Hardies places fifth in state 1600
Hinsdale Central's Jill Hardies (left) and Glenbard East's Lindsey Rakosnik finish the last 100 meter of the 1600-meter run. Patrick Gleason~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 2, 2012 9:55AM
Jill Hardies’ three-year running career at Hinsdale Central has experienced a gamut of emotions.
From a third-place 3200-meter run finish as a freshman that was indispensible to the Red Devils’ capturing the 2010 Class 3A girls track and field team state championship to a junior campaign riddled with nagging injuries, Hardies was poised to end the season in style last weekend at the state finals at Eastern Illinois University.
The Downers Grove North sectional champion at 1600 meters, Hardies was pitted in the third and final heat of the Friday preliminaries.
The Red Devils’ junior had no illusions concerning her task at hand.
“Going into the prelims, I knew the competition was going to be among the best, if not the best, in state history,” Hardies said of the field composed of multiple cross-country and track state champions as well as Division I recruits.
Hardies’ gut instinct proved prescient as the junior needed to make a dramatic move over the final 800 meters simply to make the finals cut of 12.
Mired in the middle of the pack for the first 800 meters, Hardies was brilliant over the final two laps.
Lindsey Rakosnik, the Illinois-bound Glenbard East defending state champion at 800 meters, was the pace-setter.
But Hardies’ dramatic move over the next 400 meters allowed her to pass six runners and leave her a meter away from Rakosnik with 300 meters to go.
Rakosnik held off Hardies’ late bid with a winning time of 4 minutes, 57.49 seconds, while the Red Devils’ distance maven shaved nearly eight seconds off her sectional time with a personal-best of 4:58.06 to finish second in the heat.
“I knew Hardies had a lot of leg speed at the end,” Rakosnik said.
For Hardies, though, simply making the finals was an achievement in itself.
“It was incredible that (any time over) 5:01 didn’t make finals when in some years it won state,” Hardies said. “I had confidence going into Saturday that I could run pretty fast.”
The Saturday finale was a continuation of the three preliminaries’ theme.
“We went out very fast,” Hardies said of the opening 800 meters. “I knew some of the girls were going to fade at the end.”
Oswego East senior Ariel Michalek, the reigning state champion at 3200 meters, and Rakosnik were engaged in a fierce struggle.
Hardies was once again in the middle of the pack.
Rakosnik momentarily passed Michalek on the fourth lap, and Hardies’ customary kick brought her into title contention as well.
In a scintillating final 300 meters, the Wisconsin-bound Michalek regained the lead and held off New Trier junior Courtney Ackerman and Rakosnik with a winning time of 4:53.37.
Hardies was fifth in 4:57.47, a second and half behind conference rival Lisa Gordon of Lyons Township.
“I didn’t make my move soon enough in the last 800 meters,” Hardies said. “I couldn’t catch those first four girls in the end.”
“I knew Hardies was behind me,” said Michalek, who denied Hardies by two seconds to win the 2010 state cross-country championship. “(Hardies) is a great competitor.”
Hardies was the lone finalist for the Red Devils; Cara Tenerelli failed to make the 100 hurdles grade, and the 800 and 1600 relays met the same fate.