PREP GIRLS TRACK: Carlton, Reed and Russell cap successful state careers

May 17—CHARLESTON — Just making it to state in one event, one time is an amazing accomplishment.

There are more than 600 schools in the IHSA that offer girls track & field and there are more than 10,000 athletes that attempted to qualify for this weekend's IHSA State Meet at O'Brien Field on the campus of Eastern Illinois.

Three very special athletes from Vermilion County are making their fourth and final appearances on the Big Blue Track, and for two of them their high school careers will be capped with an appearance in Saturday's state finals.

Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman senior Haley Carlton and Salt Fork senior Macie Russell secured berths in the finals on Thursday, while Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin senior Amber-Christine Reed came up short after qualifying to state in four events — 100, 200, 400 relay and 800 relay.

"It was such a wonderful feeling to qualify for state in four events," said Reed, wiping away a tear. "Even though, I have been able to qualify in all four years of high school, it has never been lost on me on how wonderful of an experience that I've been given to compete at state.

"I was so happy to qualify for 4 events this year, especially, in the 100 and (400 relay), because they have never really been my favorite events."

Reed just barely missed advancing in the 100 as her personal best time of 12.67 seconds was good enough for 11th in the prelims — top nine advance. Kaelyn Swift of North Mac got the final spot with a time of 12.61 seconds.

The other close call for Reed came in the 800 relay as the team of Aubrey Peters, Emily Dice, Nevaeh Scott and Reed had the 12th best time of 1 minute, 50.19 seconds. Newton was ninth with a 1:49.57.

"I gave everything that I had, especially in those relays," Reed said.

That was also sentiment from Russell, whose personal best time in the 800 (2:22.65) was good enough for 10th as the top 12 qualify for the state finals in that event. The future Eastern Illinois University athlete running on her future home track, got past a pair of runners in the final 200 meters, including Camryn Anderson from Kewanee Wethersfield who had the 13th best time.

"That last 200, I just went as hard as I could. I wanted to see what I could do," Russell admitted. "It's great. Now, I can't be happy with just the finals. I need to keep pushing and try for even more."

Russell will also face a difficult conflict on Saturday. As a member of the softball team, Salt Fork is scheduled to play Milford/Cissna Park for a regional title at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The finals of the 800 are tentatively scheduled for 1:55 p.m. Milford/Cissna Park sophomore Addison Lucht has the same issue after qualifying for the finals in the long jump and 400. The finals for the long jump start at 10 a.m.

"I'm going to have to look at it," she said. "I was just focused on my race today to see what I can do.

"Now, we have to figure out the details for Saturday."

While Russell contemplates he schedule on Saturday, Carlton already knows what she will be doing in the finals of the pole vault as this is her third straight year of qualifying.

"Coming back here was a very familiar feeling. I've gotten used to my routine to get ready," she said. "It was a lot more calming than in past years."

Part of that is because Carlton signed a National Letter of Intent to attend Southern Illinois University back in December.

"I have already fulfilled my goal of committing to a college," she said. "So this year, it's all about jumping and finishing strong."

And she wants a little redemption for her past two finals experiences.

"My sophomore and junior years, I cleared around 10-6 and 10-9 in the prelims to get to the finals and then I crashed both years," said Carlton, who finished 10th last year, just missing out on a state medal, and she was 12th in 2022. "Those were kind of stressful and they took a toll on my mental health.

"I think it has made me come back stronger this year, because I know how to balance my drive and adrenaline for the two days."

There were definitely no issues on Thursday for Carlton, who cleared 3.05 meters or 10 feet on her only attempt.

"I wasn't expecting to be done after clearing 10 feet," she said. "It threw me off in a good way. I got familiar with the surroundings and got a warmup for Saturday. My knees are also really thankful."

Carlton is less than a year removed from knee surgery, which definitely was an issue for her at last year's state meet.

"I had surgery over the summer and I was able to comeback in early fall," she said. "having that break to recover did me really well. I've been able to PR this year."

Joining Russell and Carlton in Saturday's finals will be Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin senior Ella McFarland in the high jump and triple jump. She is the only Vermilion County athlete to reach the finals in multiple events on Thursday.

"My second jump was a little close, but it went my way," said McFarland of clearing 1.53 meters.

"Everything resets on Saturday, but in the triple jump, I was really hoping to do better," she said of her 10.51 distance, which was good enough for 10th with the top 12 advancing.

Joining McFarland in the triple jump finals will be Hoopeston Area junior Claire Dixon and Westville junior Ella Miller, who each jumped 10.46 meters to take the 11th and 12th spots.

For Miller, the triple jump was one of three events on Thursday, as she ran a personal best 16.46 in the 100 hurdles, which was only good enough for 12th, while her 300 hurdles time was 51.65.

"I'm happy that I made it to the finals in the triple jump and I am really happy to run a personal best in the 100 hurdles," Miller said, noting her only disappointment was her final attempt in triple jump. "I scratched by a toe. That was easily going to be my best jump.

"I just need to get on the board on Saturday and jump farther."

McFarland is also one of three Vermilion County athletes to qualify for the finals in the high jump. Hoopeston Area senior Vivian Walsh and Bis-Henn/Ross-Al sophomore Natalie Thomason also cleared 1.53 meters on Thursday.

Oakwood senior Nikita Taylor and three Salt Fork freshmen, Hannah Downing, Brylee Filicsky and Callie Richardson, competed on Thursday but were unable to qualify for Saturday's finals.

Taylor was 16th in the long jump at 4.92 meters. Downing was 17th in the 300 hurdles with a time of 50.02 seconds. Filicksy was 26th in the discus with a throw of 28.30 meters and Richardson, who will run in the finals of the 3,200 on Saturday, was 23rd in the 1,600 with a season-best time of 5:27.37.