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Jacobs' Van Vlierbergen girls track and field athlete of the year

One of the reasons Lauren Van Vlierbergen is so fast and successful is her constant need for more.

In the rare instances when Jacobs’ standout distance runner lost, she was gracious, but inside wanted that not to happen again. When Van Vlierbergen won, she did so with humility, yet still wanted to knock off a couple more seconds.

Golden Eagles girls track and field coach Ryan Lemanski saw a side of Van Vlierbergen on May 24 he had never seen. Van Vlierbergen won the Class 3A 800 meters at the girls track and field state meet in 2:10.14, finishing almost three seconds ahead of runner-up Michaela Hackbart of Downers Grove South.

“That was the first time she’s ever been satisfied,” Lemanski said.

Van Vlierbergen came back to take fifth in the 1,600 less than two hours later to complete her outstanding season. For her dominance throughout the season, Van Vlierbergen is the Northwest Herald Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year, chosen by the sports staff with input from area coaches.

There were other strong candidates with Cary-Grove’s Morgan Schulz pulling off an impressive medal double by taking second in the Class 3A 300 low hurdles and seventh in the 800. Crystal Lake Central’s Celeste Madda took sevenths in the 100 and 200, the first time a local girls sprinter medaled in both of those races.

Van Vlierbergen, who is Jacobs’ first girls track and field state champion, was listed by most coaches as their nomination.

“I’m just really excited to have won state,” Van Vlierbergen said. “It’s amazing to look back and realize it now. I’m really happy my training in the season paid off for me in the end. I’m definitely happy with how the season played out. I’m also really excited for our 4x800 relay team to get downstate, which is awesome. I think our girls track program had a great season.”

Van Vlierbergen set McHenry County and Fox Valley Conference meet records in the 800. She had the fastest 800 times in the state and also broke 5:00 in the 1,600 multiple times. That all came on the heels of finishing fourth in the Class 3A Cross Country State Meet.

Van Vlierbergen runs the 800 aggressively, pounding the first lap and seeing if anyone will try to keep up. In the state finals, she ran a 1:01 split for her first lap and was well ahead of the field. No one else had a chance.

“She knew she needed to go out in 61 [seconds], and she did,” Lemanski said. “She had never gone out in 61. She needed to get out early and fast and put the competition behind her, and that’s what she did.”

Van Vlierbergen was so busy running, she had no idea how far ahead she was.

“We talked about it throughout the year, because that was when I ran my fastest times,” Van Vlierbergen said. “I just knew that’s how I run my best times. I felt like someone was going to come up at any time [in the state finals]. I kept trying to push until the end.”

At that point, she had a personal-best time and a state title, by a wide margin.

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