One Chapter Closes, One Opens For HHS Track

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Arguably the best sprinter in the history of the Hillsboro High School girls track program ended her prep career on Friday, May 17, as senior Kyra Huber capped off a remarkable four-year career with her fourth straight state appearance.

Huber, one of three representatives from Hillsboro, along with high jumpers Kaci Papin and Ashlyn Papin, ran in the 100 meter dash for the fourth time overall and the second time in Class 2A.

"It was definitely terrifying coming here," Huber said of competing against athletes from cities like Springfield, Chicago and East St. Louis. "You have these schools that are bigger than my town and you're like 'How are we in 2A?'"

But over the last few years, Huber has shown she can hold her own, both on the track and off it, with the runners from the bigger schools.

" Some people you meet are super nice. I've met some really good friends who are super good," said Huber, who added that she's become friends with Dunlap senior Kiara Pauli, the DePaul-bound sprinter who finished fourth in Class 3A and shares a similar first name to the Hillsboro senior.

After running a 12.98 and finishing sixth in her heat last year, Huber ran a 12.82 and finished fifth in her heat this season. That time would be .52 seconds off the last qualifying spot for Saturday's final in a field that Coach Son Clayton said was faster than last year's.

"Kyra ran very well in the prelims even though she didn't make her PR, which I was hoping she would with so many fast times this year," Clayton said of Huber, who holds the school record in the 100 meters with a 12.4. "It was a bittersweet end to an unbelievable and record setting four years at Hillsboro High School for this young lady."

In addition to the 100 meters, Huber also holds the school record in the 400 with a time of 59.64 and was part of the school's record setting relay teams in the 4x100 (51.01) and 4x200 (1:48.96).

"The only record that eluded her was the 200 meters record, held by Julie Hallers back in 1982 with a time of 26.3," Clayton said.  "Her (Huber) personal record was 26.6 her sophomore year."

"I will remember her as one of the hardest working athletes, with tremendous drive and the heart to always be the best at what she does," Clayton said of Huber, who will run track at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. "Hopefully, her accomplishments will inspire other young ladies to achieve and find their greatness as she did.  It has been an honor to be able to coach this amazing lady and be part of the overwhelming success she has had on the track as well as in the classroom."

Clayton also said that Huber's impact on the program and the school goes beyond the record books.

"Kyra will go down as one of the best, if not the greatest female sprinter in the history of Hillsboro track," Clayton said. "Records are eventually broken over time, it may be next year, ten years, or even four or five decades from now. But a person's integrity, accomplishments and name will forever be stitched in the school's history. This lady has definitely left her mark at HHS."

Sisters At State

While one chapter is closing for Huber, another one is just beginning for siblingsKaci and Ashlyn Papin, who made their state debuts in the high jump on Friday.

With an IESA state championship (Ashlynn in 2017) and a runner-up finish (Kaci in 2018) already under their belt, the pair have potential to make the podium during their high school careers and showed that this year.

Jumping in the first flight of the day, Kaci Papin would advance to the finals with just three jumps, clearing 4'11", 5'1" and 5'2" on her first attempt at each. 

Her older sister would compete in the second flight and would also clear 4'11 and 5'1", resulting in an ear-to-ear smile from the Hillsboro sophomore. Ashlyn would come close to clearing 5'2" and joining her sister in Saturday's finals, but narrowly missed getting over the bar and ended her day on Thursday.

"Ashlyn had a good day in the prelims," Coach Clayton said. "This is the best I've seen her jump all year."

On Saturday, Kaci would clear 5'1", but battling an illness, she wasn't able to improve on that mark as she finished 12th overall to complete her freshman season.

"She has not been feeling well, her tonsils have been swollen since Thursday. By Saturday morning, Kaci was running a fever and feeling worse," Clayton said.  "I could tell she was feeling pretty bad.  She just didn't have the energy or the pop that she usually has when jumping. Her mom sent me a text later that afternoon, after she took Kaci to the doctor and found out she has tonsillitis." 

Despite the medical maladies, Clayton said that Papin's freshman season still ranked up there amongst the best he's been a part of and the best since the fifth place finish Haley McCaslin scored in the high jump in her freshman year in 2016.

Clayton said that the trip to state was a good ending to a roller coaster year for the Lady Hiltoppers.

"It was a tough year due to sickness, injuries and family matters causing the girls to not be able to run consistently as a full squad all season," Clayton said. "It ended on a positive note, though, with three girls qualifying for the class 2A state meet. I'm very proud of them."

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