Six of the eight laps that complete a 4×800-meter relay were handled by freshmen last season for Greenwood’s girls track team.
What Allie Dalton started, her classmate Taylor Neely finished.
Baton exchanges also involving Krista Robinson and Maddy Renfro — the latter only a year older than the trio — made for a memorable spring and a bright future.
It’s a unit that won the sectional by nearly nine seconds, took third at the Shelbyville Regional and calmed their collective jitters at the IHSAA Girls Track and Field State Finals enough to place 24th at the Indiana University facility.
“I was really shocked because we were so young. Going into state, regional and meets like that, we were all really nervous,” Renfro said. “Allie Dalton helped us a lot because she had a lot of racing experience.
“I know state is one of our biggest goals this season. Just getting back there and doing better. The top 15 would be a good goal.”
This season’s formula for success would appear uncomplicated — hand Dalton the baton, sound the starter’s pistol and wait for this foursome to show the type of improvement that forces the state’s established 4×800 relay powers to peer over their shoulders.
However, with the arrival of freshmen Kayla Rance and Olivia Weston, changes are possible within the ensemble.
The weeks ahead will determine whether one or both of these athletes supplants a portion of last year’s 3,200 relay.
Greenwood opens its outdoor season March 23 with a meet at Franklin.
“I think it will probably change throughout the year. I’ve got a lot of really good freshmen, but I think the older girls want to maintain their spots,” said Woodmen coach Debbie Guckenberger, who is quietly assembling the kind of talent capable of contending for future Mid-State Conference meets. “It’s about who has the fastest times.
“We’ve probably got four kids who can go 2:25 or better (in the 800), including Allie, and Allie can go sub-2:20.”
Dalton, who as a freshman placed seventh at state in the 3,200-meter run in 10:49.55 and this past November took fourth at the cross-country state finals, is the most accomplished of the many talented athletes on Greenwood’s roster.
Her abilities as a No. 1 relay runner have provided the Woodmen immediate momentum in what is a meet’s first event.
“Allie is consistently one speed and very competitive, and it’s always important to have a good start,” Guckenberger said. “Neely is our second-fastest kid, but Kayla Rance is going to be running up there with her.”
Robinson and Renfro last season shared the Nos. 2 and 3 legs of the 3,200 relay, with neither specializing in one or the other.
An outstanding soccer player, Rance, who scored a team-high 27 goals for the Woodmen this past fall, with Neely being among her teammates, is expected to factor into the 200-, 400- and 800-meter runs for Greenwood.
This potentially busy individual workload could affect the Woodmen’s 3,200 relay lineup. The same applies to Weston competing in the high jump.
Whether it’s last season’s four runners holding off the young charges to maintain their roles or a relay team with some new blood, no one disputes how important making it to state was last June.
“It was a lot of pressure when we went to state because we were the youngest team,” Neely said. “There were a lot of people there watching, and I think we could have run better. But there was a lot of great competition.”
There still is. Only now it’s from within.
THE BEST OF TIMES
Here is how Greenwood’s 3,200 relay team, comprised of three freshmen and a sophomore, performed on the biggest stages in 2014:
*Shelbyville Regional: 9:45.06 (third)
*Franklin Sectional: 9:51.91 (first place)
*Mid-State Conference Meet (first): 9:54.49
*State meet: 10:06.70 (24th)