PITTSFIELD, Ill. -- After learning the Pittsfield boys and girls track and field teams were getting bumped to Class 2A this season, Chandler Hayden wanted to see what she was up against.
So she looked up the distances of the winning shot put and discus throws from last year's Class 2A state championship.
The Pittsfield senior thrower was pleasantly surprised.
"Honestly, those distances were less than 1A," Hayden said.
The winning throw in the shot put was 46 feet, 11/4 inches, 1-21/2 shy of the top Class 1A mark. In the discus, the gap was more decisive. The winning toss in Class 2A was 133-6, while in Class 1A it was 151-8.
So Hayden discovered she had nothing to fear. The Saukees were bumped to Class 2A because of a co-op agreement with Western. The combined enrollment of the two schools is 482 students, and the cutoff for Class 1A is 477.
"It's a little bit of a curveball," she said.
Not one she can't handle. Hayden finished third in the shot put and seventh in the discus last year in Class 1A and has outdone her best distances this season. She qualified for the Class 2A state meet in both events after throwing 41-71/2 in the shot put and 132-7 in the discus.
This will be her fourth and final state appearance, and she's been confident all along she could compete with the best throwers in the state. She's earned four state medals to date and landed a scholarship to throw at the University of Tennessee next season.
"I follow all these different throwers on Instagram, and I know what they're doing," Hayden said. "I've seen what they throw, and I'm really excited to get down there and compete with everyone."
First, there's one last prep meet.
Hayden is seeded second in the discus and third in the shot put going into this weekend's state meet that begins Thursday at O'Brien Stadium on the campus of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
East Alton Wood River's Jayden Ulrich is top-seeded in the shot put at 45-7, and Carbondale's Sydeny Apgar is top in the discus at 137-11.
And she finally feels ready to challenge those top distances. Hayden battled illness and inclement weather throughout the spring, making it difficult to get into a routine.
"I just want to do my best and put it all out there," Hayden said. "It's my last meet. It's bittersweet. But I also know I'm going on to bigger and better things."