Of the 29 area entries in the Class 1A preliminaries at the IHSA girls state track & field meet Thursday, the Erie-Prophetstown Panthers and Oregon Hawks had 19 of them.
But it was the Panthers who put themselves into position for a team medal come Saturday.
E-P had nine of the 14 local finalists, sitting behind only Moweaqua Central A&M (10) in total number of final qualifiers.
"We weren't thinking about that before [Thursday]," Erie senior Paige Rus said. "But with as well as we did, I think it will sink in more [Friday] that we have the chance to bring home the first state title for either school.
"But we're not focused on that. We're thankful to be in this position – a state title would be more than I ever expected – but we still have to focus on each specific race and jump Saturday."
Unfortunately for the Hawks, they didn't have the same experience.
The 400 relay (50.94) and 800 relay (1:47.56) both missed out on the finals, finishing the prelims 10th. The top nine move on. They missed it by 34-hundredths of a second in the 400 and 28-hundredths in the 800.
"It [stinks], but we got PRs in all three, and that's what maters to me," said senior Devyn Absher, who ran on both of those relays and the 1,600 relay, which placed 15th (4:13.46). "We got the chance to come down here and test ourselves against the best in the state, and it was a great end to my high school career."
Another close call didn't go Oregon's way either, but junior Cydney Long still made out OK. Her 15.77-second time in the 100 hurdle matched that of heat winner Taylor Adcock of Moweaqua Central A&M, but Adcock was awarded the automatic berth in the finals.
Still, Long's time was the second-best among non-heat winners and fifth-best overall, so she'll run on Saturday. She'll be joined by teammate Shannon Cullen, who qualified for the shot put with a heave of 38-2 1/4 (No. 4 seed).
"I thought I got her after she hit the second-to-last hurdle," said Long, who also ran in the 400 relay, 800 relay and 200 (17th, 27.05). "It's tough not making it in the relays – I thought we had both of them when Emy got off to such great starts – but I'm going to turn all my focus on the 100 hurdles Saturday and be ready to make the most of it."
Another local thrower made it through to Saturday, as Polo-Forreston senior Mykil Baker advanced in the discus (115-4, No. 7 seed), just a couple of hours after coming up short in the shot (21st, 33-2 3/4).
Area finalists for Saturday are:
Shannon Cullen, Oregon, shot put, 38-2.25.
Mykil Baker, Polo-Forreston, discus, 115-4.
Cydney Long, Oregon, 100 hurdles, 15.77.
Brooke Holloway, Byron, high jump, 5-2.
Rose Criscione, Byron, pole vault, 9-9.
4x100 relay, Byron: Elyse Adkins, Ashley Dinges, Challen Jackson, Ashley Whitmore
4x400 relay, Byron: Challen Jackson, Ashley Whitmore, Brooke Holloway, Ashley Dinges, 4:07.36.
Competing on Thursday but failing to advance were:
Oregon: Sarah Lauer, triple jump, 32-09.5; Ryan Starkey, pole vault, failed to make opening height; Long, 200 dash 27.5.
Byron: Holloway, 100 hurdles, 17.29, 300 hurdles, 50.81; Ashley Whitmore, 13.48 and Elyse Adkins, 13.18, 100M dash; Adkins, Dinges, Michaila Adrian, Whitmore, 4x200, 1:47.94; Jackson, 400M dash, 1:01.07; Kelsey Hildreth, 1600 run, 5:32.68.