Lyons Township High School senior Grace Flynn’s first girls track meet as a freshman pole vaulter ended quickly.
“I didn’t clear 6 feet. I didn’t clear the first height,” Flynn said.
These days, Flynn already has become the Lions’ first girls pole vaulter to qualify for the state meet twice.
Spectators lined the vault runway and watched Flynn clear 10 feet and win during the Lions’ indoor home triangular in Western Springs against West Suburban Conference Silver Division rivals Oak Park and River Forest and Downers Grove North on Feb. 26. No team scores were kept.
Flynn cleared 10-0 on her second attempt to secure a tiebreaker over OPRF’s Chena Underhill, who needed all three attempts. Flynn then missed at 10-6, which would have beaten her lifetime best of 10-3.
“My goal for the season is 10-6 and if I make it to state, I would love to qualify for the finals because no LT girls pole vaulter has ever done that,” Flynn said. “I feel that I’m steadily improving each meet and I think that I can continue that with some more practice.”
Seven other LTHS returning 2014 state qualifiers contributed to top-three finishes at the meet – senior and two-time state high jump champion Emma Haugen, seniors Mayra Baeza, Madeline Bernstein and Julia Wink and juniors Hannah Dutler, Vanessa Flaherty and Luci Lussier.
This was the Lions’ third outing following other home meets Feb. 12 and 18. They are seeking their fourth straight indoor and outdoor Silver titles.
“I don’t think we’re healthy yet. [And] I think they’re still learning how to race,” LTHS head coach Greg Frandsen said. “I think time wise and everything like that, we’re actually probably right where we want to be. It’s going to be a lot more competitive year for us [in the Silver] so we have to keep turning it up a little bit more to see where we’re at.”
Haugen captured high jump (5-4), triple jump (35-1) and the 55-meter high hurdles (8.5 seconds) and anchored the winning 4-by-160-meter relay with Baeza, Maeve McDermott and Maggie Caplice (1:28.9).
Senior Martha Harris (33-4 3/4 in shot put) and junior Jamie Osborne (55 in 7.5) also took first. The Lions’ eight second-place finishes included Lussier in the 300 (44.0) and 400 (1:03.1).
Haugen’s Feb. 18 high jump of 5-6, two inches shy of her indoor and co-outdoor school records, shares the top height so far this season, according to DyeStatIL.com. Thursday’s hurdles time also is among the state’s best.
Limited by an ankle injury to one event at the 2014 indoor Silver Meet, Haugen is her healthiest indoors since freshman year.
“I feel good, not injured. I feel strong, ready to go,” said Haugen, currently deciding between Illinois and Wisconsin for college track. “(The 5-6) was good. I know I’m there. I can jump a lot higher. My hips are up there. I have been messing with my approach a little bit so we’ll see.”
Flynn started pole vault from scratch as a freshman after being encouraged by a friend, especially because she also competes for the gymnastics team. She started indoor track two weeks late following her last junior varsity I gymnastics meet Jan. 31 and cleared 9-0 and 9-9 the previous two meets.
Flynn is acclimating to heavier and longer poles as she seeks to conquer new heights.
“I got on my second pole [Thursday] so that was good,” Flynn said. “You can’t swing up right away so that’s hard for me to learn the timing of it. Once I get the hang of it, I think I’ll be better.”