Center Grove and Greenwood are pursuing lofty goals as the girls high school track and field season approaches.
Center Grove is looking to defend its Johnson County Meet championship and make a run at the sectional title. The Trojans, who feature a handful of returning IHSAA state meet qualifiers, including high-jump contender Taylor Pennington, were runners-up at last year’s sectional.
Greenwood, meanwhile, is looking to repeat as Mid-State Conference champion. The Woodmen won the league championship for the first time in 30 years and return a number of top scorers from last season.
The Trojans finished 20th at last year’s IHSAA Girls Track and Field State Finals. They are confident of a much higher finish in 2015.
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Senior high-jumper Taylor Pennington is among the reason why.
A leading contender for the state championship the past two seasons, Pennington finished second as a sophomore and fourth as a junior. She is expected to challenge for the title this season.
Center Grove’s postseason aspirations also are fueled by the return of three members of last year’s 1,600 relay team, which placed fourth at state. Those runners are Olivia Rassel, Lauren Rau and Tori Long.
Long also qualified for the state meet last year in the 300 hurdles and finished 15th. Rassel qualified for the state finals in the 100-meter dash and also finished 15th.
Rau is expected to be one of the area’s top performers in the 400 run. Senior Alyssa King also is expected to be a consistent scorer in the 400 and 800 races.
The Trojans’ top distance runners are Valerie Clark, Taylor Hickey, Alexa Kovacs and Ansley George.
Rassel and Allison Utterback make up the nucleus of a strong 400 relay, with Lauren Ralph, Hailey Goines and Molly Huffman supporting Long in the hurdles. Jackie Rizzi is a senior leader in the sprints and long jump.
A group of newcomers will try to replace graduated state pole-vault qualifier Melissa Nelson. Stephanie Stone and Alysha Cheek bring some experience to the shot put and discus.
Coach Wes Dodson said the Trojans should again be near the top of the MIC and sectional fields, with an eye toward competing well with defending regional champion Warren Central.
“We want to give them a run for their money and obviously finish as high as we can in the state again,” Dodson said. “There is a good spirit around the team so far, and the girls enjoy being around each other.”
Fourth-year coach Shannon Lacey is pleased to have 20 girls out for this year’s squad, compared to just nine last year combined for the boys and girls teams.
Small numbers have been an annual issue for the Lancers.
“My husband is my assistant, and he and I have talked to a lot of kids,” Lacy said. “I think there’s been a lot of word-of-mouth to help kids think it would be good to try it out.”
Melissa Bryant will be a team leader in sprints and the long jump, with help from fellow sprinter Blythe Carman. Lilia Perez and freshman Emily Davis should contend for points in the distance events.
While the team is inexperienced in middle distance and some other events, sophomore Abigail Scrogham is expected to provide a lift in the shot put.
Veteran coach Tim Leonard is pleased with the work ethic of the 33 athletes on a young roster that includes a host of promising freshmen.
Among veterans, seniors Hannah Jobe and Jaclyn Campbell will lead the way in distance events. McKinley Purdy is expected to be strong in both the 400 meters and the high jump. Allie Parrymore and Carly Sandrock are expected to score in both hurdles events and the long jump.
Kinsley Castro, Mysah DeWitt and Brittany Hammond are the top throwers, and Chayse Blackwell and Megan Matlock are the team’s top pole vaulters.
Coach Blaine Williams is optimistic about the team’s chances to repeat as Mid-State Conference champions. His optimism begins with the return of Tori Harper, the Athlete of the Meet at last year’s Johnson County Meet.
Harper is a mature team leader, Williams said, and should continue bringing the Woodmen points in the long jump and both hurdles events.
“She is a leader performance-wise and also with her ability to rally the girls around and get everybody ready to go,” Williams said.
Another top returner is sophomore Allie Dalton, the school and conference-record holder who finished seventh in the state in the 3,200-meter run.
Dalton also is strong in the 1,600 and was part of the team’s state-qualifying 3,200 relay, along with Taylor Neely, Madison Renfro and Krista Robinson, all who return. Renfro will also be factor for the team in the 400- and 800-meter races.
Hanna Anderson is one of a group of freshmen Williams also is optimistic about. She is expected to earn points in the 100 and 200 sprints.
Top field event performers are expected to be freshman Olivia Weston and juniors Krista Jones and Katy Allen in the high jump; Harper, Anderson and freshman Kayla Rance in the long jump; and senior Amanda Clawson and junior Cassidy Branagan in the throws.
“We have a lot of good people back and some strong newcomers coming in, so we think it can be a good year for us again,” Williams said.
Indian Creek coach Rose Moore is hoping her 15-member squad can gel in time to be a factor at the Mid-Hoosier Conference Meet.
For that to happen, though, a number of young athletes will have to come of age quickly on the track.
Sophomore Izzy Dawson should be strong for the Braves in the distance events, with junior Sydney Sutton and freshman Emma Dennis look promising in the middle distance races.
Juniors Mikayla Baug and Emma DeHart should lead the way for the team in the sprint events, but depth is thin in the hurdles, Moore said.
Coach Brandon Bangel knew he was losing 1,600-meter state meet qualifier Danielle Muse to graduation, but he wasn’t expecting the loss of discus thrower Madison Csaszar, also a state qualifier, whose family moved out of the school district.
That leaves Bangel with a rather inexperienced squad, which he describes as the youngest group he’s coached.
What little experience the Warriors have is in the field events. Senior Brianna Accinelli was second in the long jump at the county meet, while senior Alexandra Kirk took fourth at the regional in the pole vault, just missing a berth at the state meet.
Other top returners are junior Taylor Coffman (hurdles) and McKenna Gold, a regional qualifier in the 800 meters. She also will compete in other distance events.
Beyond that, Bangel said the team’s fortunes will depend largely on the performances of freshmen and other girls new to the sport.