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Area girls out for some heavy medal

If the seeds hold up, Bureau County athletes are in line for some more state medals in this weekend’s IHSA State Track and Field Meet in Charleston.

Princeton junior Zoe Mead has the top seeds from Bureau County schools, seeded fourth in both the 400 (58.59) and 800 (2:17.45). She will be joined by teammate Phoenix Smallwood (long jump, triple jump) in the 2A Meet which starts Friday.

Taking to the big blue track first, in 1A, will be Bureau Valley’s Lindsey Hoffert (long jump, 200) and Regan Weidner (3200). They will be joined by Neponset’s Freya Block, a senior from Kewanee, who is top-seeded in the shot put (39-9) and second in the discus (132-7).

Mead has the unique double and one that promises to be most challenging. She will run the 800 meters approximately at 10:34 a.m. and could have just a half hour to turn around for the 400.

“Zoe said that she felt very loose and relaxed at the sectional in the 400 so the 800 was a good warmup for her. Of course, that was the first time we really ran that double all year in an intense meet,” PHS coach Pat Hodge said. “As they say, we’ll take them one event at a time and see what happens.”

Hodge notes there is a little more cushion in the 800, which take 12 girls to the finals as opposed to nine in the 400. Mead will be joined in both races by Aurora Central Catholic freshmen Karina Liz, who beat Mead in both at sectional.

Mead, who went to state as part of PHS’ 4x800 relays the past two years, becomes the first PHS qualifier in the 800 since Jennifer Moss in 1991 and the first to make the 400 since Hannah Pinter in 1994.

Smallwood did not medal at state in 2A last year and is eager to make the most out of her second chance. She makes her third trip in the triple and second in long jump.

“I went down last year and didn’t finish as well as I hoped I would. Second chance this year,” said Smallwood, who was sectional champ in the triple jump and runner-up in the long jump.

Smallwood did not play soccer this year to be able to concentrate fully on track, setting her sights on adding her name in the PHS corridor of champions as a state medalist.

“That’s something I’m striving for,” she said. “And I still have the school record in long jump I’m pushing for, but I’m trying to keep a clear mind when I’m down there and not focused on this and let myself jump. I know I can do it, I just got to let myself do it.”

Smallwood, who has been a picture of consistency, should be in good shape, Hodge said, if she’s able to maintain her season’s bests. He said she showed she can compete at the top level with her performances at the Illinois Top Times meet indoors and the fact she has improved her best marks since then also bodes well.

The Storm’s Hoffert and Weidner landed two medals each last year and look to bring back more this year. Both, however, have had to endure though injuries throughout the season and have been unable to turn in peak performances thus far.

“It wasn’t a great season,” said Hoffert, who was the 2012 State runner-up in the long jump and placed ninth in the 400. “It was pretty rough. I had an ankle injury coming into it. Progressively, I got better. I’m starting to peak now.”

Weidner pulled out of the 1600 meters at sectional, nursing a sore back, and will focus on the 3200. She placed third a year ago with a time of 11:30.91 running behind a pair of seniors and takes the 13th seed (12:00.04) to Charleston.

Their classmate, Lebahn, was also the runner-up in the discus (108-9) and stands tied for the 11th seed going in, two feet off the ninth and final medal placing.

BV coach Dale Donner believes all three athletes have the potential to medal and two are past medalists.

“Of course we all know that Regan and Lindsey both medaled last year, but it is forgotten that Sydney grew up around the State track meet,” he said. “I think she has attended about five State meets to watch her sisters compete.  She will find it very familiar there and hopefully be able to relax.  They have all worked hard and we are very excited to seem them reap the benefits of their hard work.”

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