BLOOMINGTON — "I can, I will" was written in black sharpie on the left bicep of Crown Point junior Maddie Russin.
"Pain is temporary" was written on her left forearm, with “After,” written below it in red sharpie and underlined.
Russin, the defending champion in the 800 meters, watches motivational videos before her races, which explains her inscribed left arm.
In this year’s girls track and field state finals, Russin was placed in the first heat, the infamous “slow heat” for the 800. It was because Russin was racing the 400 dash prior to the 800, so her qualifying time at regionals was only a 2:19, yet Russin only had to worry about the 800 Saturday night.
Right from the gun, the junior exploded to a large lead and didn’t let up. She kept looking down to the "pain is temporary" during the race and pushed her way to a 2:08.23, nine seconds in front of second place and a four-second personal record, just a second off the state record.
“I knew I had to run as fast as I can no matter who was behind me,” Russin said.
She was confident in her time but had to sit back, nervously, and watch the second heat where she knew the talent of Pike’s Elizabeth Stanhope and Homestead’s Julia Dvorak would be tough to beat.
Stanhope’s strategy looked similar to Russin’s as she took off out of the gate and never relinquished the lead, running a new state record of 2:06.62 to take first place. Dvorak finished in 2:08.53, making Russin the runner-up.
“I’m happy with how I did even though I didn’t win,” Russin said.
She said it was mentally defeating to find out she was in the first heat because she knew she was there physically, but said she had to push through it and do the best she could. She said it gives her motivation for next year as well.
Even though Russin wished she could have raced Stanhope to have a say down the final stretch, when she approached her coaches and teammates after the podium ceremony, the red medal around her neck, the first thing she said was, “Honestly, I’m so happy right now.”
Lowell makes history
Lowell’s 4x800 relay team came into the event seeded sixth. Even though that seed could get them on the podium, the four girls competing wanted to accomplish something never done before in the school’s program — finish in the top five.
Freshman Karina James was the anchor and even though West Lafayette had run away with the lead, James got the baton in position to accomplish history.
“I’ve always been one to not know what to expect, so I go into it kind of blindly,” James said. “But during this race, I just locked in.”
The locked in James sprinted her way down the final stretch en route to a fourth-place finish with a time of 9:21.90.
Not only was it a monumental moment for the team in general, but both James and sophomore Megan Kazcur agreed it was the perfect way to send off their seniors, Jordyn Boyer and Annalise James, Karina James’ older sister.
“That was my last senior race and I’ve never placed before at state,” Annalise James said. “It feels great.”
For Boyer and Annalise James, it was work in process for four years to build a state-caliber team.
The four competitors couldn’t help but reiterate the chemistry, friendship and trust in one another they’ve showed and built up this season.
“It was really emotional for all of us to not only be here, but to be able to be on the podium and finish so high up on the podium, too, because it’s a goal we’ve been working since our freshman year,” Boyer said.
Lake Central’s field events puts up a trio of top-3 finishes
In her third and final attempt, Lake Central’s Makenda Ellis said she put it all out there knowing it would be her last throw of her high school career. The senior, seeded fourth, tossed a 43 feet, 3.25 inches and moved up to third place overall.
“Last year, I didn’t do as good as I wanted so I felt like I had to redeem myself,” Ellis said. “I feel very good.”
Ellis is going to attend Indiana University in the fall, which is where the meet took place, and said she might consider walking onto the IU track and field team to throw.
Ellis wasn’t the only one from LC to put up a top-3 finish. Senior Maddie Rigg, who was seeded sixth in the pole vault, finished third with a vault of 12-3.
“It was such an awesome feeling,” Rigg said. “Moving up three spots was awesome.”
Rigg said she is really proud of her team’s field events and said they all push each other to succeed.
The highest finisher for the Indians was LaTreasure Johnson, who was second in the long jump with a leap of 18-11.50.
Johnson said after placing ninth last year, she changed up her technique, using the hitch kick to improve.
As only a sophomore, a first-place finish in the next two years is something Johnson hopes to accomplish.
“That’s the goal,” she said.
Other top performers
Merrillville’s 4x100 team took second place with a time of 47.25.
“It feels extremely rewarding because we’ve been working for that all year long,” Romella Bozeman said.
Bozeman also finished eighth in the 100-meter dash.
Andrean’s Jordenne Hudson finished in third place in the 110 meter hurdles with a time of 14.45.
“It feels good as a senior to finally have done it,” Hudson said. “It was tough missing the finals last year, so all year I’ve just been pushing to get to this point.”
Lowell’s Karina James followed up her 4x800 performance with a seventh-place finish in the 3,200 meters (10:54.25).
LaPorte’s Riley Tuerff placed ninth in the 300 meter hurdles when she clocked a 45.20.
Joining LC’s Johnson on the podium in the long jump was Calumet’s Jai Reed in sixth with a 18-07 and Merrillville’s Payton McHenry in eighth with a 18-01.
Lake Central as a team finished in eighth place, making it the only Northwest Indiana school to crack the top 10.