Saying that Haleigh Knapp was not at all nervous at the Class 2A Girls Track and Field State Final meet in Charleston may be a stretch.
"I mean, in the morning and the day before, I had a lot of nerves. I'd get nervous before meets all season," Knapp said Monday from Morris Community High School, "but once I get down there on the track, all my nerves go away."
Knapp certainly did not seem nervous as she successfully defended the state championship in the high jump. She cleared the bar at 5 feet, 8 inches in the finals, which is an inch higher than her 2012 height and two inches better than the runner-up, Katie Trupp of Burlington Central.
"It's pretty amazing — so far, in all three years, she has PRed down there," Morris coach Lori Dite said Monday. "She does really, really well down there in that environment, facing that pressure."
At the rainy Princeton Sectional on May 9, Knapp needed a jump of just 5 feet, 0 inches to win and qualify for state. That placed her in the second flight at state, from which she was the only athlete to clear the bar at 5 feet, 2 inches and advance to Saturday's finals.
As the finals played out, competitors dropped off until only Knapp and Trupp, who both do club jumping at Jump High, remained. Trupp was unable to clear the bar at 5 feet, 7 inches. That was the only height Knapp failed to hit on her first attempt. She even succeeded at 5-8 on her first try before missing at 5-9.
"Our club coach (Bob Cervenka) called it, that we were going to take first and second," Knapp said. "(Winning again) feels great. I don't know how to describe it. I'm proud of my self and happy with what I accomplished."
Morris also received a ninth-place finish from Leona Burton in the long jump. Burton hit a distance of 17 feet, 2 inches in Friday's prelims and added an inch Saturday, leaping 17 feet, 3 inches.
"We were hopeful," Dite said. "She was seeded pretty well, in that ninth spot, so she was able to hang on there. That's pretty impressive for a freshman. There's a lot of pressure to handle."
The Minooka team of Lucia Rossi, Caleigh Beverly, Haley Renison and Moira McAsey placed seventh in the 4x800 relay finals. Their time of 9:21.7 earned them All-State honors, was a new school record and earned Minooka its first-ever distance medal at the girls state meet. The group finished fourth in its preliminary flight Friday with a time of 9:28.45.
"This was a huge step for these athletes to earn a spot on the podium," Minooka coach Kevin Gummerson said in a release. "We have been getting closer and closer to that goal each year; however, it is so rewarding to see them accomplish that goal. I am extremely proud of this group of girls.
"Lucia Rossi will go down as one of the greatest track athletes in our school's history, so it was great to see her finish her high school career at the state meet and earning a medal. She deserves to go out like that."
McAsey was Minooka's other finals qualifier. She placed 12th in the 800 run with a time of 2:26.35 after making the finals with a time of 2:19.01.
Rossi did not make the finals in the 300 hurdles, but her preliminary time of 45.67 set a school record. In the 4x400 prelims, Ashleigh Wilson, Ashley Clark, McAsey and Rossi ran the second-fastest time in school history at 4:00.84. Janile Rogers added distances of 16 feet, 7 inches in the long jump and 36 feet, 5.75 inches in the triple jump to the Minooka effort.
"This was a tremendous season, and I am very proud of all these girls for everything they accomplished," Gummerson said.
Rylee Anderson was Seneca's top finisher, tying for sixth place in the high jump at 5 feet, 3 inches. She cleared the bar at 5 feet, 2 inches Friday to advance.
Lexi Wilkinson of Seneca placed eighth in the triple jump with a distance of 34 feet, 6.5 inches. She won her flight Friday with the same distance.
Madisen Warning tied for 10th place in the pole vault finals at 10 feet, 3 inches. She hit the qualifying height of 9 feet, 9 inches Friday.
Caroline Collet took 20th place with a time of 12:18.08 in the 3,200 run.
Seneca's other finalist was Aspen Stuedemann, who was disqualified in the 100 hurdles for a false start. Stuedemann won her heat Friday with a time of 15.59.
Willow Stuedemann of Seneca tied for the last finals spot in the 100 dash with a time of 12.97 but lost a run-off to Ariel Gibbs of Momence. Willow Stuedemann also had preliminary times of 27.11 in the 200 dash and 1:00.53 in the 400 dash.
Other preliminary times and distances for the Lady Irish were a 4:17.43 in the 4x400 relay from Cortney Helms, Mackenzie Maierhofer, Shailee Bauer and Anderson, a 10:30.88 in the 4x800 relay from Collet, Lexi Bogren, Claudia Paulson and Mali Seilheimer, a 1:52.58 from Helms, Mickey Juricic, Michaela Hart and Bauer in the 4x200 relay, 15 feet, 1 inch from Helms in the long jump, 31 feet, 5.25 inches from Rebecca Henry in the shot put and 16.91 from Wilkinson in the 100 hurdles.