RANTOUL — Like all high school athletes Rantoul’s girls track team is just waiting for word from J.B. Pritzker, the Governor of the State of Illinois.
“I have talked to many other coaches and read numerous training philosophies,” said Hankes, the head coach. “It will depend one when we can start the season. The last I have heard is April 8. Coming into spring break, our girls were in really good shape. It will not take them much time to get back into shape.”
When the Lady Eagles do resume the season, they will do so with four Illinois High School Association Class 2A All-Staters, who collected five medals at the state meet last year.
For Mye’Joi Williams, advancing to the state finals and collecting a medal in the shot put is becoming a regular things. She has been in the top five twice in her career. As a sophomore, she was fifth. She was third one year ago.
She was not the only one to place in the top three for Rantoul. Tanaya Young jumped to a third place finish in the long jump. It was one of two medals she collected. The other one was in the 400-meter relay, which finished fifth in the state.
Two of the four girls from that relay team return. Other than Young, Lovenya Perry and India Emery also return from the placing relay of one year ago. The fourth member of the 400-meter relay team, Shanyla Strawder, moved to Chicago.
“Relays are so much fun,” said Hankes. “There is strategy to figuring out who goes where. You have to play to each girl’s strength, figuring out which girl is a great starter, which girl likes to run the curves or does not like to, which girl liked to chase down the opposition and which girl is a great finisher. Track and field is seem mainly as an individual sport. Relays create more of a team environment. In order for a relay to run well, or place at state, all four positions have to run well. It may seem easier to do, but handoffs can go wrong and other variables come into play.”
Hankes points out that the indoor season was nothing short of tremendous before the Coronavirus cut it short. He points out that Alysha Kesler had an outstanding indoor season.
“Alysha had to have emergency surgery right before the first meet,” said Hankes. “She rebounded so well and not only ran a personal best in the 800-meter run and ran a great 600-meter run. We have also been blessed with a great freshman class. Brianna Dixon has already hit the state qualifying height in the high jump. Tashay Jackson-Roper was running well and was working toward earning a spot on our varsity relays. The rest of the freshman class has a ton of potential and are extremely hard working.”
The Lady Eagles notably lost two key members of their team to graduation. Amonica Anderson and Moca Baker graduated from last year’s team.
“They were two athletes that worked hard everyday and set a great example for their younger teammates,” said Hankes. “They showed them the importance of being a good student, a good teammate and being a good/genuine person.”
When the season resumes, Rantoul will participate hopefully in the Urbana Invitational, the Illini Prairie Conference Meet, the Illinois High School Association Class 2A Mattoon Sectional and finally, for a select few, the IHSA Class 2A State Finals at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
In the conference, there are two teams, namely Monticello and St. Joseph-Ogden that have earned trophies in the last two years. St. Joe-Ogden was third in 2019 and won the state championship in 2018. Monticello was third one year ago. Monticello was in Class 2A, while the SJO Spartans compete in Class 1A.
“The Urbana Invitational is always loaded with top teams from around the state and it is great to compete against new faces,” said Hankes. “Our conference is arguably the toughest girls conference in the state. Our focus this year is the same as it is every year. We want to get better. We want to be running, throwing and jumping our best in the month of May. We will be strong in the field, the shot, long jump and high jump. On the track, our sprints and sprint relays will be strong as well.”