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story.lead_photo.caption Natalie Heckman of Blair Oaks runs in the 4x800-meter relay during the Blair Oaks Invitational earlier this season at the Falcon Athletic Complex. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / News Tribune.

WARDSVILLE — The Blair Oaks Lady Falcons are building quite the reputation in the 4x800-meter relay.

Now they're wanting to show they can stand out in other events, too.

"As we get to the end of the regular season, with the that talent we have, we focused on getting people in events that we think they could score in at state," Blair Oaks girls coach Marc Keys said ahead of today's Class 3 state track and field state championships at Adkins Stadium.

The athletes may not have discussed predictions, but the coaches have pondered the possibilities.

"The coaches have talked about 36 points," Keys said. "Thirty-six points, historically, will get you in the top four. You've got to get those 10 points and eight points.

"One point in an event, that's great for all-state and we'll celebrate that, but you need someone on your team that can be a state champion or runner-up, and get the big points."

One event Blair Oaks has its eye on for a state title is the girls 4x800, which will run at noon. The Lady Falcons are the defending champions in that relay, winning a state title in 2019 with a time of 9:52.49, and seniors Emily Sporleder and Natalie Heckman return from that first-place relay.

With Sporleder, Heckman, senior Kati Schoeneberg and sophomore Ansley Casey, Blair Oaks enters today's 4x800 as the No. 1 seed, posting a time of 10:04.66 last Saturday at sectionals. Southern Boone and Centralia are the next two seeds with sectional times of 10:09.

"If we're going to be in the mix to win it, we're going to have to go at least 10 seconds faster," Keys said of his 4x800, which has medaled in each of the past five state meets. "Everyone else will be running faster too, it's just the nature of how things go."

The 4x800 is one of four state events for Sporleder. Individually, she will run the 400-meter dash and the 800-meter run, winning a sectional title in each event.

"In the 22 years I've been here, I've never asked an athlete to do that 400-800 double," Keys said. "She's been doing it well, and it's probably one of the more difficult doubles to do, especially at the state level."

Sporleder will run in the 400 at 3:40 p.m. and then the 800 at 4:40 p.m.

Sporleder's fourth event, the 4x400-meter relay, starts at 5:45 p.m. Casey, junior Payton Mitchell and senior Kaelin Forck round out the relay, which enters state as one of the top eight seeds.

"We've had an opportunity to race a lot of the really good teams that will be at state," Keys said. "We've been beat a couple times, and hopefully that motivates us."

Mitchell qualified for state in three events. She will start her day in the 100-meter hurdles at 1 p.m. and follow that with the 300-meter hurdles at 4:10 p.m., running in the second heat of each event.

Sophomore Aubrey Hardwick also qualified in the 300 hurdles and will run in the first heat.

"If we can get a few points between the 300 and 100 hurdles, that'll bode well for us in the team scores," Keys said.

Keys said the competition from districts and sectionals has the Lady Falcons prepared for today's meet.

"Our schedule has allowed us to be challenged," he said.

Blair Oaks has the potential to medal in all six state events for the girls, but regardless, Keys said it has been a successful season for the Lady Falcons, who won their first Tri-County Conference championship since 2013.

"This group has really enjoyed this year, and that's the bottom line," Keys said.

For the Blair Oaks boys, sophomore Luke LePage is the Falcons' lone state qualifier in the pole vault, which starts at 11 a.m.

"Luke's been very consistent the entire year," Blair Oaks boys coach Nathan Holtmeyer said. "He's always typically placing in the top three at the meets we were at. He came on at the right time."

LePage cleared 12 feet, 9.5 inches at districts, a personal-best, and then posted a mark of 12-4.75 last weekend at sectionals, seeding him eighth going into state.

"I'm excited about what Luke's going to do this weekend," Holtmeyer said. "He's rated top eight, so we expect him to be on the podium. We told him to try to stay off the grass and really get up high on that podium."

Holtmeyer is hopeful to have more Falcons at state next season. The Blair Oaks boys had 10 events at districts and another four at sectionals that scored points but didn't finish in the top four to advance to the next week.

"We'll have a strong senior class next year, so I'm excited to see what we can do, and get back to bringing those kids to state," Holtmeyer said.

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