MORRIS – Sixth-year Morris assistant girls track and field coach John Courter said there are a number of Redskins with potential beyond Haleigh Knapp and Leona Burton.
Freshman thrower Destiny Cano, sophomore mid-distance runner Kayla Cryder and sophomore sprinter Malexa Farmer are among the young athletes Courter describes as “hopefuls.” There is a big difference between the program’s unproven athletes showing potential in practice and them reaching the level of their two state-qualifying teammates.
“We have a couple sophomores that, if they keep working at it – that’s the hard part, keeping them working at it – they’ll see those times,” said Courter, who was running practice late last week as head coach Lori Dite attended to a family matter. “As far as shining stars, I would say no, but there’s a couple that have a lot of potential.”
Of course, Knapp might be described as one of the state’s most brightly shining stars in track and field. The two-time defending state champion in the high jump in Class 2A, Knapp is eying the Class 2A state final record of 5 feet, 9.5 inches, set in 2010 by Springfield’s Sara Maxson. Knapp’s best jump at state in 2013 was an inch and a half short of that mark.
“I really, really, really, really would like to win again at state, and then also, more than anything, I really wanna break the record and set my own,” Knapp said.
Knapp was the program’s lone qualifier for the Illinois Prep Top Times Meet, where her peak jump of 5-4 left her tied for fourth place in Class 2A. She has finished fourth at the meet every year, she said, except in 2011, when she was third as a freshman.
“I wish I could have done better, but that’s how it is every year. Mostly, everybody doesn’t make their best marks at that meet,” Knapp said. “Maybe it’s [being] indoors, maybe it’s just nerves or something, but I wish I could have definitely won it this year and jumped a little higher.”
Burton did not qualify for Top Times, but the same was true in 2013, and she went on to place ninth at state in the long jump. Her top marks during her freshman season included a long jump of 17-3 and a time of 12.8 seconds in the 100-meter.
“My goal is to make it back to state, at least, in at least one event. I’m just hoping to beat my PRs from last year,” Burton said.
In addition to those events, Burton plans to compete in the 200-meter , which she started running late in the 2013 season. She said she might also try hurdling.