Over the past 6 years, it's been easy to find Rock Falls' Shasta Day on girls state track weekend.
It was simple to track her down again Friday.
Having qualified for the state meet every year since seventh grade, the senior sprinter closed out her career in the same place she's finished every season of her life for the last half-decade.
Running in the 100 and 200 dashes, as well as the leadoff leg of the 800 relay, Day was soaking in as much atmosphere as possible during the Class 2A prelims in Charleston.
"I've been here 6 years in a row, and it's kind of sad to think that I won't be back," she said. "But there are so many great memories, and I have no regrets at all."
Dixon's Brittany Schwarz was running the same gamut of emotions after the Duchesses missed the finals in the 3,200 relay. A mainstay at O'Brien Stadium the past two track seasons, Schwarz didn't even think she was going to get the chance to see the blue track again
Suffering throughout the season with an ailing right foot, the senior middle-distance runner gutted out one final performance on the big stage. She took solace in adding another school record to the one she already has in the 800.
"I'm just really glad I got the chance in this relay to come down one more time," said Schwarz, who had made the finals in the open 800 each of the last 2 years. "I'm so used to running the open races, but it was fun to come down and run as a team. It's great to know our names are going to be up on the wall at school, and to know that we all did it together."
Schwarz's foot was feeling fine this week, until she started warming up Friday. But there was no noticeable limp until she crossed the finish line as the anchor, where she embraced teammates Katie Pitman, Maggie Bushman and Clara Thorpe and told them she was proud of what they had accomplished.
"Of all the days to have my foot start bothering me again," Schwarz said. "But I didn't really think about it while I was running, and I wanted to run well for these girls. It's been great being part of this team, and we were all pumped up coming into today – and we ran like it."
Day's praise of teammates Sydney Arickx, Dallas Clevenger and Michaela Bush was also effusive after the 800 relay. She shared hugs and short conversations with all three underlassmen, then turned her focus to the "scary" 200 – a race she hadn't run at state since seventh grade, and one in which she was apprehensive about the speed of her competitors.
But about an hour later, after that scary 200 had been run, she took a moment to enjoy the excitement and fun she's had at her favorite meet of the year. Then, thoughts turned again, this time to what could have been.
"The move to 2A last year was tough, and a little disappointing," Day said. "I could run my fastest 100, and I still wouldn't come close to some of these girls.
"But it's great to be back, no matter what, and I'm excited for a new start next year [at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa]. Maybe I'll even try and run track in college."
Schwarz echoed that statement, albeit an hour and a half earlier. She will take her talents to Illinois-Chicago, where she hopes to keep pushing herself to reach her full potential.
"It's been a great few years, always ending the season down here, and I can' ask for anything more," she said. "Now, I'm going to get started on next year, and the next great adventure."