Allison Utterback reluctantly gave up track and field, which for years had been her second-favorite sport.

But as someone who aspires to play basketball at the next level, it was time.

Utterback is part of the nationwide trend of high school athlete focusing — or, specializing — in one sport instead of participating in more than one during the school year.

“It really was hard because I’m close to (assistant track coach) Melissa Warner, but she was so understanding about it,” said Utterback, a 5-foot-4 junior who averaged 7.2 points and 1.2 assists this past season for Center Grove’s girls basketball team.

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“The main thing now is that I can work on my game for basketball and any exposure I could get.”

Greenwood Community High School sophomore Kayla Rance is another Johnson County athlete who elected to bypass track this spring.

Soccer is her sport of choice.

Rance produced 35 goals and 13 assists as a starting midfielder /forward for the Woodmen last fall. A year ago at this time she took part in as many as four track events (long jump, individual 400 and 1,600 and 3,200 relays).

But Rance views soccer as her path to playing college sports.

“Since soccer is my main sport I felt I needed to focus on that,” Rance said. “And when I did run track, I also played club soccer in Noblesville three days a week, which was 45 minutes away.

“Sometimes I wouldn’t get home to do homework until 9 or 10 at night.”

The fact Utterback and Rance aren’t participating in track this spring is a minor setback for both the Center Grove and Greenwood programs.

Utterback was part of Center Grove’s 400-meter relay that placed 22nd at the 2015 Girls State Track and Field Finals at Indiana University. Earlier that day, Rance took part in Greenwood’s eighth-place finish in the 3,200 relay.

Eric Utterback, Allison’s father and a three-sport athlete at Valparaiso High School in the early 1990s, is the Program Officer for the National Youth Sports Health and Safety Institute in Indianapolis.

He and his wife, Erika, have encouraged their three daughters to try multiple sports through middle school and even into high school should that be their preference.

Should they decide to concentrate on one sport by the time they are/were freshmen, the couple supports the decision.

“If a kid has a passion or a desire to play in college, then do it. For me there was no shock factor. I think once Allison satisfied the urge of running at the state meet last year it made the decision a little easier,” Eric said. “All along she’s wanted to play basketball in college.”

Rance’s club soccer team, the Hoosier FC Elite Wolves, occupies much of her time in the offseason. Utterback plans to stay busy playing for coach Brian Rosario’s Indiana Elite 17-under AAU squad, which will compete in upcoming tournaments in Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas and Atlanta.

The tournaments are important for Utterback, a point guard who so far has fielded offers from NCAA Division I Eastern Illinois and Division II Lewis University near Chicago.

Meanwhile, the Trojans girls track program carries on without one of its top returning athletes.

“It’s very tough as a coach. In order to put the best team out there you want the best athletes,” Center Grove girls track coach Wes Dodson said. “But you also want what’s best for the kid.

“My job is to be an educator and supporter for all the kids in the school with whatever interest they pursue. It’s disappointing, but it’s like injuries. You have to move on.”

Rance said just because she’s not running track this spring doesn’t mean she’s ruled out the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

“Track was fun. It gave me the chance to do a different sport, but I might come back,” Rance said. “I’m not completely closing that option down.”

Sports specialization pullout


Name: Allison Utterback

Age: 17

Born: Indianapolis

Family: Parents: Eric and Erika; sisters, Emma, 14, and Elli, 11

Favorite TV show: “The Bachelor”

Favorite food: Sushi

Favorite movie: “The Blind Side”

Favorite athlete: Katie Douglas

Favorite team: Indiana Pacers


Name: Kayla Rance

Age: 16

Born: Indianapolis

Family: Parents, Denis and Deborah; brother, Maxxwel, 21

Favorite TV show: “Friends”

Favorite food: Pizza

Favorite movie: “The Blind Side”

Favorite athlete: Alex Morgan

Favorite team: Manchester United

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at