GALESBURG -- Not often does a girls' track and field meet produce nonstop, nail-biting moments with a last-minute victory.|
Consider Monday night a unique one.
Underdogs from the start, Moline came up with its best team effort at the right time. The Maroons used clutch performances in key events with just enough in everything else to score 196 points and outlast runner-up Rock Island by four to win the Western Big 6 Conference title at Van Dyke Field.
"We had a lot of special things happen tonight," said Moline coach Joel Bohnsack, who led the program to its 12th league title and first since 2010. "We had a lot of kids who just simply stepped up. They just made things happen."
First off, the Maroons believed they could outlast the two-time defending league champions.
"We thought we could win this," Moline senior jumper/hurdler Taylor Jefford said. "Yeah, they've got their fast people, but we've got jumpers, distance and a few fast people. We could do it."
The path to the championship was close, with Rocky doing its best to keep the Big 6 in its hands. The Maroons, though, relied on their top events and depth to gain the four-point victory.
Starting the title run were the field events. Moline used first-place performances from Rose Gamamou (high jump, 5-feet-2), Ali Patch (pole vault, 8-6) and Erika Lopez (discus, 123-8) to gain some separation.
Moline took the top two spots in the high jump, pole vault and discus, helping it score 80 points in the six events.
Another key was the distance, where Haley Verbeke swept the 1600- and 3200-meter races in 5:23.47 and 11:34.46. The Maroons took the top three spots in the 3200 and three of the top five in the 1600.
Combine the field events and the distances races, they scored 124 points.
"We were banking on our field events and distance," Lopez said. "We did really well in both."
Also helping was Jefford sweeping the 100 and 300 hurdles in 15.6 and 48.15 seconds.
"We knew our strengths and weaknesses," Verbeke said. "We knew where we could get some points."
So did the Rocks.
With a sizable deficit, Rocky stayed tough. Mystique Thompson won the 100 (12.43) and 200 (25.66), plus ran the lead leg on the Rocks' title-winning 4x100 (48.13) and 4x200 (1:42.39), which set a meet record. Troy Jackson (400, 1:00.21), Kirsten Tauke (800, 2:25.78) and Olivia Brooks (long jump, 17-1.5) also secured wins.
At one point, Rocky held a 12-point lead with two events left.
However, the Rocks could not make it a three-peat. Trailing by eight points in the last event, Rocky needed to win the 4x400 and have the Maroons finish sixth. The Rocks did win the relay, but Moline was third.
"It's not a feeling I want to feel," said Rocky junior sprinter LaCresha Linton, who ran legs on all three winning relays and took second in the 100. "It's very disappointing."
On the other side, Moline was jubilant as it captured the Big 6 for the third time in six years. Winning is one thing, but the way the Maroons did it is something to be remembered.
"Rocky's good -- there's no doubt about that," Bohnsack said. "The kids just rose up to the challenge. They just outperformed themselves. They are the ones who took control."
Nicoue wins triple jump: United Township senior Gocale Nicoue cleared 35-2, winning the triple jump. As a team, the Panthers took fourth with 45 points.
Alleman (22 points) finished sixth.
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