No Sterling girls track and field athlete stole the show Saturday at the NIB-12 Indoor Conference Meet at Westwood Athletic Complex. Instead, the Golden Warriors shared the spotlight.
Sterling finished fifth overall with 44 points against rugged competition the likes of DeKalb (first place, 110 points), Yorkville (second place, 85.5 points) and Kaneland (third place, 66 points). The indoor track-and-field complex was buzzing all day long, making for an atmosphere that resembled Charleston at times.
“It gets electric in here,” Sterling coach Tyler Gaumer said. “Part of that is the level of competition, with several top teams in Illinois coming in. It’s exciting. We talked to the kids about appreciating it, because this isn’t an all-the-time thing.”
A top-two finish eluded every Sterling girl, but six third-place finishes and personal records across the board led to the respectable showing.
“We had some really good things happen to us today,” Gaumer said. “We had a couple great individual performances, and it was a quality team effort all the way around. I’m really proud of the kids.”
The best individual performance came from junior Erin Long. The versatile Long collected three third-place medals on the day. She started in the morning with a 16-foot, 10 1/2-inch leap in the long jump. It’s a mark she’s proud of, but hopes it’s just the starting number for the 2017 season.
“I feel like I can do a lot better,” Long said. “I need to work on some little things. I want to be a 17-plus jumper. I’ll be up there soon.”
Long switched to the track events in the afternoon, and had no problem with the transition. She placed third in the 60-meter dash (:8.00) and the 200 (:26.32). The junior should get stronger as the season switches to the outdoors.
“She has become a machine for us as we’ve gone through this process,” Gaumer said, “and she’s done it with hard work, grit and determination. She’s accomplished everything she’s wanted to, so that should give her confidence going into the outdoor season.”
The Warriors’ 3,200 relay team of Megan and Madlyn Barnhart, Maggie McPherson and Maddison Bland finished third in a school record-breaking time of 10:30.31. DeKalb and Yorkville finished in the top two slots well ahead, but Sterling was just fine in reaching their own goals.
“We went into it knowing there would be good competition,” McPherson said. “We talked about that if we each cut off a few seconds, we would break our indoor record and run PR’s. I think we were happy about how we did.”
McPherson also had a big day as an individual. With 200 meters to go in the 1,600, the senior held a slim lead over DeKalb’s Katherine Olson and Kaneland’s Rachel Richtman. With 100 meters to go, Olson and Richtman slipped past McPherson and closed well. Still, breaking her personal record by a whopping 4 seconds in the event was the best time Gaumer has ever seen in the race.
“We thought she ran a great tactical race. Everybody ran off of her,” Gaumer said. “We wanted it to run like a championship-style race, with a frenetic finish at the end. She did a great job of pacing herself in the first six laps. She ran great. It’s right where we want her to be.”
“I didn’t really know what the pace was going to be like, so I thought I’d run my pace,” McPherson said. “I wasn’t going to get behind people or get boxed in. I was a little nervous leading, but as long as I was comfortable that I’d be fine. I knew they were literally right on my heels.”
Sterling sophomore Zaina Rumbolz also took home a third-place medal after clearing the 8-6 mark in the pole vault. The Warriors’ focus will now turn to the outdoor season as the temperature rises. After running in a meet every Saturday in March at Westwood, Sterling is ready to compete on the track at Roscoe Eades Stadium.
“I’m always ready,” Gaumer said with a smile. “We’re very excited for outdoor track and field.”