Illini West mixes and matches relay teams, still dominates Unity Invitational field

Central’s Katelyn Rhea, right, leads Illini West’s Mariah Brodie as they head for the finish line during the 400-meter race at Tuesday’s Unity Invitational. Rhea won in 1 minute, 3.94 seconds. (H-W Photo/Phil Carlson)
Posted: Apr. 23, 2014 3:07 am Updated: May. 7, 2014 3:15 am

Herald-Whig Sports Writer

MENDON, Ill. — Illini West girls track coach Jerry Butcher has a nice problem when it comes to fielding his relay teams.

Butcher can choose from at least six different runners.

"I'm very, very lucky," Butcher said. "Some years you only have three and you're desperately trying to find a fourth."

Whatever combination he decides to use, the relays get results. Illini West won the 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 relays as the Chargers cruised to the team championship at the Unity Invitational Tuesday afternoon with 148 points. Pittsfield finished second with 90 points.

"Our team is just confident," said Tara Forbes, who ran in the 4x800. "When it comes time to race, we all know we've got this."

With so many girls vying for spots, it creates competition among the runners. In turn, it makes them better.

The Chargers' used Paige Bray, Aubrie Carlisle, Graci Bastert and Mariah Brodie in the 4x100. The 4x200 team was Bray, Brodie, Emily Gold and Michaela Gronewold. Butcher went with Gold, Bastert, Brodie and Carlisle in the 4x400.

The changes don't affect the chemistry, which seems to work with any combination.

"We all just get along really well," Gold said. "We all work well with each other, and we're able to adjust to what each other can do."

Until the 4x800 relay team placed third to Pittsfield, Illini West hadn't lost a relay all spring.

While Illini West has been dominant on the track, Rachel Clowers has been a force in the field events.

The Pleasant Hill sophomore set meet records in the shot put and discus.

Her shot put distance of 42 feet, 3 1/2 inches broke the previous record of 39-2 set in 2002. She threw the discus was 133-8, breaking her own mark of 128-6.

Setting meet records are important to her, but it's not the ultimate goal.

"I want to win both at state, or at least in discus," said Clowers, who placed sixth in the discus at the Class A state meet last spring. "I want to place in top three in shot put."

Clowers has been competing in shot put and discus since middle school. Back then, Pleasant Hill coach Mike Giles took notice.

"She was talented then and she's continued to just get better," Giles said. "Her parents have throwing pads in her backyard. Most kids go and shoot baskets. Rachel goes out and throws."

Garnett won the 3,200 run and Bray won the 100 dash as Illini West dominated most running events.

Bastert won the long jump and Carlisle won the triple jump.

Pittsfield earned three individual wins. Shannon Gates won the 200 dash, Jaycee Clements won the 800 runand Jennifer Robbins won the 1,600.

Central's Katelyn Rhea took the 400 dash.


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