IHSA girls' track and field state notes: Russell, Lucht thrive in multiple ways

May 17—CHARLESTON — Salt Fork senior Macie Russell and Milford/Cissna Park sophomore Addison Lucht entered Thursday's Class 1A girls' state track and field prelims with the common goal of making the finals in their respective events. They left with a decision to make.

Russell and Lucht take the term "multi-sport athlete" to a different level, as Russell plays five sports and Lucht plays four. Russell made the 800-meter final with a 10th-place finish, and Lucht qualified for the 400 and long jump finals, taking eighth place in both. They'll compete in those finals on Saturday. That is, if they can figure out the logistics of the regional championship softball game between the Storm and Bearcats, scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday in Georgetown.

Russell and Lucht are also standouts on their respective softball teams, and their immediate reactions to the conflict, which they knew was coming, both involved making sacrifices. Russell initially thought she'd have to miss the softball game but went back and forth about possibly doing both if the timing worked out. Meanwhile, Lucht said she'll likely skip the long jump finals to play the softball game before returning to O'Brien Field to compete in the 400.

"We knew it could be a conflict for a while," Lucht said. "I'm not sure how that's going to work out, but it'll be a busy day."

In the fieldhouse behind the Eastern Illinois University track, leading up to Thursday's 800 prelims, Russell told Salt Fork athletic director Dustin Dees and coach Phil Surprenant that she'd be happy if she ran a personal-best time. She accomplished that with a time of 2 minutes, 22.65 seconds.

"I just wanted to PR," Russell said. "I hadn't had a good race in a while, so it was my goal to come in here and PR. When I saw the board, I was like, 'Yes, finally.' I just wanted redemption, and I'm glad I got it."

Lucht's drive to play as many sports as she can comes from that same kind of competitive nature.

"If it's a competition, I'm going to try to win it," Lucht said. "If there's ever a competition in front of me, I'm going to do my best and try my hardest. Whatever it is, I'm just going to do my best."

Russell and Lucht both compete in volleyball, basketball, softball and track and field, and Russell adds cross-country in the fall. For them, there are no breaks, and every season is busy season.

"Very busy, especially the month of May when the postseasons start," Russell said. "It's busy, but I wouldn't have it any other way."

Lucht had the same sentiment, adding that "it's not any different in the summer" when she travels all over the country, even out to Colorado and California, for her travel softball and basketball teams.

"It's insane," Lucht said. "My whole life is usually busy, but I wouldn't have it any other way because I love every sport I play. I wish it could last forever, but I've only got two more years of high school, so I'm just going to enjoy it."


For the past four years, Georgetown-Ridge Farm senior pole vaulter Haley Carlton has been the only girl in the Buffaloes program to qualify for the state meet. She's used to being the lone Buffalo, but she's made the most out of her experience this year with her support system in attendance.

She said she always performs better when loved ones are there to watch, but it's for a different reason than you might think.

"I bark before I go, and I have to have people bark back at me," Carlton said with a smile. "I don't know why. I started doing that my freshman year, and it proved to be very helpful for some random reason. Having my support system here — a few friends, the track people, my coaches, some family — it truly makes this experience not just about me but everything as a whole."

Carlton and her fans have had plenty to bark about this season, as she's currently tied for third after the pole vault prelims after clearing 10 feet even. While Saturday's final will be her last go-around, she's confident she'll be back sometime in the next few years to support the next wave of G-RF state qualifiers.

"This season has truly been amazing," Carlton said. "I had a pretty rough season last year due to an injury, but I was able to recover over the summer and come back stronger than ever."


Oakwood senior Nikita Taylor was also her school's only state competitor. She spent the last week practicing alongside the Comet boys' team, solely preparing for the long jump. She just missed out on the finals, finishing 16th Thursday, but she's grateful for the senior year she's had.

"I've had a really good senior year," Taylor said. "I love sports, and it's sad to be done with track because I've been in it since seventh grade. I've come so close to state each year, and to finally make it my senior year was amazing."


Not only was St. Thomas More junior Alyson Clements the only Saber at Thursday's prelims, but she was also one of only two athletes there representing Champaign-Urbana, joining Uni High sophomore Lena Miller.

Clements placed 17th in the 400, and Miller was 35th in the long jump. While neither could move on to the finals, Clemets said she was "just glad I'm here and that I did it."

She finished seventh in the 400 last year but was unable to repeat that performance after straining her hamstring at the Illini Prairie Conference meet. Unlike Carlton and Taylor, however, she has another year to make it happen.

"I'm just trying to make people at school proud," Clements said. "I got seventh last year, so I'm hoping to make the finals and place higher than that next year. Anything above that would be an accomplishment."


A suggested headline from Dees for Thursday's prelims was "Vermilion County owns the triple jump." He wasn't far off, as three of the 12 finalists are Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin senior Ella McFarland, Hoopeston Area junior Claire Dixon and Westville junior Ella Miller.

McFarland came into the day still on a high after breaking the Blue Devils' triple jump record at last Thursday's sectional meet with a championship-winning distance of 36 feet, 6 1/4 inches. It was her first jump of the finals. She had already won the event and was on the fence about jumping at all. With her personal best only about a foot off from the school record, she decided to give it a shot.

"I just went for it, and it happened, so I was like, 'OK, we're done,'" McFarland said. "At first, I was like, 'Let's double-check.' Then, I was like, 'Wait, really?' and started freaking out because I had just got done saying that I wanted to do it just for that. It was pretty crazy."


Alongside the Vermilion County jumpers was the junior Tuscola duo of Rylie Vanausdoll and Kenna Clodfelder. Vanausdoll, who also broke the Warriors triple jump record in her sectional meet last Thursday, finished ahead of the local pack in sixth, and Clodfelder was a little behind in 19th.

Vanausdoll was going to have her first state meet experience last year as part of the 1,600-meter relay, but she got injured just before. Now that she's in it, "It's a lot of fun."

"It's definitely a different environment. Everybody here is so good," Vanausdoll said. "Kenna and I practice every day together, we do cheer together and we're in the same grade, so we have a big bond, and we push each other."


You wouldn't know it by watching her compete, but Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley's Lily Sizemore is only a freshman.

She joined the basketball team and immediately became the Falcons' leading scorer, and she was one of only two GCMS athletes to qualify for an individual event at the state track and field prelims Thursday. Sizemore wasn't able to advance, finishing 23rd in the 800, but she was thankful for all the opportunities she's had right away in her high school career.

"It means a lot that my coaches allow me to showcase my skills in all the sports I'm doing," Sizemore said. "They keep pushing me every day, and so do my teammates, and it feels really good."

Teammate Savannah Shumate advanced to Saturday's finals with a sixth-place showing in the discus on Thursday.

Sizemore led the Falcons' girls' basketball team to a regional championship and fell one basket shy of winning a sectional title. Her first high school playoff experience just made her hungry to get back to that stage.

"We had our eyes set on something pretty big," Sizemore said of the basketball team. "We were happy we got regionals, and we've got to get sectionals next year."

And now she can say she's a state qualifier as a freshman. She doesn't know what exactly is in store for her future on the track, but it's "hopefully something big."

"It means a lot to me because now I get to tell everybody that I got to go as a freshman," Sizemore said. "It's just a fun experience. Even if you don't win, it's still fun being out here and congratulating everybody else on their victories."