Friday, May 29, 2009

SPORTS >> Celsor upholds Searcy tradition at heptathlon

Leader sportswriter

The changing of the guard officially took place at the finish line of the 800 meters race on Thursday afternoon.

That’s where Searcy’s Kristen Celsor wrapped up the heptathlon, avenging last year’s second-place finish to defending champion Jasmine Ellis. In the process, the Lady Lion junior emerged from the shadow of former teammate Whitney Jones, winner of the event in 2006 and 2007.

“It’s amazing. I mean, it’s a relief that it’s finally over, and I’m just in shock that I actually won,” said Celsor. “It was an awesome deal.”

Celsor was already ahead by 340 points heading into the 800 meters, giving her a 25-second cushion. She completed her run well in front of Ellis after the Scrapperette senior quickly lost pace on the first of two circuits around Panther Stadium.

Family, coaches and local media all awaited Celsor’s jubilant finish, while Ellis, who was runner-up, doubled over and began to sob just beyond the finish line.

Celsor put herself in great position on Day 1 on Wednesday with personal bests in all four events, and closed the deal the following day with an overall win in the high jump at five feet, four inches, just an inch off her personal best. She then held on with a 29-5 toss in the shot put to send her into the 800 with 4,643 points.

She ended with 5,468 points, becoming the first winner in four years to break the 5,000-point mark. Her total made her the seventh-highest scorer in the 13-year history of the heptathlon.

There was one tense moment to start the second day when Celsor’s backside nudged the bar during her first high jump attempt at 4 feet, 10 inches. Thebar wavered but did not fall, and she went on to best Ellis by three inches and extend an already-comfortable cushion.

Celsor is not known for long-distance running, but ended the meet the same way she started – posting another personal best in the 800-meters with a time of 2:33.74. It was her sixth personal best in the competition. She failed only to better her high jump mark of 5-5.

“Before I came, I set a goal for myself to best everything I did last year,” said Celsor. “So it really didn’t matter (where Ellis was in the 800) at that point, I just wanted to beat myself. I’m always going to worry about the competition, but it’s more about pushing myself than it is anything else.”

Her weakest event, the shot put, still resulted in a top 10 finish just a foot and one inch behind Ellis, who gained only 52 points on Celsor.

“It really didn’t go as far as I wanted it to, but it’s a heavy little ball,” Celsor said. “It was okay. It was better than last year, but not much.”

Celsor catapulted herself into prime position to win the event when she surprised everyone, including herself, with a discus toss of 102 feet on Wednesday, almost 20 feet better than her previous best. Although she ran another personal best in the 200-meter dash with a 26.64, Ellis’ event-winning time of 26.04 gave her the nod, and 120 valuable points more than Celsor.

Ellis also claimed the overall win in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 15.28 to gain 73 points on Celsor, who ran a 16.01.

Celsor made those points up and then some with a 17-2 performance in the long jump, which gave her 840 points to Ellis’ 720. Celsor closed out the first day with 3,291 points, with Ellis chasing her at 3,004 points and high-profile Fayetteville senior Caroline McCombs in third with 2,917 points.

With Ceslor’s win, Searcy became the first school to boast more than one champion in the event.

“Last year, she was down by about 270 after Day 1,” said Searcy track coach Charlie Carroll. “This year, she went up 270. So she felt real good about that. She was real nervous in the high jump, because that’s her main event, and she wants to perform well in it. But once she got that out of the way, she felt really good about it, because she knew she could run with the girls in the 800.”

With Celsor returning next year as a favorite to repeat, Carroll said the growing tradition in his program is all right with him.

“Every coach hopes for something like that,” said Carroll. “Whitney won it two years, Kristen was runner-up last year, and knock on wood, maybe she can come back and win it again next year. I would love it. It would be a nice thing for Searcy girls track.”

Among other local entries, Lonoke juniors Ashleigh Himstedt and Asiah Scribner finished 20th and 26th place, respectively.

Scribner earned an overall win in the shot put with a 34-3 mark. Himstedt finished with 3,480 points, while Scribner tallied 3,267 points.

The biggest local surprise of the event may have been Cabot sophomore Ariel Voskamp, who finished a strong 12th in her first attempt at the heptathlon. Voskamp also finished with over 500 points in every event except discus and shot put, with especially strong showings in the 100-meter high hurdles to start Day 1 and a time of 2:43.34 in the 800 meters to earn a final tally of 3,860 points. Voskamp sat in 11th place after the first day before giving way to Mansfield junior Cheyenne Derr.

“It was a great opportunity,” said Voskamp. “And a pretty big accomplishment for me to be able to be a part of this as a sophomore, and to actually do well. It was really fun and exciting. The first day, I was just really excited. The second day, I was still excited, just a little nervous about the 800.”

Voskamp, who had not participated in the 800 meters since the seventh grade, put her nerves to rest with a competitive 2:43.34 in the event. She also had a strong 4-9 in the high jump, another event she had rarely competed in.

“I feel like I did well in the high jump,” said Voskamp. “I’ve never really done it much before, but I feel like I did the best in the high jump. And the 800 was also a big accomplishment for me. I haven’t been able to be conditioned for that at all.”

Cabot senior Marissa De La Paz ended up 40th overall, but finished her high-school career on a strong note by winning her flight in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:33.84, good for fourth overall.