CHARLESTON — During her salutatorian speech Friday night, Putnam County senior Madi Keegan made a joke encouraging people to travel to Charleston on Saturday to see her throw the discus.
“In the beginning of my speech kind of as a humorous knock I said I’d get everybody out of here early so the can come down to Charleston and watch me break my record for the third time,” Keegan said.
She may have been joking, but Keegan delivered on the promise.
Keegan launched the discus 132 feet to not only beat her old mark by a foot and a half but also earn the highest medal in PC girls track and field history as she claimed second place at the IHSA Class 1A State Meet.
Previously, the highest finish by a Lady Panther was fourth place, which was accomplished once by a PC individual and once by a relay.
“It feels really good,” Keegan said. “Not as good as first, but it feels really good. I’m really excited.”
Keegan was one of four area Class 1A field athletes to bring home a medal. Three local 1A relays earned hardware, while La Salle-Peru junior Ashley Heagy was the lone 2A athlete to medal.
Keegan’s record-breaking toss came on her first attempt of Saturday’s finals.
“I wanted to get the nervous out,” Keegan said. “On Thursday, I scratched then I had a bad throw, so all the pressure was on that last throw, so I definitely think getting the nerves out on the first attempt and having the ability to relax after that was key.”
Keegan’s first throw drew a loud cheer from PC coach Missy Carlson.
“I knew I was in second place (after the throw),” Keegan said. “Then it was a fun game watching to see if anybody else could go past that.
“It was also real nerve racking.”
Keegan said it was a special moment when the competition was over and second-place was wrapped up.
“It felt really good,” Keegan said. “I teared up. Knowing that I made Missy proud was the icing on the cake.”
Keegan’s silver medal was the first of her career and capped her best season.
“I definitely had a much better year this year than last year and the year before,” said Keegan, who will attend Michigan State University and not continue in track and field next year. “I started working out over the summer. I started lifting and that probably helped. I had a less stressful attitude toward throwing. I tried to focus on not getting upset over prior throws.”
Bureau Valley senior Saige Barnett, who plans to attend Illinois State University and also will not continue her track and field career, joined Keegan on the podium in the discus.
Barnett threw a personal-best 128-8 to place fourth in the discus. She set a new personal record in the shot put as well at 41-4 to also take fourth in that event.
“It’s awesome,” Barnett said. “It’s my first time coming down here and getting two medals. I didn’t care what place they were, I just wanted to come down here and get two of them. I got P.R.s in both. I really couldn’t ask for anything better.
“I was getting a little frustrated in the shot. Coach (Dan) DeVenney said to get my foot under me, just relax and I’ll be fine. I did. That was the three-foot difference from prelims to finals. In discus, all season long I threw my best when I was relaxed. The girls were all talking in between (throws). They were super nice. I think that calmed my nerves a little more. I was relaxed in the ring and went out and threw.”
While Keegan and Barnett were wrapping up their careers, Henry-Midland freshman Nakeita Kessling started her state career off strong.
Kessling leapt 17-8 ¾ to claim seventh place in the long jump. Bureau Valley junior Carly Konneck finished 10th at 17-4 ½, while Amboy-LaMoille freshman Kylee Brown took 12th at 17-1 ½.
“It felt really good,” said Kessling, who was IESA Class A long jump champion in eighth grade. “I wasn’t expecting that because I came in (to finals) 11th, but I moved up four spots, so that’s good.”
Kessling improved her preliminary jump by 6 ½ inches.
“(The key to improving was) just tucking my feet and just making sure I ran and got my steps in,” Kessling said.
Like Kessling, BV sophomore Jade Aber brought home her first state medal as she leapt 36-9 ¼ to place eighth in the triple jump.
“It feels great because last year I got 12th,” Aber said. “I’m really happy I got a medal this year.
“I think I jumped a lot better this season all together. Then state came and it was nicer weather. My legs felt a lot better today than they did in prelims.”
On the track, Heagy met her goal of a top-five finish in the 800 meters as she ran a personal-best 2:21.85 to place fifth.
“It’s awesome,” Heagy said. “That was my goal going in. With the wind, I was just trying to fight and stay up there. It was so tightly packed the whole race. You really had to get up there the last 200 and get it going. That’s what I did.”
Heagy said it was a challenge running in a tight pack throughout the race.
“I knew everyone was going to try to have someone to block the wind,” Heagy said. “We all knew it was going to be a tactical race. It was crazy. There were elbows everywhere. Someone tripped on the first lap. I was trying to stay up and not get too boxed in.”
The BV foursome of Marissa Endress, Konneck, Madison Morrow and Molly Bohm placed fourth in the 400 relay in 50.17 and took ninth in the 800 relay in 1:48.71.
“It feels really good,” Morrow said. “I never qualified for state in high school before. It’s a new thing, but it feels great.
“I definitely think our handoffs were way better than they ever were before, so that really helped bring our times down. It took a lot of practice to get them that way, but it paid off.”
For Bohm, it was nice to be back on the track after missing a month and a half with a hip injury that required physical therapy two to three times weekly.
“It feels good to be running back here again and to get two more relay medals,” said Bohm, who along with Konneck and Endress medaled in the same relays last year. “I was out with a hip injury for a long time. The sectional was my first meet back.”
Endress was happy to end her high school career at state.
“It’s the best,” Endress said. “I’m really sad it’s over, but I’ve had the best years with coach (Dale) Donner and all the girls. It definitely feels good to end here, get some medals and make some good memories.”
While Endress graduates, Konneck, Bohm and Morrow return along with Kamryn Kolb, who usually anchors both relays but missed state due to mononucleosis.
“I’m excited for the future,” Konneck said. “We stepped up this year. I think we can step up next year too. Nothing will change. We’ll do our best.”
The A-L foursome of Sidney Corcoran, Brooklyn Whelchel, Emma Lundquist and Ashley Althaus — who all will be back next year — ran a 4:07.65 to place fifth in the 1,600 relay.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.