PEKIN — Dunlap captured its sixth consecutive Mid-Illini Conference girls track and field title Thursday at Pekin’s Memorial Stadium.
But not without a big-time fight from Morton.
After dominating wins from two-time Class 2A state champion Dunlap the last few years, this one came down to the last event.
Thanks to a rare distance triple from senior Aspen Gordon, a near quadruple from sophomore Lauren Doerr, a few surprises and plenty of depth, Morton took a half point lead into the 4x400-meter finale.
But the Dunlap foursome of Tatum Hussey, Sydnie Hatch, Addison Walker and Lizzy Hoenes ended the suspense by winning the 4x4 by nearly five seconds in 4 minutes, 14.70 seconds. Morton, seeded fourth, finished fourth in the race.
“Being a senior, I just wanted to make sure I could do what all the past anchors have done for me and the rest of the team, to experience some victories ... (and) bring home the trophy for the team,” said Hoenes.
When the batons were put away, Dunlap had 141.5 points and Morton 136. Metamora was third with 77.
“We knew they were going to (put up a fight),” first-year Dunlap coach Amanda Young said of Morton. “They just have phenomenal distance, field events. They’re really coming along and they performed well today. We just got it done. I’m so thankful for the seniors that they can leave saying they won their final championship.”
Getting it done one final time was Dunlap’s Kiara Pauli. The Eagles senior swept the 100 (:12.36) and 200 (:25.18) for the fourth consecutive year and also anchored the 4x100 (:50.09) and 4x200 (1:46.78) to four consecutive titles.
“It feels good,” Pauli said of the four-peat. “It’s definitely special, just proving to myself that I’ve still got it. It’s definitely special to be on this team for four years. This group of girls is amazing. I couldn’t have gotten here today without them.”
Gordon also had a special night. The Potters senior won the 3200 (12:03.97), just ahead of teammate Meagan Moreno, then took the 800 (in 2:21.36) before completing the distance sweep with a come-from-behind win over Pekin’s Paige Arseneau in the 1600 (5:12.78). She also added a 62-second anchor leg in the 4x400, for good measure.
“It is really just a team sport and those points were really important today,” Gordon said of her workload.
Doerr won the long jump (16-8 ½), the 400 (season-best 1:00.45) and placed second in both the 100 (:12.75) and 200 (:26.09). Morton also received a win from Lauren Wong in the triple jump (33-9 3/4).
“If you would have told me that at the beginning of the season, I wouldn’t have (believed) it,” Morton coach Joe Zeller said of his team leading going into the final event. “Very proud of what these girls were able to accomplish. I think it’s a testament to, they put in a lot of work this season. It’s a great partial end to the season.”
Dunlap added a weights sweep from senior Batya Butler and a second consecutive 100 hurdles title from senior Brittany Rainey (area-best :15.33).
“We definitely had some people that didn’t do quite as well as we had hoped, but we also had people step up,” Young said. “That’s part of being a team and scrapping a point or two where we maybe thought they wouldn’t.”
Metamora junior Carly Tucker won her third Mid-Illini high jump title with a 5-3 leap.
Stan Morris can be reached at 686-3214 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @StanMorrisPJS.