PREP GIRLS TRACK: Nickiya Shields falls short in state prelims

May 18—CHARLESTON — O'Brien Field in Charleston is quickly turning into house of horrors for Danville's Nickiya Shields.

The junior just missed qualifying in both the 100 and 300 hurdles races on Friday in the IHSA Class 3A State Meet. Shields had the 10th best time in both events with the top nine advancing to today's finals.

In the 100 hurdles, Shields missed qualifying by 0.11 seconds (11 hundredths) while her time in the 300 hurdles 0.57 seconds off the ninth-place time.

"That race in the 100 is still disappointing," she said even before learning her result in the 300 hurdles. "If I would have gotten my trail leg down faster, that, we would have been in the finals. Things happen. All you can do it just run it back and see what you can do better."

Earlier this season, Shields said she would need a 14.6 at state. Her time was 14.77 seconds and the final qualifier was Kyla Motley of Palos Heights Shepard with a 14.66.

"If I just would have run that 14.6, we wouldn't be in this predicament," she said.

Ironically, she ran a 14.78 in the prelims last year at state and qualified for the finals, where she set her blocks wrong and went over the first hurdle with the wrong leg. She wound up eight in the state with a time of 15.77 seconds.

Immediately following her third-place finish in her heat of the 300 hurdles, Shields basically conceded that she was going to miss the finals.

After taking ninth in the state the past two seasons, Shields ran a season-best time of 45.36 on Friday.

"I was messing up," she said. "Even though I was alternating my lead foot, the hurdles were coming up too quickly and I had to adjust myself. So I had to jump over them rather than go through them."

A year ago, Shields was hopeful the extra experience would help her in the future. Now, the junior has only one more chance at the two hurdle races.

There was a saving grace for Shields on Friday, her jump of 11.50 meters (37 feet, 8.75 inches) in the triple jump was good enough for seventh, advancing her to today's state finals.

"That was my best event," she said. "But, it could have been better. I wasn't even on the board.

"Tomorrow, we have to work on getting on the board."

So, what kind of distance does she want in the finals?

"My (personal record) is 11-8, so if we can get to 12 meters — it will be cool," she said.

Shields wasn't the only Viking to reach today's state finals.

Sophomore Gabi Huerta cleared a personal best 1.58 meters or 5 feet, 2.25 inches and she will be one of 19 competitors in today's finals.

"This means a lot," she said. "My first PR this year was 4-9 and I think I just cleared like 5-3. I have been working my tail off to try and get to this moment."

And Huerta did it in style, as she wore a paper Burger King crown while waiting her turn to jump in the third flight.

Was this a regular thing for Huerta during a meet?

"This is the first time that I wore the crown," she said. "I just felt like a queen today."

Early this week, Danville senior PerSirus Menifield and sophomore Victor Jones snapped a 22-year drought for a Viking boy to qualify for state in the high jump.

Huerta admitted her and the boys talk a little about their successes in practice.

"PerSirus is always talking about somebody," Huerta said. "I told them earlier this week that if I can make state, then they could definitely make state."

Now, she wants to see them make the state finals, but first, she has her shot at a state medal.

Huerta wasn't the only first time state qualifier competing for Danville on Friday.

The Vikings 400- and 800-meter relay teams comprised of two sophomores (Taniyah Reynolds and Da'Sani Lewis) along with two freshmen (Jhe'Nyi Parker and Ashanti Conaway) ran a season best time of 47.94 in the 400, while their time of 1:42.50 was just 0.11 seconds slower than their sectional time.

But those times were only good enough for 13th in the 400 relay and 17 in the 800 relay, but just getting to state was their major accomplishment.

"Today was mostly about experience and being here for the first time," said Reynolds, who was also 15th in the 100-meter dash with a personal best 12.18 seconds. "We knew that if we didn't make the finals this year, than we can come back and do it next year."

Reynolds credited Danville assistant coach Emone Davis for having an impact on the sprinters.

"I love her," Reynolds said "She is one of the best coaches. When I first met here, it was a little rocky, but I got used to her and she has really helped me get better."

Today's state finals will begin at 10 a.m.