Kaci Papin has been winning state medals since junior high, but Friday’s performance at the IHSA Class 2A State Track Finals allowed the Hillsboro High School junior to reach new heights.
Papin cleared 1.64 meters, about 5’4.5”, to capture second place in the high jump for the program’s first medal in Class 2A.
“She had an amazing day jumping,” said Coach Son Clayton “She only had one miss at the opening height of 1.5 through 1.58 meters, when she grazed the bar with her left heel. She cleared it on her second attempt with ease.”
Papin, who finished in the runner-up spot to Geneseo’s Annie Wirth who jumped 1.67 meters, was successful on her first two jumps at 1.5 and 1.55 meters, but missed her first attempt at 1.58. She would clear the bar in the second attempt at that height and made 1.61 and 1.64 meters on the first attempt to solidify her spot in the final rankings.
“At 1.55m, there was only 9 jumpers left, the exact amount of ladies who will podium,” this helped her to be more relaxed.
Papin missed on her three attempts at 1.67 meters, but took second due to having fewer misses than third place finisher Brianna Dixon, who also cleared 1.64 meters.
Papin’s silver medal is just the third in the history of the program, with Kristy Whitely earning a second in the high jump in 1997 and Maria Pretnar taking second in the shot in 2006. Pretnar has the program’s best finish, a state championship in 2007 in the shot.
While the Toppers have had several solid performances competing in 2A, where they are the class’s smallest school with an IHSA enrollment of 471 students, this was the first time the HHS girls broke onto the podium.
While Papin’s accomplishment is impressive in its own right, the things that she has had to overcome makes it special.
“With so many sports overlapping this season, it was almost impossible for her to attend practice,” Coach Clayton said about Papin, who was also a first-team all-conference selection in volleyball. “Plus Kaci was out the first three weeks due to an ankle injury. Sectionals were only her fourth meet of the season.”
Despite these challenges, Papin still managed to win her second conference title and her first sectional championship in the high jump, with the silver medal at state the icing on the cake. With one more year to compete, Coach Clayton hopes that Papin, and the rest of the Hillsboro girls track team, has a more traditional season in 2022.
“I hope next season everything will be back to normal and she’ll be able to get in practices and meets before sectionals,” Coach Clayton said. “Our season usually starts in February with an all-girls indoor meet in Bloomington, then two more indoor meets in early March before heading outdoors in the middle of March. We normally do around 20 meets in a season to prepare for the state meet, with big invitational meets on Saturdays. Not this season.”
Still with all of those challenges, Papin reached new heights in her sport and etched her name in the history books at Hillsboro High School.
“With her clearing height, Kaci would have won the Class 1A. She would have placed fifth in the 3A state meet,” Coach Clayton said. “Kaci is definitely one of the top six or seven jumpers in Illinois this year. We are all so proud of her!”