Urbana High School sophomore Ella Auderset had all but won her first outdoor track state title May 25, leading the field in the 400-meter dash by “what seemed like a mile,” Hawks girls’ track and field coach CJ Ecalono said. But, well on her way to breaking 56 seconds for the first time—and adding 10 points to Urbana’s total—as she rounded the final curve, the crowd at Morgan State University fell silent after Auderset tumbled to the track less than 50 meters from the finish line.
“She was lying on the track and we thought she was hurt,” Ecalono said. “But she told me that when she came around the final curve with 100 meters to go she started feeling fatigue in her legs that she never felt before. She didn’t know where it was coming from. She lasted almost 75 more meters before she dropped with 45 meters to go.”
Fortunately for Auderset—and Urbana—the Hawks’ top scorer wasn’t injured. She was just “really mad,” older sister and senior Susannah Auderset said. Ella eventually lifted herself back up to her feet to finish the race. And the silver lining: Susannah ended up earning a point with her eighth-place finish.
“One main reason why she fell was she was pushing herself to her limit and she hasn’t yet discovered what her limit is,” Susannah said. “But she came off the track and she wasn’t sad, she was just really mad, which was a good position for her to be in, in order for her to bounce back. She’s so strong and she was more focused on redeeming herself and proving herself rather than how tired she was.”
Only a few events later the younger Auderset edged Henry A. Wise’s Jordan Mozie by .01 seconds to capture the 800m race, and then anchored the victorious 1,600m relay that also featured Susannah, freshman Karly McDonnell and junior Piper Jons, in leading the Hawks to their first Class 4A outdoor state championship and second overall—Urbana won the 3A title in 2016.
Despite trailing for the majority of the state competition—not a surprise given Urbana’s strongest events—the Hawks ultimately finished with a 68.60-56 advantage over last year’s champion, Montgomery County’s Northwest in second place. Urbana won 41 of its points in the last 90 minutes of the meet.
“States never goes the way you think it’s going to, you just have to weather the storm and hope for the best,” Ecalono said. “We got knocked down (a few times) but some things did go our way. For our seniors, they came in and won the title when they were freshman and now they’re leaving with one, and I think that’s pretty cool.”
The resilience—and depth—Urbana showed during its win over Memorial Day Weekend has been on display from Day 1 this spring. With injuries early in the season to such top scorers as junior Lydia Robling, who finished fifth in the 500-meter run during Urbana’s indoor state title run over the winter, and multifaceted jumper Ezri Scott, Urbana had to figure out how to make up for those points. In turn, several athletes took it upon themselves to pick up the slack. Among them, junior sprinter Piper Jons, who enjoyed a breakout spring. In the event immediately following the 400m dash, Jons helped Urbana bounce back by picking up five points with her fourth-place finish in the 200m dash. Jons snapped Urbana program records in both the 100m and 200m during championship season, and scored in all four events she contested at the state meet.
Though Urbana won only two gold medals, the Hawks had at least one athlete or team score in 11 events en route to its resounding win. The Hawks’ trio of pole vaulters—Kelsey Calabrese, Payton Bohrer and Rachel Custer—contributed 17 points, finishing second, third and sixth, respectively. Senior Lily Morrell and junior Riley Johnson, who were part of Urbana’s seventh-place 800m relay, took fifth and sixth in the 300m hurdles. Junior Sara Jarman and senior Mary Miller crossed the finish line in seventh and eighth in the 3,200m run and McDonell clinched fifth in the 800m run. McDonnell also teamed with sister Emily, senior Michaela Garvey and Susannah Auderset for fourth place in the 3,200m relay. Junior Oni Scott, battling an injury of her own, added a fifth-place finish in the high jump and just missed scoring in the triple jump and shot put.
“We all knew we had the opportunity and the strength (to win states) but especially going into the second day, we were a little unsure and knew we had a lot of work to do because we were so far behind,” Susannah Auderset said. “But I think because we were so far behind, it pushed us to work harder and a lot of people really stepped up. (Winning the 4A title) is amazing because Coach Ecalono always says we’re the smallest fish in the biggest sea but despite being on the border of 4A and 3A, we could see that all of our hard work paid off.”