Two Orion girls compete in state track meet

Kayci Woodley
Madi Schulenberg, a freshman from Orion, competes in the high jump preliminaries at the state track meet on Thursday, May 19, at O’Brien Stadium on the Eastern Illinois University, Charleston.

Orion Chargers Ashley Anderson and Madi Schulenberg began their IHSA girls’ State track meet experience with a four-hour drive to Charleston on Wednesday, May 18.

And for one Charger, the competition didn’t end until the finals on Saturday, May 21.

After jumping 5-foot-1 in the preliminaries, freshman Schulenberg advanced to the finals and brought home a 12th place finish.

Of the top 12 finishers, Schulenberg was one of two freshmen mixed with a slew of upperclassmen, along with two sophomores.

Junior Ashley Anderson was unable to advance to the finals, but ran a career-best time on the blue track at Eastern Illinois.

The first high jump flight commenced at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 19, at O’Brien Stadium. Schulenberg’s flight, the third, started at approximately noon that day. Twelve other jumpers battled against Schulenberg in the prelims of the final flight, but only six advanced to the finals.

On the opening height of 4-foot-11, Schulenberg cleared the bar on her third attempt and a roar from the Charger cheering section erupted. Next, the officials raised the bar two inches to 5-foot-1, and Schulenberg leaped the bar on her second try.

After having trouble getting her steps down, Schulenberg failed to clear 5-foot-2, but fortunately nailing the 5-foot-1 mark was enough to send her to the finals.

“It was my goal to make it to the finals even though I’m only a freshman,” Schulenberg said. “I’m a very competitive person and always want to do my best.”

Schulenberg thought she’d been eliminated after missing 5-foot-2, but the official spoke to her as she was about to leave and explained that if the final jumper failed to clear the height, she would be in the finals. Only seven girls cleared the 5-foot-2 mark, which meant the 14 jumpers who cleared 5-foot-1 were able to advance. When the prelims concluded, Schulenberg was in a 14-way tie for eighth place.

While Schulenberg was still competing in high jump, Anderson began her race in the third heat of the 800-meter run. Coming around the first curve, Anderson had a quick pace and was in the second position for the first half of lap one.

Rounding out the first lap, Anderson had dropped back to fourth place, but kept her speed throughout the remainder of the race. Coming around the first curve of the second lap, Ashley passed near the high jump pit where teammate Schulenberg was there to support her.

“While I was running, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to keep up with the other girls, but on my second lap the cheering from Madi made me laugh and gave me a little bit of a second wind,” Anderson said.

In between jumping 5-foot-1 and waiting for the bar to be raised, Schulenberg had a chance to loudly cheer on her teammate as she came around the track.

Heading into the final stretch, Anderson was on the heels of the fourth-place runner, and finished just six-tenths of a second behind Brandy Dedecker of Murphysboro. Anderson ran a time of 2:21.7, nearly three seconds faster than her personal best this season.

At first the three-time state qualifier wasn’t sure how fast she’d actually run, but a glance at the clock resulted in fulfillment.

“My goal going into state was to make finals, but I can’t be upset with running a 2:21,” Anderson said. “I had no idea my time was that fast until after the race when I looked up at the board. I was instantly satisfied with whatever place I got.”

Anderson missed a spot in the finals by two places, as she finished 14th overall

in the prelims and the top 12 advanced. After placing fifth in her heat and running a personal best in her final race as a junior, Anderson is pleased with her performance in Charleston.

“The state meet is always filled with excitement and nerves, but it’s also fun and rewarding,” Anderson said. “When you go to state with just two girls, but have 15 people in the stands from Orion, it’s pretty awesome, especially when it’s a four-hour drive.”

Another scarlet-and-black crowd was back on Saturday to support Schulenberg in the high jump finals as the freshman literally made her mark on the blue track. Schulenberg grabbed a piece of yellow chalk to mark her starting spot after carefully measuring out her steps during warm-up. Schulenberg stepped off her J-run by taking three steps out from the right standard and 16 back, ensuring accuracy after having difficulties finding her mark in prelims.

“In prelims my steps were completely off, no matter what I did I wasn’t able to get them right,” Schulenberg said. “In the finals, my steps were much better and I felt more comfortable.”

The starting height was 4-foot-10 on Saturday, and Schulenberg cleared the opening height with ease on her first effort.

Back issues plagued Schulenberg, as they have all season, and the freshman grabbed her lower back, wincing after each jump.

“My back was hurting really bad, and it just kept getting worse,” Schulenberg said. “I told myself that it didn’t hurt and tried to ignore it until I hit the mat.”

Despite the pain, a grin typically spread across Schulenberg’s face as she cleared the bar and rose from the mat. Then the time would come for Schulenberg to go back to stretching and keeping warm for her next jump.

After meet officials raised the standard two inches, Schulenberg had no problem clearing 5-foot on her first attempt in the finals. Schulenberg missed 5-foot-2 on her first attempt, and came close to clearing it on her second attempt, but she was unable to make the leap on her final jump.

“I was disappointed I couldn’t clear 5-foot-2 because I’ve gotten it before this year,” Schulenberg said. “But it’s only my freshman year and overall I’m happy with how I did in my first trip to the state meet.”

Orion junior Ashley Anderson, in front at right, keeps up with the other girls in her heat of the 800-meter preliminaries on Thursday, May 19, at the state track meet at O’Brien Stadium in Charleston. She ran a personal best.