CHAMPAIGN — It was another week of breaking records for the Rantoul girls track team at the 2019 Gene Armer Track and Field Invitational.
The Eagles have continued to break record after record during these past few meets of the indoor season and did not stop at Saturday’s event that was hosted by Urbana High School at the University of Illinois Armory.
Mye’Joi Williams once again finished first in another invitational for Rantoul in the girls shot put competition. Williams finished with a final throw of 42 feet , 2 inches, which gives her a new PR personal record. Williams’ previous PR was 41 feet, 5.75 inches.
At the beginning of the shot put, Williams’ first throw was only 39 feet, 10 inches, but was still in the lead. She lost her lead in her third throw of 36-feet and 9.75 inches, which was bested by Claire Bushur of Teutopolis. Bushur in her third throw threw at a distance of 39 feet, 11 inches.
Williams was able to overcome her struggle, her last two throws were measured at a distance of 42 feet and 2 inches and 41 feet and 10 inches. Both throws set a PR and landed her in first place for the competition.
Williams said she wouldn’t have been able to set her PR if it wasn’t for the moral support she has received from her coaches and teammates.
"I’m glad I redeemed myself," said Williams. "People being there for me helped. My coaches and friends I have met, just being there helped me."
Rantoul coach Ben Hankes was proud of Williams.
"I think it’s been great the fact that she has had to battle each meet," said Hankes. "This year she has had to really battle. A lot of times it’s her last throw or the second-to-last throw, where she has to beat the girl that is in the lead. That just shows how much of a competitor that she is."
The Eagles set another PR by finishing second in their heat in the 4x200-meter relay with a final time of 1:50.16. The second-place finish was mainly due to Tanaya Young. When Young was given the baton by Montyiona Walker, at that moment Rantoul was second to last in the race, but then Young pushed herself, sprinting all the way to finish line to come in at second. The other runners in the race for the Eagles were India Emery and Shanyla Strawder.
"That’s why Tanaya was the last person to take the baton," Strawder said. "She will always be able to catch us up if we are behind and she always catches us up even if we are in last place. I knew we were going to get up there when I saw her hit the curve."
Young wasn’t done yet for the meet. Young continued Rantoul’s streak of setting PRs, finishing first in her heat of the girls 200-meter dash. Young had a final time of 26.44 seconds, which beats her PR of 26.60 seconds.
Young still had one more event where she PR’d which was the long jump. Young finished third in the finals, jumping at a distance of 18 feet, 2 inches, breaking her previous PR of 17 feet, and 4 inches.
Like Williams with the shot put competition, Young struggled at the beginning of the long jump competition. She finished her first jump at a distance of 15 feet, 10 inches and scratched her second jump, which put her well behind in the standings. Williams, though, made up for those attempts in her final jump of 18 feet, and 2 inches, putting her in the top three.
"I improved a lot," Young said. "I had to clear my head of all the negative energy. I just focused on what I had to do to PR."
For the Rantoul coaching staff, it’s been an exciting journey to watch the team continue competing and improve throughout the indoor season and continuing that progress when the outdoor season starts. "Overall, the team as a whole this year just keeps making new PRs which is great," said Brittani Durbin, Rantoul assistant coach. "They are setting goals for themselves and breaking them left and right. We hope to continue to see that as the season goes, and it is going to make a great outdoor season for us."
Hankes wanted to mention the effort of freshman Alysha Kesher, who ran the mile run for the first time this year and finished at a time of 7:33.
"She did a great job," Hankes said. "She’s been battling some injuries. She’s a very young freshman, but she has a lot of upside."
Hankes said he is incredibly proud of his team for the way they competed at the Gene Armer meet, because he has a young team that is going up against some of the top track teams in the state.
"The Gene Armer Meet is a pretty prestigious meet for all of Illinois," Hankes said. "We competed as a team, and we’re a very young team, so that shows a lot of promise for us in the future. I’m extremely proud of the way the girls can compete and not be intimidated by the elite athletes."
The Rantoul team will be competing in the Illinois Prep Top Times that will take place on Saturday at the Illinois Wesleyan-Shirk Center in Bloomington.
Hankes is looking forward to his team being in in the event, as he knows no matter what happens, his team will compete.
"I can’t be more proud of these girls," Hankes said. "They love track. They are looking to PR every single time. They know they may not win, but they are getting better each and every week."
Contact Ben Theobald at email@example.com