Tuscola’s Williams wins three gold medals in state debut, Salt Fork finishes third behind Jessup’s strong performance


CHARLESTON (WCIA) — Whether they’ve been on this stage before or have already won it all, the athletes competing in the Class 1A girls’ state track and field championships at Eastern Illinois University have waited far too long to get back on this stage and the blue track. After missing out on last season because of the pandemic, Thursday saw the first IHSA state titles given out in any sport in 15 months.

“This is my first state meet ever, that was just incredible,” Tuscola junior Alyssa Williams said after winning three state titles.

“After not being here for a year or so now, it felt really good being back,” St. Joseph-Ogden senior Atleigh Hamilton said.

Both girls battled all day long, with Williams coming out ahead over Hamilton in the long jump, 100 and 200-meter dashes.

“That feels absolutely amazing, honestly,” Williams said about taking three championships. “I thought the COVID year might have set us back a little bit, but I’m really glad with the amount of work that we got done. In the weight room, all the track practices no matter how hot or cold they were. It was worth it.”

Hamilton is a two-time defending state champ in the long jump but struggled, scratching her first two jumps. She still managed a second place finish, sticking her third attempt.

“I was pretty nervous the first jump, after I scratched the second jump I was pretty mad about that because it was so close and it was a really good jump,” she said. “I’m happy I was able to come back because before my last jump I was ranked fifth and I ended up pulling out second.”

Hamilton also managed to finish with her first individual medal on the track, grabbing silver in the 400-meter run. Salt Fork had the most dominant day of central Illinois teams, the Storm finished third in the standings. Nearly half their points came from senior Gracie Jessup. After finishing seventh and third previously in 100-meter hurdles, she got it done this year.

“I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a freshman and I’m so proud that all the work I finally put in has paid off,” Jessup said. “The whole race it was really tight. I could just feel them on me and I just gave it everything I had those last couple hurdles.”

To see the full results from Thursday’s meet, click here: https://www.athletic.net/TrackAndField/meet/436156/results

The Class 2A meet is on Friday, with the 3A meet to follow on Saturday in Charleston.

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