Girls Indoor Preview: Ali Ince Rules The 800m

Ali Ince produces a massive kick to win the 2022 MVP Vibefest Chicago 800m


The half-mile has been dominated by the preeminent middle-distance performer in the state now for two years, "Ali" Allison Ince. The projections for this event are Ince, and then everyone else, which is quite a nod to the Normal Community junior given how talented some of the other half-milers runners in the state are.

Ince recently opened in this event and busted out a US#2 2:07.13 to win her second Vibefest title- albeit about three seconds faster and in less dramatic form. It will be very interesting to see how the 2023 long-form season will play out. Fans near and far will be leaving venues with happy grins.

What will Olney Richland County senior Tatum David do in this event? Despite not contesting the two-lapper as a main event, she ran a healthy dose of 800s throughout both the indoor and outdoor seasons, producing 2:17 indoors and 2:12 outdoors. Dating back to 2021, David did anchor an Indoor national champion IMG 4x800 squad in under 2:10.

However, since neither Ince nor David is known to compete at Top Times, many other names are going to populate the rankings in this event to compete for the state title.

The preeminent talent in the state outside Ince is presently Becca Heitzig, the 2A state meet record holder (2:09.99) and rangy junior from Lincoln. Incredibly, Heitzig opted at Top Times for the 3200 (which she won in 10:45) and the 400 (third place). Although her indoor 400 never broke a minute, her anchor leg for a runner-up 4x400 Railsplitter quartet was 56.7, more than a second faster than any other recorded split in the race. Heitzig returns from an eventful cross country season where she finished 3rd in 2A and nearly broke 17 minutes while competing in volleyball simultaneously. She will have her pick of events at Top Times and will be a major favorite in any of those. How far below 2:09 will Heitzig reach in 2023?

The early season performances from Catie McCabe (Sr., Hinsdale Central) make her a huge contender. Her 2:12 best dates back to her 2021 sophomore season, but she has already thrown 2:14 on the board this indoor season in a strong victory against the elite out-of-state competition on Illinois soil. In her senior year, the Indiana-bound middle distance runner represents 3A's best shot at Ince and may enter Top Times as the 3A favorite for 800.

McCabe was runner-up at that meet to Grayslake Central's Bella Domier. Domier, like McCabe, has a growing track record of fantastic middle distance performances to complement a strong cross country career. Domier ran 2:16 indoors in 2022 and eventually 2:14 twice outdoors, including third place at 3A state. Domier memorably finished runner-up to Ince in the 2021 state meet, running 2:12.64 which remains her personal best. As Domier has matured in race tactics, she has become even more dangerous and will make a strong run to defend her Top Times title.

Colleen Zeibert (Sr., Rochester) runs at the 2A level and was overshadowed by the heroics of Heitzig outdoors. In the driving rain, the Illinois State signee ran 2:13.83, which represented more than a two-second personal best. Heitzig's non-entry opened the door for Zeibert to take that title in 2022 in 2:16.58, her indoor PR. Zeibert also heads a greatly improved Rockets squad that may make some noise in the 4x800 this season. Will she take it to Heitzig?

Which of the Prospect athletes will be the most emphatic individual performer this indoor season? At Top Times, Lily Ginsberg (Jr), Hailey Erickson (Sr), and Cameron Kalaway (Sr) ran on the championship-winning 4x800 team and then each came back to run the 1600. All three have the ability to factor into the individual race over 800. But the talent that is most interesting for this distance is the freshman standout Meg Peterson. After learning the three-mile distance, Peterson eventually ascended to be the Knights' top national finisher. Now with shorter distances on the track, the state should watch her for some great breakout performances. Also, don't forget about Veronica Znajda.

Lake Zurich senior Brooke Johnston figures to be a factor in this event as she returns to full health if she decides to run the 800. Johnston focused on the 1600 and 3200 throughout the 2022 season but did run 2:17 both indoors and outdoors. She ran 2:14.68 in 2021 to finish 7th at the outdoor state meet.

Other athletes to watch: Kennady Anderson (Jr., Kewanee (Wethersfield)), Emma Berres (So., Naperville North), Brooke Berger (Sr., Elmhurst (York)), Daija Brown (Sr., Homewood-Flossmoor), Grace Erb (Sr., Winnebago), Trixie Johnson (Sr., Paxton-Buckley-Loda), Izzy Marsico (Jr., Lake Forest), Sofia Munoz (Sr., Mt. Zion), Isabella Orozco (Sr., Aurora (Central Catholic)), Elena Rybak (So., Glen Carbon (Fr. McGivney)), Gabi Walker (Jr., Chicago (DePaul College Prep))