PEORIA – Karlie Hey continues to impress.
The Newman freshman absolutely did not expect what transpired in her first time at the IHSA Class 1A State Meet.
Blazing through a Detweiller Park course that she ran on 3 weeks ago in the Peoria Heights Invitational, Hey obliterated her previous season-best time and rewrote the Comets’ record book. She became Newman’s highest-finishing
runner at state with a fourth-place finish in 17 minutes, 48 seconds.
Hey’s previous best was an 18:54, set 2 weeks ago at the Rock Falls Regional.
“I just had confidence in myself,” Hey said. “All my family, all my teammates were here to support me through it all. I just thought with that, and with my self-confidence, that I would do pretty good.”
Even Newman coach Pat Warkins was surprised with Hey’s race.
“She worked hard for it,” Warkins said. “She had confidence, and you could see the confidence as the year went on when you’re moving up in the ranks as far as the girls she was running against.”
Hey broke the 6-minute mark after the first mile, all while being surrounded in a lead pack of about 25 runners at that point. Eventually, she broke ahead and had just a couple of runners ahead of her by the 2-mile mark.
“It was a pretty big pack up there, and we were all pushing,” Hey said. “We were trying to get around each other to get around the corners and turns. The pack ended up leading off, and I went to the front and just hoped for the best.”
Frankie Chaidez of Immaculate Conception passed Hey in the third mile to take third, just 1 second ahead of Hey. Both are freshmen, and finished behind race-winner Emma Argo, a junior from Eureka (17:34), and runner-up Ailey Mitchell, a sophomore from Shelbyville (17:46).
Perhaps most importantly for Hey, she beat out a pair of competitors she had her minds on during this postseason: the Rock Falls sophomore duo of Bailee Fortney and Alex Gomez.
“They have been my competition the whole season,” Hey said. “I keep getting closer and closer, and I finally got a chance to beat them.”
“She was 15 seconds within those Rock Falls girls,” Warkins said. “She was confident she could stay with them. She ran her own race, and you can’t ask for anything more.”
Rock Falls kept close to each other enough to be the second-best team in the field by the 1-mile mark, led by Fortney and Gomez.
However, disaster struck the Rockets’ chances at a trophy finish with a half-mile left, when Fortney collapsed due to exhaustion.
“I didn’t really notice,” Gomez said. “I just noticed she was gone, and I just ran the rest of my race.”
Gomez finished 16th in her state debut, finishing in 18:11. She led her team to a seventh-place finish with 233 points. Tolono Unity, whom the Rockets had been contending with earlier in the race, won the team title with 108 points – just two better than runner-up St. Joseph-Ogden.
“It was a hard race,” Gomez said. “Starting off, it was just trying to know where you were, to stay behind or run in a pack. The part that really got hard was maintaining as it goes [toward the end].”
Fortney recovered to finish the race in the back of the field, but after the race was taken to a nearby hospital for tests, according to Rockets coach Mark Truesdell. She stayed overnight Saturday.
“Despite the adversity, we still had two state medalists and a girls team that finished seventh,” Truesdell said, also referring to Dawson Smith’s 15th-place finish in the boys race. “I know the girls wanted a state trophy, but fortunately they’re all young and will be back next year stronger than ever.”
Rockets freshman Bryahna Ganther was second on her team with a 26th-place finish in 18:26. Sophomore Erin Porter wasn’t too far behind in 18:32, good for 28th place.
“I knew that I had to be up with them today, and just hang on,” Porter said. “I didn’t see Bailee, but I knew she was probably close behind me. You can’t really focus on the bad things that happen. You’ve got to get past that and keep going, and that’s what we were trying to do.”
Amboy’s time at state was a disappointing one, according to Clippers coach Bob Halberg. The Clippers finished as the 25th and final team, and had none of their runners break the top 100.
“We just didn’t seem to come out to run today,” Halberg said. “They didn’t quite go out fast enough. I wouldn’t say a bad start, I just don’t think they were aware of where they needed to be. That’s the way it is sometimes. You hate to come down here and not run a good race, but they tried their hardest, and that’s all you can ask for.
“They’re disappointed in themselves, because they knew they could have run better, too.”
Kaitlyn Ortgiesen led the Clippers with a 144th-place finish in 20:46.
“I started out kind of slow, but just kind of worked through it,” Ortgiesen said. “I was getting up at my pace throughout the race.”
In the final state meet for Bureau Valley coach Dale Donner, he saw Haley Weidner complete her cross country career with a 47th-place finish in 18:54 on a wet and muddy course.
“It wasn’t fun. Definitely wasn’t my best race,” Weidner said. “It is what it is. Just got to get ready for track now.
“I wasn’t anywhere close to my best time, which is disappointing.”
This year’s time was the slowest of her three trips to state, compared to an 18:05 last year and an 18:26 her freshman year. However, the conditions certainly played a role.
“Haley’s had a great career, and has done everything we’ve asked of her,” Donner said. “I’d love to see her go out with a medal, but yet she’s mature enough and understands there are bigger things in life than this.”
Weidner started her first mile out on a decent pace, but then admitted to being a bit “sluggish” by around the 1.5-2-mile mark.
“Top 20 would have been great, and last year she was 18th, and would have liked to grow off of it,” Donner said. “I think she lost her confidence midseason. There’s a lot of good runners from our area, between Newman and Rock Falls, Amboy, and Annawan. That affects you once you get going, you think that there’s only one or two kids better, but when you come down here, you know eight kids.”
Oregon freshman Leah Watters came away from her state debut with a personal-best time of 19:31, good for 79th place. She and Byron senior Megan McCarey worked together to pick off as many runners as they could; McCarey finished 7 seconds behind Watters.
Watters also competed at the First to The Finish Meet, also held at Detweiller Park on September 9, and shaved 1:12 off her pervious best time there.
“It’s relatively flat, so its easier
than our Oregon Sectional course,” Watters said of the course, “so my times are definitely much shorter [faster] than then.”