The Rantoul Eagles girls track team has shown repeatedly it can compete, win in any race and break any record.

Coach Ben Hankes said he had a feeling that day that the girls would break the record, but not by a stunning 1.3 seconds. 

“We were coming off spring break, so we had a nice good rest, and I just had a really good feeling that the record was going to fall,” Hankes said.

“The fact that we ran 49.57 seconds was incredible. My jaw dropped when I saw that time come up on the screen.” 

The 4x100-meter relay team showed just that during the meet the Eagles hosted recently by finishing by jetting across the track in 49.57 seconds to break a 39-year-old school record of 50.60 seconds.

It appears more records might be in the relay team’s future. This is not a group made up of older athletes.

Comprising the team are India Emery, Shanyla Strawder, Lovenya Perry and Tanaya Young. Emery and Strawder are both freshmen. Perry and Young are both sophomores.

Racing in the 4x100-meter relay

For the 4x100-meter relay team, the meet was the first time during the outdoor season it worked on exchanges other than practice.

“With the 4x100 you don’t get to practice that exchange until you get to the outdoor season because we are stuck indoors and dealing with those type of inclements,” Hankes said. “That was the first time really doing an all-out exchange other than at practice. You can do as much simulation in practice, but it’s never quite the same until the meet.”

Emery gives Eagles good start in 4x100 meters

Emery started off for the Eagles in the 4x100-meter relay with the baton, dashing down the track and handed off the baton to the second runner, Perry.

Emery knew it was important to get off to a good start and not let any seconds go to waste.

“I tried to get us as good as a lead to start us off,” Emery said. “Lovenya gets a good lead.”

The team was able to get across the finish line, beating the record, despite not having the best handoffs.

Young said that their handoffs could have been better, but because of the team’s ability to adapt after transitioning they were able to finish first.

“If one person is slower than the other person, we will work together and make up the speed for other person,” Young said. “We will work together and pick up the speed. If someone has a bad handoff then we’ll just adjust to it. The race went really well even if our handoffs weren’t the best.”

Emery said the team’s goal is always to record a personal record in every race, but breaking the 39-year old record was a pleasant surprise for the team.

“It feels good because we are two freshmen and two sophomores,” Emery said.

Hankes said the four are seasoned beyond their years and not afraid to work hard.

“Their effort shows as you can see it in the record,” Hankes said. “You can’t just come out here and not train hard and then expect to break records like we did. We got the next two and/or three years with these girls, and that’s great because that means we are going to get better and better.”

Breaking school record brings excitement for the future

 School records are a good selling point for the program.

“I get more girls coming out, they see the excitement, and they want to be a part of something special,” Hankes said. “This is the most girls we have had on a team in a number of years from what I’ve been told, and it’s only my third year. When you start winning and doing some great things, everybody wants to be a part of it, and that’s really positive.”

Hanks said the girls should be proud of their hard work.

“I’m just out here with a stopwatch,” Hankes said. “I hope they realize how special it really is. I think that when they leave here that record is going to be here for another 39 years”

Unless they break it themselves.

Contact Ben Theobald at