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Twice as nice for Princeton

PRINCETON — Zoe Mead crossed the finish line after qualifying for state in the 800 meters with a second place finish at the Princeton Sectional and hugged her brother, Lenny, a PHS freshman, who was standing nearby.

“We’re going down,” she said.

Then she hugged teammate Phoenix Smallwood, who will be going down to state with her.

Both Tigresses qualified for state, doubling their pleasure with two events each. Smallwood punched her ticket to Charleston in the triple jump (first) and long jump (second) while Mead advances with second place finishes in both the 800 and 400 meters.

“It was super exciting,” Smallwood said of the PHS duo. “Throughout my season, I thought I had a pretty good chance of qualifying and Zoe’s time has had a pretty good chance. We were like, OK, just one more meet, we just got to do it. One of us just can’t do it. We need a roommate, so we both have to do it.

“We knew each other could do it and we were just waiting to finally get the clarification we were both going down to State. So we were both excited about that.”

The triple jump came easy for Smallwood, who ended any suspense with a qualifying and winning jump of 35 feet, 6 1/2 inches on her very first attempt.

The long jump was a little different. She scratched on her first two attempts, causing jumps coach Dave Safranski to race a little higher, before backing off and getting a jump in just good enough to make finals.

“Long jump was a little scary at first. Scratch, scratch. OK all I need is one to get into finals,” said Smallwood, who would soar for a second-place jump of 16-8 in the finals. “I pulled it out. It wasn’t the greatest jump ever, but pulled it out. Finals definitely went better than prelims.

“Triple jump, totally opposite. I came out, my first jump was qualifying distance that was a relief. I didn’t have to stress like long jump. Overall, I think I did pretty good considering the circumstances and pressure.”

PHS coach Pat Hodge considered Smallwood’s effort “as just another day in the office.”

The plan was for Mead, according to Hodge, was to run in the 800 only, which she did successfully with a second-place time of two minutes, 17.45 seconds, her personal record by five seconds. Hodge said she was pushed nicely by Aurora Central Catholic freshman, who won the race in 2:15.93.

“I told her if you want to get a school record, you got the girl in the race that’s going to give you that chance,” Hodge said.

With that accomplished, Hodge and Mead talked about the 400. Hodge told her to wait and see how she felt, because she had not run that combination in a highly contested meet this year.

“The next time I saw her, I said let’s just do it. It will be a good workout for you,” Hodge said. “She went beyond what was a good workout. She had her best time by two and a half seconds, and just missed our school record in that one.”

Hodge said Mead had the best 800-400 double by any PHS girl ever, “just a fantastic effort and I was very proud of what she did tonight.”

“I really didn’t think I had that in me,” Mead said.

While they didn’t qualify, three of PHS young throwers placed in the weights. Taylor Clark had a personal best 105-4 for fourth in discus, one spot ahead of classmate Nicole Holland (100-9). Another sophomore, Colbi Schertz, placed fifth in the shot put (34-4 1/2).

“I’m proud of our throwers. They all three now have medals at the Sectional level and should be knocking on the door of State next season,” Hodge said.

• Notes: Mendota junior Kaitlyn Horn swept the weights (111-5, 38-11 1/2). Freshman teammate Elizabeth Willis joined her in the shot put, going 36-7 3/4 on her final throw of the day, a qualifying mark that was good for second place. ... Geneseo beat out Aurora Central’s Catholic for team title, 121-78. PHS (42) placed sixth, LaSalle-Peru (35) seventh and Mendota (32) eighth.

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