OMAHA — Humphrey St. Francis super-sophomore Allison Weidner electrified the crowd Friday.
First came her anchor leg on her team’s 4x800-meter relay to help the Flyers win the Class D event. She followed that up by running the fastest qualifying time in the 400-meter dash — the only Class D girl to break a minute — on the opening day of the state high school track and field championships at Burke High School here.
Weidner's qualifying time in the 400 for Saturday’s finals was 58.98. Two other area runners qualified, too: Hunter Wiebelhaus of Bassett North Central and Lainey Werts of St. Edward.
In the distance relay, Weidner grabbed the baton from teammate Sydney Engel already in first place.
“I thought I started off a little fast, but that's all right, I mean, it's state track. I got the baton in first and I've got to keep it in first, can't let my teammates down,” Weidner said of her thought process.
St. Francis' winning time of 10:07.93 is the area's best mark this year. Wynot finished in the runner-up spot after anchor leg Karley Heimes passed up Pleasanton and Giltner runners in the final 100 meters.
“I got the baton in fourth place and I was like, I've got to pick it up or I'm not going to beat them,” Heimes said. “So as I was coming around, second lap, I just had to go for it, all the way.”
Two other area squads — North Central and Plainview — finished sixth and eighth.
While the Class D girls 4x800 went off without a hitch, the same could not be said of the Class B race. The starter fired his pistol three different times and on each occasion the lead-off runners began the race, only to be stopped and asked to return to the start because the automatic-timing mechanism failed to start.
After officials worked through the bugs, a fourth start was halted when someone tried to cross the track without realizing a race was going on and interfered with some runners.
At that point, officials chose to run the Class D boys 4x800 race in order to give the Class B girl runners a chance to rest and hydrate during the warm, humid afternoon.
Pierce lead-off runner Callie Arnold said all the disruptions were tiring. “Before we started running, my legs were loose and I felt good. Then when I was walking back I stopped in the shade and my legs feel a smidge tired,” she said.
Boone Central/Newman Grove's Jordan Soto-Stopak said she was getting anxious. “I didn't know if I'd have enough energy,” she said. “I did think at one point that one of my starts was my best, but I don't know what would have happened in that race.”
By the time the Class B girls did run, the wind had picked up, which caused times to be slower than anticipated. Boone Central/Newman Grove finished seventh in 10:24.6 while Pierce was eighth in 10:25.5.
A pair of area girls gave the crowd a charge in their heat of the 100-meter hurdles. Plainview's Caroline Akinnigbagbe led Belle Harms of Hartington-Newcastle over every hurdle but the last one — that’s when Harms caught her for the narrow win.
Harms said she and Akinnigbagbe have raced a lot of time before, and that many of those showdowns ended similarly to Friday's where she'd catch her at the last hurdle.
“The start was a little slow,” Harms said. “I just kind of have trouble sometimes with my starts. But once I get to the third hurdle, that's when I turn it on and I just kept going. I kept digging into the ground and I finally passed her.”
Akinnigbagbe said she felt confident she was going to win. “Over the last hurdle, I was like, 'Ok, ok, gotta make it, gotta make it,' and then I see Belle over there, and I'm like, 'Oh no,' and I'm like trying, but I just barely missed it.”
Both Harms and Akinnigbagbe finished identical times of 15.40 and both qualified for the Saturday final.
Pierce hurdler Maggie Brahmer qualified for the Class B final following a 15.40 effort. “State is always a different atmosphere; it's always nerve-wracking,” Brahmer said. “I knew I had to get out really fast and I knew I had to bring my trail leg over really, really fast, too. That was a good race. I can't complain. It was a good day.”
The defending Class D 3,200-meter champion, Jade Rickard of Plainview, couldn't make it two-in-a-row. The tiny Pirate senior kept within striking distance of the leader for the first mile-and-a-half, but faded in the final two laps to finish fifth.
“They did a great job, they really pushed me and I just didn't have it at the end,” Rickard said. “I ran the 4x800 today so my legs were a little heavy, but I'm not disappointed — I placed at state.”
Jordan Soto-Stopak of Boone Central/Newman Grove ran most of the Class B 3,200 in fourth or fifth place, made her move in the final lap, but came up just short, falling to Taya Skelton of Fort Calhoun by one second.
Allen's Jordyn Carr led the Class D long jump after the preliminaries with a leap of 17-4¼. That mark stood until Riverside's Alixzander Bloom topped it with a 17-7¾ effort on her last attempt.
Still, the Eagle was pleased with her second-place finish. “For my freshman year, that's really good. I feel proud,” she said.
Abby Everitt of O'Neill St. Mary's and Akinnigbagbe placed sixth and seventh, respectively, in the Class D long jump while O'Neill's Meg Schluns earned the eighth-place medal in Class B.
Everitt also qualified for Saturday's final in the 300-meter low hurdles.
North Central's Sierra Udd finished third in the Class D discus with an unusually short distance of 117-9. Taylor Peter of Chambers/Wheeler Central was fifth and Scribner-Snyder's Cailey Stout was seventh.
Kendra Paasch of West Point-Beemer took fifth place in the Class B discus with a toss of 130-10.
Two area sprinters earned spots in the finals Saturday of both the Class D 100 and 200 — Alexandra Eisenhauer of Bloomfield and Paige Nissen of Wausa — while West Point-Beemer's Jamie Pierce qualified for the Class B finals in the 200 and Wayne pole vaulter Maysn Dorey tied for eighth in Class B by clearing 10 feet.