Lauren Bonness wasn’t feeling her best last week, and whatever has been ailing her got worse over the weekend and she missed school on Monday.
She did not let it slow her down at the District 6 Track and Field Championships last Thursday, however.
She won the 100- and 200-meter dashes, helped the 400-meter relay team also grab a district Class AAA title and was revved up in case her teammates needed her for the 1,600 relay.
“That was a little rough, but I did well,” Bonness said in a bit of an understatement. She not only was part of all those wins, but her time in the 100 is No. 5 in qualifying for the PIAA Championships.
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Bonness, her State College teammates and other athletes from Centre County are headed to Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium for the state championships Friday and Saturday.
Bonness is happy to have so many Lady Little Lions making the trip, with four teammates running in three long-distance races, three relay races and Kimberly Lightner in the javelin all competing.
“I know we can do so well,” Bonness said. “It’s going to be so fun to cheer every girl on in all the events. It’s so exciting to see all our girls push for it and I know we can all get good times and throws and P-R’s.”
Bonness, Lightner and Hannah Grubb, who is running in the 1,600, are the lone seniors who will be hitting the campus. After learning from their predecessors about the state meet, they know it’s their turn to set the example.
“It’s great to be a role model for the younger girls,” Bonness said. “To really show them how important this is, and what a great opportunity all the younger girls have to go to this meet.”
Whatever was ailing Bonness didn’t slow her too much, with her times of 12.29 seconds in the 100 and 25.68 in the 200. In addition to being fifth in the 100, she is 18th in the 200 and the 400 relay team is seeded 19th.
“Lauren’s just a competitor,” said State College coach Jenn Evans. “She’s a fierce athlete. She enjoys competition and really truly shines whenever we need her to. She knows how to give us everything she has and more when need be.”
“I’m really looking forward to another opportunity to cut my time,” said Bonness, who was seventh in her heat in the 200 preliminaries at the PIAAs last year. “The girls you’re competing against are really tough, but it’s just a really neat experience to run with them and compete against them.”
After this weekend, Bonness will be returning her focus to field hockey – the sport that will be taking her beyond Pennsylvania. She has a partial scholarship waiting for her at Michigan State. She’s looking forward to being a part of the Big Ten but away from home, not to mention the chance to return to State College every so often, including on Oct. 19 this year when the Spartans visit the Penn State.
“I’m so excited to play against them,” said Bonness, who also weighed offers from Michigan, Stanford, Virginia Commonwealth and Albany and is unsure about her major. “It will be really fun. It will be neat to have my family here, to see my friends, and I know a lot of the girls on the team so it will be a lot of fun to play against them.”
One of those other seniors, Grubb, will be sticking with track at the next level but she’s aiming pretty high, planning to walk on at Texas.
She was born in Austin, her sister goes to school there, she visits the town frequently and she could not resist the chance.
“It’s the coolest city to me,” Grubb said. “It’ll be cool to have the athletic opportunities, the academic opportunities and be in the best, I think, in America.”
Grubb had considered plenty of other southern schools, including Alabama, Rice, Georgia and Clemson, and there might have even been a little scholarship money out there, but there was only one school in the end for her.
The hard part will be breaking through with a program that is a perennial national power, having won four national titles, second-most all-time.
“I know there’s going to be so much competition,” Grubb said. “I know that it will only push me and make me better and reach my full potential.”
She’s also glad to be competing this weekend.
She missed almost all of last spring’s season with a concussion, returning just before the district meet but not hitting a fast enough time to qualify for states. She wishes the story was more dramatic for how she sustained the concussion – no collisions on the track or pole vaulting attempts gone awry – but she got hit by a badminton racket in gym class.
She has done just fine this year and won the district title, holding a 28 seed for the state meet.
“This is my year to come back,” she said. “It’s really a blessing, because I understand what it feels like to not have the opportunity to run, so I’m that much more inspired to go out there and give it everything I’ve got.”
Bonness is not alone with a top-10 seed, or even with a No. 5, for the PIAA meet.
Also in at No. 5 for their respective events are Lightner in the javelin, Bryce Williams in the triple jump and the State College boys’ 3,200 relay team.
Other high seeds include Penns Valley’s Grace Gover, who is ninth in the high jump; Bellefonte’s Sean Gipson is 11th in the 800 meters and State College’s Kellin Valentine is 12th in the triple jump.