AJH relay team wins state championship, sets record

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AMBOY – Practice was over.

The sun started to set. The parking lot emptied.

But the Amboy Junior High girls track and field team’s 400-meter relay team of Aubrey Wells, Madison “Maddie” Althaus, Lili Leffelman, and Alexa McKendry stayed on the track to improve their handoff speed.

The hard work paid off as Wells, Althaus, Leffelman, and McKendry won the IESA State Meet Class 2A 400-relay state championship and set a 2A record with their time of 53.24 on Saturday, May 13 in East Peoria.

“I grew up watching my sisters in track and they always went to state in junior high and high school,” said Althaus. “I always went to them for advice and always wanted to do the same thing. Last year, I was third in the 400-meter dash and our 400-relay finished second. 

“We worked really hard this season. We really wanted to come out on top and be state champions because we knew we could do it. We had a really good chance because we were ranked first. All season long we were in class looking at our ranking on athletic.net. We were so excited to see our times and to see what we needed to do to improve.

“It was really exciting to win the championship and break the 2A record.”

Althaus was a three-event state qualifier this year as she finished sixth in the 400 with a time of 1:03.42 and she joined fellow eighth graders Wells, Leffelman, and McKendry once again in the 1,600-meter relay where they finished fourth.

First-year Amboy Junior High track and field coach Brad Dunlap receives part of the credit of the 1,600-relay team’s success.

“Last year, they didn’t even run the 1600. They thought I was being mean by putting them in it this year,” Dunlap said. “They advanced to state in both, so now they think I’m smart. I told them, ‘You’re fast and have a good chance, so you’re going to do it.’

“They were pretty quiet because they knew I was right.” 

Amboy was also represented in the long jump by eighth grader Morgan Kreiser and seventh grader Karona Gall finished 12th in the high jump after winning the Class 2A Erie Sectional championship.

After winning the Erie Sectional as a team, advancing five events to state, winning a state championship, setting a record, and bringing home numerous medals, Dunlap is proud of his athletes and his coaching staff.

“It’s a big credit to the athletes who made it to state, and I have help with two other really good coaches, Katie Krogman and coach Allison Fox. Going from two events at state last year to five this year is pretty special,” Dunlap said. “Hopefully, we can keep building it from here.” 

“We’re really happy with this season. We thought we had a chance to get a few more girls to state this year. We had a lot of talent this year on both the boys and girls teams. Having Amboy represented in five events is special, especially for a small school like Amboy. They’ve worked really hard and we pushed them pretty hard this year. 

“The hard work paid off.”