The state’s 14th-ranked girls track and field team sported a new look Tuesday.
Decked out in gray tops for the first time this season — and perhaps ever — Center Grove found itself dressed for success in accumulating the most points at the Franklin Sectional.
Led by four-time winner Olivia Rassel, the Trojans outdistanced runner-up Columbus North 153-136 to break the Bull Dogs’ three-year run as champion.
Third place belonged to Greenwood with 111 points, while fellow Johnson County programs Franklin and Whiteland were fourth and fifth with 86 and 46 points, respectively.
Center Grove coach Wes Dodson, for reasons unclear, promised his athletes prior to sectional he would get spray-tanned if they took home the team hardware. Well, coach …
“That’s pretty nasty. I’m not real excited about it. The assistant coaches told me they would buy me new bed sheets in case it comes off. So, yeah, that’s the promise,” said Dodson, who knows his post-spray look won’t be as stylish as his team was Tuesday.
“We went with tournament jerseys just for something fun today. We thought it would be something cool, and it worked out well. We’ll wear them for the rest of the tournament.”
Only a sophomore, Rassel established a new sectional standard in the 100-meter dash by running a time of 12.33 seconds.
She then came back to capture the 200 in 25.85 and took part of victorious 400 and 1,600 relays for the Trojans.
And yet when the points race with Columbus North became suspenseful at meet’s end, Center Grove needed its senior leader, who came through with flying colors.
Walking through the midfield following the 1,600 relay, Dodson nodded in the direction of Tori Long.
“That girl right there is the heart and soul. She’s amazing. She was dying after running the 200 and she stepped up and ran the first leg of the 4×400 even though she didn’t think she could,” Dodson said.
“She brought us home in first, and that’s why we won.”
Long already had enjoyed a busy evening, finishing second in the 200 and earlier winning the 400-meter dash in a time of 58.79 seconds.
“I would say physically, that’s probably the hardest 400 I’ve ever run,” said Long of her lead-off lap in the 1,600 relay.
“I was having some physical issues going into it, but I knew my girls had worked so hard for this, and I wasn’t about to let someone else be defeated because of me not being able to do it.”
Also bringing home firsts for Center Grove were junior Taylor Hickey in the 800 in 2:24.16, along with seniors Stephanie Stone and Taylor Pennington in the shot put and high jump, respectively.
The day’s first running event saw Greenwood run away with the 3,200 relay in a time of 9:52.91.
Junior lead-off runner Maddy Renfro remained bunched with the leaders through one lap but began creating separation between Turns 1 and 2 of her second lap.
Woodmen teammates Allie Dalton, Taylor Neely and Kayla Rance over time widened the gap for what was a 16-second difference between Greenwood and second-place Columbus North.
Dalton, a sophomore, was just getting warmed up.
She came back to win the 1,600-meter run in 5:10.88 and later took possession of the 3,200 sectional record with 10:56.78.
Other sectional champions from the county hailed from Franklin in discus thrower Kinsley Castro with a best toss of 117 feet, 10 inches; and freshman long-jumper Kloie Doublin, who went an even 17 feet.
Next up for the top three finishers in all events is next Tuesday’s regional at Shelbyville.
Don’t anticipate Dodson’s spray tan to have faded by then.
“I think we get to pick the shade, but he agreed to that before he realized they last for two weeks, so that will be fun,” Long said. “But that’s how awesome of a coach he is. He just does whatever it takes to motivate his team.”