Gibson Southern's Hillyard, Princeton's Jones-Taylor advance

EVANSVILLE -- Gibson Southern boys track and field coach and girls throwing coach Ron Kahle gave some advice to Maria Hillyard during the discus competition during the Track and Field Regional Tuesday evening.

The Titans coach wanted Hillyard to go out and "compete with the best throw no matter who had the best mark."

Hillyard already had the discus title wrapped up to advance to the state championships, but the advance came in handy during the shot put.

Just moments before Hillyard stepped into the shot put ring, Heritage Hills sophomore Rebekah Gordon unleashed a throw of 37 feet, 11 inches. The mark knocked Hillyard from the top spot with one final throw remaining.

Hillyard promptly stepped up with a mark of 38-6 to make her a double winner on the night -- her first two regional championships of her career.

"I do have a competitive edge, and I do not like to lose," Hillyard stated. "I really just wanted to do what coach told me, and I really wanted to kick it in after getting passed up.

"I just took a deep breath and really got after it and left it out in the ring."

She also mentioned some of the issues she had previously had during her throws, she got corrected for the final throw.

"I have had a lot of issues in the front and have not finished well," she admitted. "But with the final throw, I finished well and my spins were clean. I just wanted to try and do my best and leave it all out there and it ended up being the best throw of the meet. It was really exciting."

Earlier in the day, Hillyard busted out a personal best throw of 123-6½ to win the discus. The winning mark came on her first throw of the night.

The mark was four feet better than Evansville Mater Dei's Mariah Dickerson and was nearly five feet better than her previous personal record.

With her 20 points on the night, Gibson Southern finished in eighth place in the team standings with 30 total team points.

New Albany won the team title with 84 points.

Princeton Community finished in 10th place with 17 points and will also be represented in the state championships.

Senior Avery Jones-Taylor successfully defended her regional championship in the 400 meters. The Indiana State University signee posted a season-best time of 58.34 seconds as she remained undefeated in the event for the season.

"It felt good," Jones-Taylor said of the win. "I was getting a little nervous around the second turn, but it feels good and I feel accomplished."

Heritage Hills' Jenna Burns finished second with a time of 59.02. The two matched each other stride-for-stride as the came down the back straightaway.

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"I just told myself I had to go," the Princeton senior said of her thoughts during the final 100 meters. "If I wanted to win I knew I had to and could not save myself any longer."

Despite a foot injury which requires her to spend much of the week in a walking boot, Jones-Taylor also ran a leg in the Lady Tigers 1,600 relay team.

The quartet of Maddie Cummins, Jones-Taylor, Hannah Sisk and Laci Spore finished fifth with a time of 4:14.11.

Jones-Taylor was in third place when she received the baton on her second leg of the race and was able to give the Lady Tigers the lead by the time she passed off the baton.

"I was pretty sore after the 400, but at the end of the relay I actually felt pretty good," Jones-Taylor stated."

The Gibson Southern relay team nipped the Lady Titans for fourth place.

Brooklyn Moody, Maci Foster, Maggie Rose and Cassidy Hasenour teamed up to finish with a time of 4:14.11.

Both relay teams finished higher than their seed times.

Other place winners include, from Princeton: Sisk (seventh in 100); Spore (eighth in 400)

Taylor Hart (sixth in 800); Abbye Huelsman, Shealyn Riggs, Ellie Kiesel and Hart (seventh in 3,200 relay).

The state championships will be Saturday, June 1, at the Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex on the campus of Indiana University.

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