At the Class 1A sectional track and field meet in Erie on Thursday, Fulton senior Daekota Knott was consistently one of the first people to run over competitors, offering high fives, hugs and congratulations.
But the senior had quite a bit to celebrate herself. She’s heading to the Illinois High School State Track & Field meet next week in two different events.
“It’s like your heart leaps out of your chest and you want to cry you’re so happy,” Knott said. “You want to be there to celebrate with your teammates and let each other know you did amazing, it’s a really cool feeling.”
Knott, a four-year state qualifier in the triple jump, is heading there with a little more on her mind than just competing. The senior took first place in the triple jump at the Illinois TopTimes Indoor Championship earlier this spring, leaving her just the outdoor state title to grab to wrap up her career.
She cleared the qualifying mark on her first try Thursday, despite terrible conditions.
“It was really exciting,” Knott said. “It was definitely one of the best feelings I’ve had.”
Still, even though she was qualifying as a freshman, she wasn’t sure she was going to be as good of a jumper as she was. She worked and worked to get where she is, improving a little more each year.
“The first two years I barely qualified,” Knott said. “Then I starting working on cycling my leg through and jumping instead of just running through the motions. I’ve also learned to pick up speed.”
It was her junior year when she realized she could be an elite competitor in the event at the high school level. Last year, she was the state runner up, jumping 38-02.5 and losing only to Orion’s Danielle Taets.
“It was definitely my junior year,” Knott said, looking back. “It was sectionals, it really blew me away how I jumped. It made me realized I could really push myself to new levels.”
Another aspect that helped the Steamer was the addition of assistant coach Lee Salazar. He has been working with the jumpers for two years now, including Knott’s junior and seniors campaigns.
“He is the reason I have gone so far in my triple jumping,” Knott said. “He has come in and taught me everything I know. Without him, I would not be the jumper I am today.”
Not only is she going for the triple jump crown next week, but for the first time in her high school career she’ll be running on the track at O’Brien Stadium. She ran the 4x100 for the first time on Thursday, the next choice after the original runner was injured. The Steamers finished second at the sectional meet and will take their go at the relay at state.
“We were coming out to win,” Knott said. “We wanted to make it to state. I think we really pushed ourselves, and it was very exciting. “
For Knott, it’s a dream come true. She hasn’t gotten to compete on Illinois’ Blue Oval and will now get that chance as a senior. For an athlete who keeps a picture of O’Brien Field as a background on her phone for some extra motivation in the spring, that’s a pretty cool way to go out.
“I’m looking forward to running on the blue track, it’s definitely been a dream.”
The state meet is May 16-18 at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill.