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IHSA girls' track and field notes: Urbana relay team, Marx shine

May 18—CHARLESTON — As Samantha Christman, Syniyah Quenga, Marley Yau and Lorelie Yau were still trying to catch their breath after running the final heat of the 1,600-meter relay at Friday's Class 2A girls' state track and field prelims, the public-address announcer started reading off which teams qualified for Saturday's final. Urbana finished second in its heat, and all the runners could do was hope.

After the first eight teams, the Tigers still hadn't heard their name. In the ninth and final spot, however, were "the Tigers of Urbana," and they screamed in excitement and embraced each other in celebration.

"It was pretty amazing," Lorelie Yau said. "We didn't really know what to expect and weren't sure where we were placed. Our coach just told us to run fast, so we did, and it paid off."

The moment was especially memorable for the Yau sisters. Marley, a freshman, ran the third leg and handed the baton off to Lorelie, the senior anchor. They didn't have time to take in that exchange and think about how it might have been their last high school race together. All their focus was on crossing that finish line as fast as possible.

"I was just like, 'Come on, Marley, you've just got to finish,'" Marley said of her internal dialogue. "I knew there were people behind me, and I was like, 'You've got to go.' Once I gave the baton to Lorelie, I knew she could keep that spot."

This was the pair's first and only season competing together at Urbana, as Lorelie is set to graduate, which is why they're making the most of it by cherishing every moment they have left together on the track.

"It's been really cool," Marley said. "I'm really glad I get to do it with her for her last year. It's bittersweet because this is my first year with her and she's leaving, but I'm really glad I got the opportunity to run relays with her."

They've run side by side at practice all season long, and now they're down to their final day of competition together.

"We've had a really good bond this year as a team," Lorelie said, "and our bond as sisters has grown even more."

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Another senior-freshman duo about to say an emotional "Goodbye" is Centennial's Brooklynn Sweikar and Farah Scott.

After Sweikar finished running her third leg of the 1,600 relay for the Chargers, Scott came running in out of nowhere and gave her teammate and mentor a long hug. They've only ran together for a year, stretching back to cross-country season, but their bond made it feel like a lifetime.

"I'm going to cry," Sweikar said. "We've been partners forever, and it was really nice to finally have that running buddy to help push me. It's going to be really hard not being with her next year. She just means a lot to me."

Neither qualified for the finals in their respective events, and Sweikar said their hug almost felt like the passing of the torch for Centennial distance running from her to Scott. They finished within 3/4 of a second of each other at the state cross-country meet and traded places at the top of the leaderboard throughout the season.

"We're really close," Scott said. "It's been really helpful to have someone at our pace to push each other every day. ... I was really proud of myself because I didn't really expect that coming into this year. I'm hoping I can keep qualifying every year and just keep improving my PR."

Sweikar has seen enough out of her protege to know she'll do exactly that over the next three years.

"She's going to accomplish so much," Sweikar said. "She's going to come back to state the rest of these years and probably place. I'm really excited to see what she does."

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Madalyn Marx burst onto the IHSA sprinting scene last year as a freshman, taking runner-up honors in the 2A 400-meter dash, less than a second behind first place.

"It definitely felt good," Marx said. "Compared to IESA, it's a lot different. I do year-round track, so I was waiting for the opportunity to showcase my talents, and I was able to do that last year."

That's all the Mahomet-Seymour standout needed to motivate her to keep improving. She broke the Bulldog 400 record last year and followed her historic rookie season with a sixth-place finish in the 15-16 age group last July at the USATF Junior Olympics in Eugene, Ore.

"That's how I am," Marx said. "I thought about how I was going to top that this year and keep topping it my junior and senior years."

Marx got her sophomore state prelim experience started with a bang, anchoring the Bulldogs to a school-record 49.02-second time in the 400-meter relay. That time was just 16-hundredths of a second away from making the final, and it propelled Marx into matching her 400 performance from a year ago. She's going into Saturday with the second-fastest time and will be one to watch to potentially stand atop the podium.

"I'm just going to try my best and give it all I have," Marx said.

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Noelle Hunt has been long-jumping since middle school. Her dad was her coach at St. Matthew, and she broke the school record in eighth grade. That's when she knew she might have a future in the event.

Just two years later, a sophomore at the time in 2023, she captured Centennial's long jump record, too.

"I was so excited," Hunt said of that moment. "I was jumping up and down. My coach gave me a big hug, and everyone around was cheering for me. It was really fun."

Now a junior, she rebroke the record during the 2024 indoor season. Hunt wasn't too happy with her performance at Friday's prelims, but she still did enough to qualify for the finals, and she's confident she'll improve and be in the mix for a title.

"I know I can get 19 plus (feet)," Hunt said. "I know I have that jump in me. If it's (Saturday), over the summer or next year, I know I have it. Hopefully, I'll bring that out soon."

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Champaign Central sophomore Audrey Allender is another recent record-breaker. She bested the Maroons' pole vault record three weeks ago at the Urbana Invite.

"I was thrilled," Allender said. "It was really fun."

Like Hunt, Allender has been competing in her field event since middle school. However, she didn't start with the intention of making the state meet.

"I was originally going to do it with friends, but they ended up not doing it," Allender said. "I was alone, but it was fun."