CHARLESTON – Anne Zaher expected to perform well in the 1,600-meter run finals at the Class 3A state track meet on Saturday.
But the Hinsdale Central sophomore was still surprised when she won a tight race to bring home a state title from Eastern Illinois.
"I knew I would be up with the front runners, but it was kind of surprising to win," said Zaher, who posted a time of 5:00.08. "It feels really amazing that I did this. It's really cool.
"I'm just so excited that this happened. At the beginning of the day I was thinking I could win it all, so to do it is really overwhelming. It hasn't sunk in yet."
Zaher was surrounded by runners in the middle of the pack early in the race, but steadily worked her way toward the front and held off Palatine's Kelly O'Brien (5:00.50) and Fremd's Ayako Higuchi (5:00.98) for the win.
"I kind of wanted to start out more in the front, but the first couple laps I kind of got boxed in and had to get myself out of it and get back into the race," Zaher said. "I had to adjust my strategy a little bit."
Zaher qualified for state last spring but didn't make it to the finals. She had a plan for how to handle running on the second day of the state meet for the first time.
"Focus on prelims, then worry about finals," she said. "That's what I did so I'm really happy that it worked out for me."
Zaher wasn't the only Hinsdale Central athlete to have a memorable finish on Saturday.
Freshman Alexa Haff, who finished second at the cross country state meet in the fall, earned all-state honors as she finished sixth in the 3,200 run with a time of 10:50.36.
"I just wanted to go out there and give it my all," Haff said. "I was running with a great group of girls. It was great just getting to know them. It's such an honor to be here, especially as a freshman. It's just an exciting thing."
Haff said she never expected to have so much athletic success her freshman year, but she has definitely enjoyed it.
"It's been amazing," she said. "I have to thank my parents for supporting me through everything. It's really an honor. I feel really blessed."
In addition to Zaher and Haff, Madeline Sullivan (400 dash) and the 4x200 relay team of Morgan Serwat, Jennifer Thomson, Monica Bhagavan and Katie Sluman competed at state.
Number to know
14 Points scored by Hinsdale Central at the state meet. The Devils finished in a tie for 19th place as a team.
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