Brandon Bangel learned the benefits of indoor track and field competition early in his coaching career.
An assistant boys coach at Ben Davis High School in 2007, Bangel took over as Whiteland’s boys head coach the following year. He became the Warriors’ girls track coach in 2011 and has coached both programs ever since.
Bangel has made it a point to have Whiteland teams experience indoor competition.
“As coaches it gives us an opportunity to see kids compete a little earlier in the season. It gives the kids motivation, and they take winter conditioning a little more seriously if they know their first meet is March 1 instead of April 1,” Bangel said.
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“There’s no other sport that has six weeks of practice until the | first meet.”
Whiteland isn’t alone.
Center Grove’s girls and boys programs competed in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference indoor meet at the University of Indianapolis on March 3. Greenwood took part in three indoor track meets at the facilitiy in a span of 12 days.
Indoor meets are more than a method of gauging where athletes are in terms of times, distances and heights before the start of the outdoor season.
Franklin Community High School boys coach Mike Hall said indoor meets assist in team-bonding and are a good way for athletes to begin determining what works best with warm-ups and cool-downs, all with an eye on the outdoor varsity season.
“Originally for us it was a way to reward kids who worked hard in the offseason, but these meets have gotten so big,” Hall said. “You try to teach your kids to avoid all the chaos going on in a small place and concentrate on what they’re supposed to be doing.
“But overall there are a lot of positive benefits to it.”
The Grizzly Cubs girls and boys teams competed in the Whiteland Indoor Meet on March 12 at the University of Indianapolis. The following week they traveled to Greencastle for the annual indoor meet hosted by DePauw University.
The DePauw event was so large there were 11 separate heats just for the boys 60-meter dash inside the school’s Indoor Tennis and Track Center.
Indoor facilities feature 200-meter ovals as opposed to the 400-meter tracks used during the outdoor track season.
Greenwood senior Zeke Neihart, who runs the 2 mile and is part of the Woodmen’s 3,200-relay team, enjoys competing on the smaller ovals.
“Indoor meets are a little hectic with all of the people, but it’s a good opportunity for me to compete. I do like indoor meets,” Neihart said. “I know the track size bothers some people, but it doesn’t bother me.”
Indoor meets also are vital for keeping athletes engaged in what they’re doing.
Practices started Feb. 15. Most local girls and boys track programs don’t begin their outdoor season until early April following spring break.
That’s nearly two months for would-be track and field athletes to find other ways to occupy their time.
“It’s just a great opportunity to compete. Had we not had those (meets) it would have been about six weeks before our first outdoor meet at New Palestine on April 5,” Greenwood girls and boys coach Blaine Williams said.
“It breaks up the monotony of practicing every day.”
Tim Leonard is starting his 29th season as the girls track coach at Franklin high school. But he didn’t start taking athletes to indoor meets until 2010.
“Part of it is you have some kids who have been training since January, and they want to measure where they are,” Leonard said. “It’s good to see where we’re at and what we need to work on.
“And I think indoor meets give track and field a little more attention.”
WHERE THEY WERE
Center Grove (boys and girls): MIC Indoor Meet at University of Indianapolis (March 3)
Franklin (boys and girls): Whiteland Indoor at UIndy (March 12), DePauw Invitational (March 19)
Greenwood (boys and girls): Whiteland Indoor at UIndy (March 1), Roncalli Invitational at UIndy (March 8), Whiteland Indoor at UIndy (March 12)
Whiteland (boys and girls): Whiteland Indoor at UIndy (March 1), Whiteland Indoor at UIndy (March 12)