Area Pacesetter: Orion’s Taets wants more…

 After ending her sophomore season at her peak, Orion track and field standout Danielle Taets is striving to reach greater heights.

A Class 1A state runner-up in the triple jump and a seventh-place finisher in the 100 high hurdles, the Charger junior is not only looking to make it three trips to Charleston in three years, she wants to fill up her state weekend as much as possible.

“I’m definitely hoping (to qualify in) all four events,” said Taets. “I hope to place in at least two or three of them, but I want to make it in all four. That’d be really nice.”

At last Thursday’s Three Rivers Conference meet, this week’s Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline Area Pacesetter vaulted herself into the upcoming postseason with a momentum-building performance.

Starting off by clearing 35 feet, 9 inches to win the TRAC triple jump title, Taets went on to sweep the hurdles events, winning the 100 highs in 15.27 seconds and taking the 300 low hurdles title in 47.52; she also took second in the 100 meter dash with a 13.09 clocking.

“Obviously, I was shooting to get all four,” she said, “but I felt (winning) three was a realistic goal, so I’m OK with that. Being on my home track, I felt more comfortable, like I was at practice doing run-throughs and stuff like that. I perform better when I’m relaxed.”

A state qualifier in the triple jump and 4×800 relay two years ago, Taets also booked a trip to Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium in the 300 hurdles last May in addition to her two medal-winning events. Her 2017 performances inspired her to raise the bar for this season.

“This year, I’ve got really high expectations for myself,” Taets said. “I want to keep doing better, better than I did last year. Right now, I feel like I’m ahead of where I was last year. My times are better, and my jumps are longer.”

With Orion set to compete at Thursday’s 1A Alleman Sectional at Augustana College, Taets hopes to reap a golden harvest.

One person who is confident that Taets will rise above the pressure of not just the 2018 postseason, but the shadow cast by last year’s accomplishments, is Orion coach Morgan Leffel.

“She gives a little extra push during the bigger meets and the postseason,” said Leffel. “As soon as last year ended, she started talking about the upcoming season. As a coach, that’s awesome to see, how motivated an athlete can be once they have some success. It opens up a whole world of possibilities.”

When Taets entered the Charger program two years ago, Leffel knew she had the genes to succeed, but admitted it took some time to help her find her niche.

“When Danielle came in as a freshman, we had Alexandra Mack already, and she’s family, so we hoped that family trait would be there,” Leffel stated. “Her parents were successful, and her cousin was successful. We threw her in all kinds of events her freshman year, but last year, we found out what she was good at.”

Or, as Leffel added, the bigger the meet, the better the performance by Taets.

Now, she hopes to dig down deep for some of her biggest and best efforts these next two weeks.

“Last year at sectionals, I PR’d in almost all of my events, the three I made it to state in,” she said. “I’m hoping to do that in all of my events, to make sure I get down to state. When there’s a lot of competition, that makes me push myself even harder.”

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