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VCHS relay team returns to state finals

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The defending state champion girl’s 4-by-400-meter relay from Vandalia Community High School was runner-up to Eureka in Thursday’s preliminary heat, but still qualified for Saturday’s final on the basis of time.

The VCHS quartet of Paige Dodson, Tori Hagy, Kayla Houston and Ashley Durbin recorded the second-best time of day – behind Eureka. The winner of each of the five preliminary heats and the next four best times qualified for the finals, which will be run at 4:20 p.m. on Saturday at O’Brien Stadium on the campus of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.

The Vandalia team jumped out to a solid lead on Paige Dodson’s opening leg, and stayed there through the next two legs by Hagy and Houston. The Eureka anchor overtook Durbin in the final 50 meters to win in 4:04.76. The Vandals’ time was 4:05.45 – their best since the state finals last year when they set a school record of 4:03.47.

The team’s performance bodes well for their chances in Saturday’s finals because all of the Vandal runners competed in preliminary races in other events on Thursday before the 4-by-400-meter preliminary race. Durbin ran in the 800-meter run, recording a time of 2:31.72, which did not qualify her for Saturday’s final. Houston was third in her heat with a 59.37 400-meter dash – a new school record – but also did not advance to the finals.

The other VCHS relay competing at Thursday’s state meet preliminaries was the 4-by-100-meter relay. That team, composed of the same runners as the 4-by-400, holds the school record from last year. However, the competition in the shorter race proved to be too stiff, and the Vandals’ time of 52.22 placed them eighth in their heat and did not qualify them for the finals.

With those other races out of the picture, the Lady Vandals have only the defense of their 4-by-400-meter relay to focus on in Saturday’s finals.