CHARLESTON — Central High School’s Rayanne Wright will remember her 2013 trip to O’Brien Field in Charleston, IL.
The Standout Central Comet senior brings home a 1st Place state trophy from Eastern Illinois University. Rayanne Wright captured the ultimate prize Saturday to cap her high school career.
Wright defended her title in the Class 1A 400-meter dash at the IHSA girls track and field state finals at EIU’s O'Brien Stadium. She’s a back-to-back state champion.
Wright's winning time of 56.60 seconds was her best of the season and the fastest local 400 time this year. It also bested her championship time of 56.94 from last year.
"I'm just ecstatic right now. It's a great way to end my high school career," Wright said. "I was a little nervous going into the race. I was seeded second, and Sullivan High School’s Amanda McClain is a great runner. I prepared as much as I could and put my faith in my strength, my training throughout the year and my experience.”
The sprint to the finish was eerily similar to last year's final, one where McClain again settled for the runner-up spot.
This time, it was a closer battle, but Wright's experience made the difference against the sophomore. Wright made the push at the end, and Sullivan couldn't answer, coming up 0.40 seconds short.
"Amanda is a great runner, so I was expecting her to be in front of me toward the end," Wright said. "But it gave me an extra push, and the last bit of energy came through. I was able to finish strong, which is one of my strengths."
Winning the state title was Wright's main goal for the season. The other was to leave a strong legacy at Central.
With consecutive state titles on her résumé, the future Illinois State University runner will be remembered for years to come for her work both on and off the track.
"I want to be a great role model, excelling in the classroom first and then out on the track. If you put in your time, it all pays off," Wright said. "I just want future athletes to understand that. Hopefully, they're going in pushing and trying to beat some of my records."
Also in 1A action, two local pole vaulters advanced to the final four. Reed-Custer's Morgan Zacharias finished second by clearing 11 feet, 6 inches, and Dwight's Kacy Murphy went 10-9 to place fourth.
Watseka's Emily Allhands finished fifth in the shot put with a mark of 37-10, and Momence's Ariel Gibbs took eighth in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.91 seconds.
Kays set tone for future
If this year's state finals are any indication, it won't take long for Kay Nation to become a force to be reckoned with.
The Kankakee girls track team put up some impressive results — including a state championship — on the way to an eighth-place team finish in Class 2A.
The Kays finished with 27 points and were just four points from fifth place. Southeast, from Springfield, scored 66 to easily win the championship.
Kankakee had six athletes competing but just one senior — Brittney Griffin — which made the Kays' success that much sweeter.
"It was fabulous. This was the best showing Kankakee's had in a long time," Kankakee coach Benny Phillips said. "We're trying to coin the phrase 'Kay Nation.' We're trying to bring a lot of family-style stuff to Kankakee, and that what it was all about. We just wanted to represent Kankakee well."
The Kays did that from the start, winning their first event of the day — the 400-meter relay. The team of Griffin, Jemiya Bates, Kenyae Collins and Tyjuana Eason won by the slimmest of margins, edging Southeast by 0.06 seconds with a time of 48.224.
As Eason and Southeast's Charday Crawford crossed the finish line, neither was sure who won until the results appeared on the scoreboard.
"It was pretty shocking. I didn't think we were going to get first because it was so close," said Griffin, who led off the race. "But we pulled through."
The same team carried that success to the 800-meter relay, placing third in 1 minute, 41.45 seconds and setting a school record for the second day in a row.
For Kankakee's final relay, the 1,600, sisters Shaneequa and Keshonna Hubert replaced Griffin and Bates, and the Kays finished seventh in 4:00.89.
Eason and Bates also competed in the 100, finishing sixth and seventh, respectively, in 12.26 and 12.27.
The city's success was not limited to Kankakee. Bishop McNamara junior Taylor McCammon finished second in the long jump, posting a mark of 18-4 3/4. She went 17-6 and 17-8 on her first two attempts before getting in the zone for her final jump.
In 3A, Bradley-Bourbonnais' Janae Cox and Keanu Taylor both medaled. Cox posted a season-best effort of 18-3 in the long jump to place seventh, and Taylor took ninth in the triple jump with an effort of 36-10 3/4.