She needed every ounce of gas in the tank, but Keller crossed the finish line at the Eastside Centre at 5:03.08, good enough to set a Class A and Class 2A all-time record. Exerting all the energy she had, Keller became an eight-time state champion and the most decorated IESA athlete in history.
Now entering high school, Keller is relatively relieved to carve out a new path. She said she looks forward to tackling different races and squaring off against new competition.
“If you’ve won the races before, then you always feel like you have to win them again,” Keller said. “Otherwise you feel like you didn’t get any better. In high school, it starts all over again, you’re with these new people.”
She’ll likely be one of St. Anthony’s top runners as a freshman this fall, but she won’t forget all the memories made while running for Sacred Heart.
Keller said it’s hard to pick a favorite, but of her eight titles, the very first, back in 2009, still holds special meaning. Unlike the cross country meet, where coaches and parents can meet with runners before the race begins, the track finals offered only isolation and discomfort.
“I ran the cross country (meet) first, it’s all there on the grass and everybody can be there before the starting line,” Keller said. “But at the track they have a big stadium and no coaches or anybody can go down there.
“I had to go down there by myself, it was different for me. I was more nervous, but I had Peter there so he could go down with me.”
After Peter helped calm her nerves and inspire the wide-eyed fifth grader, Keller’s state championship did the same for her older brother. He went out and captured his own state title in the 1600 later that day, becoming the first siblings to win the same event at the same state meet.
From the first few laps at the YMCA, to a pressure-packed race in Peoria, the two are still racing through the record books.
Braden Layer can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at email@example.com