Ali Ince Leads The Illinois Charge At Festival Of Miles

Ali Ince runs the race of her life in the Hoka High School Girls Championship Mile (Brandon Daniels photo)



St. Louis, MO-

The states of Missouri and Illinois are similar to tight cousins. There is a close relationship that only cousins can relate to; they often fight each other at family play gatherings but unite when outside forces try to conquer and divide their bonds. In the case of the small group of Illinois top athletes, they showed their "Missouri cousins" they could hold their own quite well.

The first major action of the evening was the Spewak Training High School Girls Elite Mile, featuring Annika Swan (So., Chicago St. Ignatius). She sat patiently within a pack of 15 runners and a "pacer." Swan hit the first quarter-mile in 1:10.4, comfortably in fifth place.

Patience continued to be a virtue for Swan despite dropping one spot back at the halfway point in 2:23.4. On the bell lap, she dropped another three spots to ninth with a split of 74.1, taking her to 3:37.54. Because many in the field (11) were so closely connected, it would come down to whoever had the best finishing kick. Perseverance was the key to Keeghan Edwards (Jr., Mountain Vista, CO) from 11th on the final lap, mowing down the entire group and nipping Elin Latta (8th grade, homeschooler) at the finish line for the win in 4:46.63.

Boxed in with 250m remaining, Swan made a strong move inside the final 220 yards and roared up the final straight, finishing in fifth place, running a lifetime best 4:48.55 ( 1600m- 4:46.81). 

Between a plethora of mile races was the Final Surge Girls 800m. It featured two of Illinois' top half milers, Elena Rybak (Jr., Glen Carbon Father McGivney) and Becca Heitzig (Sr., Lincoln).

The pacesetter led the nine field girls under 63 seconds; Rybak and Sophia Bendet of Texas were head of the class around 62.3. The pace was a little tardy but not quick enough for Tessa Buswell of California to roar into the lead inside the final 200,

Rybak appeared to slingshot slightly off the pace entering the homestretch, ultimately finishing in third (2:06.68); Buswell came home victorious over 2:06.55 over Bendet at 2:06.65.

The featured race of the evening was the HOKA High School Girls Championship Mile. "Ali" Allison Ince (Sr., Normal Community) was the featured runner from IL, and perhaps it would be her final time contesting the mile as a high schooler. 

The favorite coming was Allie Zealand of Virginia, Ince, who led the pack behind the pacer through the first quarter mile in 69.1. It didn't take the homeschooled Zealand long to cop the lead. She moved in front of Ince before the halfway point in 2:18.18. 

Ince moved to third (2:18.6) and fourth on the bell lap in 3:28.78. Zeeland was clear of the field and on record watch pace. Ince made a final move inside the final 220y, moving into third and taking the bronze medal with a swift time of 4:35.96. Ince moved into second all-time for an IL girl for the mile behind Tatum David's 4:35.87, set here a year ago. However, Ince was able to take down David's 1600m mark (4:34.30) with a sizzling 4:34.22. Zealand set the national mile record at 4:30.38, which lasted only ten minutes. Sadie Engelhardt of Ventura, California, ran in the featured pro race sponsored by Drury Hotels, clocking 4:28.46.