just ahead of her – in the long jump, the Storm sophomore only had to look to her left in her other event, the 200 dash. There, lining up in the blocks beside her, was Oregon junior Cydney Long.

"It was really cool, and still very odd," Hoffert said. "I mean, Peyton and I push each other to get better at meets all the time, then I turn around and Cydney's right there next to me in the 200.

"I like it, though. It helps with the butterflies a little bit when you have someone there to talk to … and also someone where you know what they're capable of and can kind of pace off them."

It seemed to help both long jumpers, and Hoffert qualified for finals with the fourth-best jump in prelims, with Rus just two spots behind.

"It makes it more exciting," Rus said, "because you now where you stand with someone, and know what to expect both competitively and as a friend."

Peyton's older sister Paige couldn't agree more. After competing against – yet still supporting – Cobert in the triple jump, Paige finished with the best leap of the day.

But about an hour later, it was a more of the same for the Panthers: Three Rivers rival Riverdale was there next to them, one lane to the right, to finish off the day in the 1,600 relay.

"It sure does seem crazy," Paige Rus said. "It's like we never left home. The same flight with Rachel, the same heat with Riverdale … you couldn't imagine getting that to happen even if you planned it that way."

Cue the theme from The Twilight Zone … wanna take a drive?

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