Eureka High School girls track feature

Tom Batters
Jacey Hartman

The injury bug flew into the Eureka High School girls track locker room earlier this season, and it never really left.

Hornets’ coach Don Samford moved some girls to other events in the midst of some injuries to a few key athletes, including seniors Kalla Gold and Shelby Kupferschmid.

Gold and Kupferschmid are part of the 4X100, 4X200 and 4X400 relay teams, which Samford considers state medal contenders.

All three of those relays earned state medals last year. The 4X400 brought home the state championship for the second straight year. The 4X100 was second, and the 4X200 was third (just four tenths of a second off the state record). All three relays set school records.

Senior Natalie Puent, a key part of all three of those relays, graduated. Elly Vance, part of the 4X100 and 4X200 relays, did not come out for track.

Samford said those losses (Puent and Vance) would be hard to replace, and Gold and Kupferschmid will need to get completely healthy quickly, if the Hornets are to make it back to the medal stand.

Then he mentioned the one girl who has not been bitten by the injury bug — the one girl who did not go away on spring break.

He called her “steady, reliable, consistent...”

And very, very fast.

That girl is senior Jacey Hartman, who ran the third leg of those school record 4X200 and 4X400 relays last year.

This year, she takes Puent’s place in the 4X100 as well as reassuming her spot in the 4X200 and 4X400 relays.

However, instead of taking the third spot, she might anchor the 4X200 (Puent was the anchor last year), which, Samford said, was a really easy choice.

“Jacey has been so good for us all year. She’s getting faster and faster. I like her in all those relays,” Samford said. “She has the experience. She works really hard, and she’s always prepared to run a great race ... We’ve had some bad breaks (injuries), but Jacey has been strong all year.”

Hartman said she has been “fortunate” to elude the injury bug, but she also attributes that to her commitment to the sport.

“I don’t have a winter sport, so I can focus on track and really get myself ready for the season,” she said. “I couldn’t wait for this season to get going. I’m excited about the way things have gone so far.”

Hartman said she is focused on returning to the state finals, and bringing home at least one more state medal, maybe even a first-place trophy.

“Competing at state is an amazing experience,” she said. “We all want to get back there so much.”

Hartman, who was also a standout volleyball player for the Hornets in the fall, plans to attend Illinois State University next fall, but she said she will not run track so she can focus on academics.

“This is it for my track career, so I want to make the most of it,” she said.