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Girls Track and Field: Claire Roberts, Sandwich ready to take next leap forward

Roberts hopes to build off PR at sectionals, Indians return large group from conference champs

Sandwich's Josie Ness wins in 100 hurdles at the Plano Invite track and field meet Thursday April 18. 
Gary E. Duncan Sr for Shaw Media
Sandwich's Josie Ness wins in 100 hurdles at the Plano Invite track and field meet Thursday April 18. Gary E. Duncan Sr for Shaw Media

Claire Roberts' final track meet last year showcased her potential, and also provided her with plenty of motivation.

She hopes to realize it now.

Roberts, a Sandwich junior, soared to a lifetime-best 34 feet, 10 inches in the triple jump at last year's sectional meet. Until then, she had been jumping in the 33s. It was a great achievement, but left Roberts less than an inch short of state qualifying.

"The pits at LaSalle-Peru are amazing, always have a good wind aid. When I jumped 34-10 I was proud that I did that," Roberts said. "It sucked hearing that I missed state, but it was nice to PR by a whole two feet."

Roberts is among a large group of returning athletes for a Sandwich team that last year swept titles at both levels of the Interstate Eight Conference meet, won the Plano and Herscher invitationals and went 17-1 in duals.

The Indians did not, though, have a state qualifier, perhaps a testament to the team's depth. Sandwich coach Dusty Behringer is excited about his team's prospects, even in a reconfigured and tougher conference and with a season delayed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

"I've sent out a weekly workout to my some of my captains, seniors and upperclassmen. I know they're still getting work in. It's cool to see the development of leadership," Behringer said. "I'm unfortunately only able to watch from a distance, but these girls are doing really well with it and I'm proud of them.

"The new I-8, we're going against bigger schools but we're not going to shy away from the competition. We only lost 3-4 seniors, and they're some good ones, but it opens spots for other girls to take over."

Roberts is still running as much as she can, and going to Joliet to see her jumping coach. She also gets workouts from her sister's fiancee, a student at Benedictine University who ran track.

"Doing a lot of sprinting," Roberts said.

Roberts started with her new jumping coach last August. She's also done a lot more lifting to get the legs stronger.

"You need that for jumping," Roberts said. "And with technique work, I've gone to my coach to work on phases. It's helped a lot. Even my run-ups have changed. Triple jump is such a hard thing to do."

Sandwich only had one indoor meet before the suspended season. At Sycamore Roberts had an indoor PR of 33-2 in triple jump, and went 15-7 in the long jump (her outdoor PR is 15-8).

"When I practiced I jumped 35 feet flat in the triple jump," Roberts said. "And that was at the beginning of the season. Usually jumpers gain a a half foot at the end, so we're hoping for that this season if we have one."

Roberts is among nine returning all-conference athletes for Sandwich. She's joined by sophomore Alijah Campbell (sprints, relays), senior Grace Kraft (sprints, relays), junior Catrina Mitchell (shot put, discus), sophomore Emalie Mosher (sprints, relays), junior Josie Ness (sprints, relays, hurdles), sophomore Molly Roberts (distance, relays), junior Bailey Sherman (distance, relays) and sophomore Ali Todd (sprints, relays).

Claire Allen, who does shot put and discus and went to state as an eighth-grader, leads Sandwich's freshman group.

"We have a strong core of distance, sprint and field events ready to make some noise," Behringer said. "We were excited to compete against those larger schools to see exactly what we could do. We still may have a chance to do that."

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