By Mark Gregory
CHARLESTON – A year ago, Maine South junior Olivia Niziolek missed advancing for the finals in the 1600 run, but was able to place in a relay.
This season, she was determined to better her sophomore showing and did so with a third-place finish in the 1600 with a time of 4 minutes, 55.95 seconds in the Class 3A finals in O’Brien Stadium on the campus of Eastern Illinois University.
“I was hoping I would be better than ninth,” she said. “Last year I came down in the 4×800 and the mile and I didn’t qualify in the mile and we took ninth in the 4×800. I wanted to get top five at least and I got third.”
Niziolek knew she had a tough race with heavy competition, but it was something that pushed her to her best.
“I liked having those kind of runners in the race because I respond well to the competition. Having this elite field really pushed me. I didn’t PR, but I was close and going under 5 (minutes) is always good,” she said. “The adrenaline helps because you know its state and you have no excuse. Last night I was a little sore and I was thinking that I just ran that fast and now I had to run even faster, but I like the challenge and I think I responded well.”
Niziolek is the second Hawk to medal in the 1600 and the first since Rachel Kelleher placed second in 1990.
Also medaling was Niles West Niles West senior Nicole Cho cleared 11-feet, 3-inches in the pole vault to place seventh.
She became the first pole vaulter in school history to earn a state medal.
“It has been a goal for a really long time. I really didn’t care what number it was as long as I could be up there with all these amazing vaulters,” Cho said. “I am proud of myself and proud of everyone else too.”
When Cho cleared the 11-3 mark, she knew that was the one she needed to medal.
“I knew if I cleared it I would probably medal, but I tried not to think of it,” she said. “Then when I made it, I just started sobbing because I knew that was the jump that got me to the medal stand.”
Her teammate, senior Karina Marin also competed in the preliminaries and missed on the opening height.
Maine South sophomore Katie Dingle missed on the opening height of the high jump and also missed the finals.
Dingle also competed in the 300-meter low hurdles and ran the race in 48.31 seconds.
Maine South senior Madeline Dingle completed the 1600 run in 5 minutes, 4.48 seconds.
The Hawks 3200 relay team of sophomore Laura Downey, junior Amanda Walbert, junior Kathleen Glockner and senior Katie Syer competed in 9:54.83.
In the 400 dash, Maine East sophomore Kayla Gregorio competed and ran it in 59.71.