CHARLESTON, Ill. • Lena Giger became the first Highland female track athlete to win a state championship when she won the shot put Saturday in the Illinois Class 2A state track meet at O'Brien Stadium at Eastern Illinois University.
A sophomore, Giger captured the title with a heave of 43 feet 5 inches on her last throw.
“I came here to win, and that's what I was going to do,” she said. “I think nerves got to me. I've never really had nerves get to me. I think they did that today and (Friday). I came here as a freshman and didn't have nerves. This year, I felt like I had to do something. I did.”
Giger had a best throw of 41-7½ Friday, putting her second behind Gabi Jacobs of Normal (42-2¼). And it looked like Giger would have to settle for second after two of three throws.
But Giger unleashed her state-winning heave on her last chance.
“I think I was just a little calmer. I was relaxed,” she said. “I was relaxed. I figured if I wasn't relaxed, I couldn't do it.”
In Class 1A, Mater Dei took home top honors in the 3,200-meter relay, stopping the timer in 9 minutes 33.49 seconds.
“It felt great. I can't believe it,” said sophomore Madeline Lager, who ran the third leg for the Knights. “I was freaking out for this. I can't believe it.”
The team of Laura Schlueter, Kourtney Huelskamp, Lager and Ellen Toennies trailed briefly in the race, during the second leg. But Huelskamp made a pass on the turn for home and opened up a huge lead for Lager, who extended the advantage for Toennies.
“Ellen always kicks it in, and we knew she wasn't going to let anyone pass her,” Lager said.
Even though she was running in the slow heat of the 3,200 run on Saturday, Freeburg's Kristen Busch said on Friday she would win the event.
Busch backed up her words with an eight-lap time of 10:54.74, almost three seconds faster than Katie Adams of Marengo (10:57.48), who ran in the fast heat.
“I think it was just my mindset,” said Busch, who later was second in the 1,600 to Adams. “I kind of doubted it at first being in the slow heat. But I had a lot of support from my parents, my teammates and my coaches. They made me believe I could do it, and I just went out there and ran against the clock.”
In Class 3A, Belleville East won the 800 relay (1:39.77) when anchor runner Aniecia Brewster ran down East St. Louis anchor Brandy Griffin (1:39.81) at the wire.
“We wanted it from the beginning, and we ran hard,” Brewster said. “I gave it all the end. At one point, I did want to stop, but I just told myself (the seniors Jessica McCaskill and Chante Mosby) needed this. So I didn't stop and pushed harder and harder. I knew I could catch her.”
In Class 1A, Metro East Lutheran sprinter Jessica Jump won the school's first girls state title when she took top honors in the 200 (25.43) over Danielle Crawley of Sherrad (25.68).
“This feels great. I'm so excited,” said Jump, who also was fifth in the 100 (12.30) and third in the 400 (57.99). “Everything was tough on me today. The 200 was one thing I wanted to hold onto and win. I knew what I needed to do, and I knew I could do it.”