By Tom Schultz For the Herald
The Clinton Herald
---- — FULTON, Ill. — It was another record-breaking night at Fulton High School for the Lady Steamer Invitational. Erie/Prophetstown dominated the meet and set five records in the process, two individual and three team.
The Panthers won the team title with 150.5 points, while Riverdale was second and Clinton third.
The E/P competitors weren’t the only ones setting records, though.
Fulton freshman Averi Leitzen set a school record in the 1,600-meter run, finishing in 5:44.18, beating the old record by nearly two seconds. Leitzen was neck and neck with the leader of the race, Clinton’s Kim Kaster, for the first three laps, and in the final lap began to show how much she had left in the tank, breezing past Kaster to take the lead, which she kept extending through the finish line.
Leitzen was part of the relay team later in the night with senior Erin Wessels. Wessels, one of the Fulton Unity Christian student-athletes who has helped form the combined team, had a strong night for Fulton/Fulton Unity as she led the team to fourth place in the competition. Wessels took fourth place in the long jump, traveling 14 feet, 4 inches, and second place in the triple jump after battling a quadriceps injury her junior year that kept her out of competition for most of last spring.
“Triple’s been going pretty well lately,” she said. “I’ve been working a lot on it this year. I still need work on my second phase of my jump and getting as much length as I can out of that, but it’s going a lot better.
“Long jump didn’t go quite as well as I would have hoped, but I did all right. I know what I need to work on.”
The other individual records to fall saw both Rus sisters from E/P take one. Senior Paige Rus started things off early by winning the triple jump, breaking the meet record in the process. She jumped 35-7 ½ to break the meet record.
“It feels great when hard work pays off,” said Rus, who also won the high jump at 5-2. “My first jump didn’t feel too good, but I just relaxed after that and took a deep breath. I feel like when I don’t think about the jump I do better than when I’m trying to focus on it, so I just tried to clear my head.”
The next record came in the 400 relay. The E/P foursome of sisters Courtney and Rachel Cobert, Peyton Rus and Heather Strike ran away with the win, setting the meet record at 51.07 seconds and getting another 10 points on the scoreboard.
“It felt really good. Our team’s really … it’s fun to run with them, and it’s a great experience to have,” freshman Peyton Rus said. “We have a great track team, and we’ve been improving every day, I think, so it’s going to be a good year, I think.”
Peyton Rus took home the other individual meet record of the night when she ran the 200-meter dash in 26.1 seconds.
The Panthers also set meet records in the 800- and 1,600-meter relays. Courtney Cobert led off the four-by-200, followed by Peyton and Paige Rus, with Rachel Cobert anchoring for a winning time of 1:47.12. The Coberts also bookended the effort in the four-by-400, with Paige Rus running the second leg and Corrie Reiley the third for a 4:12.76 timing.
Sydney Laufenberg of Prince of Peace continued her strong freshman season in the throws, winning the shot put (36-4.75) and the discus (107-3), although both winning tosses were shy of her season’s bests.
Erin Wenzel and Kaster picked up victories for Clinton. Wenzel won the 800 in 2:25.73, while Kaster’s 12:37.24 clocking in the 3,200 was more than a half-minute ahead of the runner-up.
“Kim had a really nice 3,200 and was strong in the 1,600,” Clinton coach June Wilden said. “Wenzel had a nice 800 and a good split on the four-by-4(00, in which Clinton finished second). The four-by-1(00) ran their fastest time of the year.
“I thought the kids raced much harder and the times were much better than they have been,” she said. “I think all of them felt they were in the races.”
Wilden said qualifying for the Drake Relays was a motivator for the team. The last chance to make it is Thursday at the Bettendorf Invitational.
“We’re going to go full throttle and try to qualify something for Drake,” she said.