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Ruffner makes state for 3rd time

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By Andrew Harner

Vandalia senior Sierah Ruffner will be making her third trip to the state track meet on Thursday, and will be looking to make the event finals for the first time in her career.

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Ruffner cleared 5 feet, 2 inches to meet the automatic state-qualifying standard in the high jump and place third at last Thursday’s sectional meet in Carlinville.

But unlike in her freshman and junior seasons, Ruffner is hoping that she will clear 5 feet, 2 inches at the state preliminaries to qualify for Saturday’s state finals.

"My expectations for myself are just to go in with a positive attitude, give it all I've got and hopefully make it to the finals and place," Ruffner said. "I just need to relax and stay consistent on what I've been doing all year, and have no regrets."

As a freshman, she cleared 4 feet, 11 inches at state, and as a junior, she cleared 5 feet even.

To make the finals in her last opportunity, coach Gena Nance said Ruffner will have to execute strong form on every jump.

“She has to get her hips up, because when her hips are up, it improves her form and her jumps,” Nance said. “We have been working on that all season, and are practicing it really hard this week.”

Her best jump of this season is 5 feet, 5 inches, a school record which last season would have given her fourth place at state.

The first flight of the state high jump preliminaries will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday morning.

And while Ruffner was the only state-qualifier for the Lady Vandals, several others had strong performances in their final meet of the season.

Freshman Jalea Paslay placed fourth in the 800-meter run, posting her best time of the season, 2:31.62, and falling just 3.5 seconds short of qualifying for state.

Nance said that Paslay’s improvement throughout the season has been good to see, given the poor practice conditions she has endured for most of the rainy spring.

“She still didn’t run as fast as last season, but the training for this year was awful,” Nance said. “The best thing is that she did get some tough workouts and tough competition at meets, and that makes a huge difference (as compared to) running at the junior high level.”

Paslay ran her first 800 of the season in 2:49.2, and her previous season-best time was 2:38.3.

Freshman Karlie Bright set the school record in the pole vault for the third time this season, clearing 8 feet, 3 inches to place sixth at the sectional.

She opened the season by clearing 7 feet, 6 inches, and she is now a foot away from the automatic state-qualifying height.

Other sectional placers were sophomore Johanna Walton, who took fifth in the high jump wth 5 feet, and the 4X200-meter relay team, which also placed fifth.

Bright, Ruffner, freshman Makayla Tinker and sophomore Jessica Booker finished that race in 1:58.58.

The 4X400-meter relay team of Paslay, freshman Leah Francis, senior Heidi Goldsmith and Walton won the slow heat in 4:40.2, and fell less than a second away from placing sixth.

Tinker made the finals of the long jump, placing ninth with a leap of 14 feet, 2 ½ inches.

And even though Nance said the number of cancellations and schedule changes is like no other season she has ever seen, she is proud of the way her athletes competed and improved as the spring went on.

“It’s been a really tough season for everything, and every school is in that boat,” Nance said. “They are just good athletes. There were a lot of them who had tough race combinations at meets, and doing stuff like that is good for you, even if you have rained out practices.”