Girls Track: Area athletes taking aim at state finals
By Gene Chamberlain For Sun-Times Media May 17, 2012 4:54PM
South Elgin's Jordan Tuin (left) is among the area athletes making a repeat appearance at this weekend's girls state track meet. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 29, 2012 9:37AM
A handful of area athletes are very familiar with the O’Brien Stadium track at Eastern Illinois University after making it to the state girls track meet in years past.
None, however, are in the situation Burlington Central’s Alexa Tovsen is when she makes a fourth trip to state. She will be running not in the 400 meters that provided her previous berths. Instead, she is a qualifier in an event she just started this season — the 300-meter hurdles.
Tovsen’s time of 46.11 seconds is tied for the fifth-best sectional hurdle effort heading into state, only 1.29 seconds off the best time of 44.82 by Shamier Little of Lindblom.
“Alexa was a darn good 400 runner, but the coaches sat down and looked at it after last season and thought it was going to take something in the high 56s to get into finals in the 400,” said Central coach Vince Neil.
Tovsen had failed to make it with a 1:00.06 last year and had not placed as a freshman or sophomore either. Despite great speed she had been the only Rocket of 12 who went downstate last year and didn’t come back with a medal.
“We looked at how fast and how agile she is and decided to have her try the hurdles,” Neil said. “We thought, ‘why can’t she run in the 45s for the 300s?’
“She put a ton of time in working with the hurdles and we have a great hurdles coach, Tom Miller. Even though she’d never even dabbled at the hurdles at all, she did it. Her goal is to get to Saturday (finals). And we’ll take our shot with the rest.”
Tovsen is not the only highly seeded Rocket. Autumn Conn’s pole vault effort of 10 feet, 9 inches in sectional is good for sixth seed, although she’s well off the top effort of 13-0. But second-seed Chelsea Bingham of Effingham only went 12 feet.
“Autumn has gone 12 feet before, so we’re hopeful she can make a run for a high finish,” Neil said.
Central’s Kayla Wolf is a 10th seed in the 800 but like with Conn, her sectional seed time of 2:19.43 could be deceiving.
“She felt she ran a poor race and we think she can go much faster,” Neil said.
Central’s other state qualifier is high jumper Brenda Thasavaong (4-10).
Hampshire’s Ashley Fouch is an eighth seed in the 200 dash (25.6 seconds). The Whip-Purs’ 800 relay team is also at state. Genoa-Kingston’s Daniele Neisendorf, a 10th seed in the high jump (5-2) is the area’s other 2A qualifier.
St. Charles East’s Kelsey Gentry, Jordan Shead and Britney Williams had won their share of individual events over the years, and all year they looked forward to what could happen if the “dream team” was assembled. The three teamed up with Allison Chmelik to win the 1,600 relay at last week’s sectional in a school record time of 3:57.61, and the time has them seeded fourth heading to state.
Belleville West (3:55.70), Evanston (3:55.85), and East St. Louis (3:56.47) produced the only better sectional efforts.
“With time to work together on our handoffs now, we can drop even more time,” Shead said.
Williams thinks she can make a difference on the anchor.
“I think I need to work on my finish — hopefully I can get that down,” she said.
Individually, Shead is the fifth seed in the 400 (56.77) and Williams the 10th seed (57.5).
Teammate Annie Martines, a senior, is seeded sixth in the 300 hurdles (45.21), 3.03 seconds off the best time (Margaret Bamgbose, Evanston).
South Elgin’s Jordan Tuin is not among the favorites in the 800 with her sectional time of 2:18.76 but thinks she’ll knock time off and make a run at finals in what is sure to be a fast pace early in the race.
“Hopefully because I’ve been there, I know how fast girls go there now, I can be prepared for that,” she said.
Among other area athletes, Allie Virgilio of Jacobs might rate the best chance for a state title. She finished third in the triple jump last year and comes in seeded second at 39-1 1/4, 10 1/4 inches off the best distance.
Huntley’s Omo Tseumah is in a tie for second seed at 5-5 in the high jump.