Of the shadows visible at the Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex on Friday, the one Taylor Pennington concerned herself with was her own.
Much as Center Grove’s junior high-jumper tried to improve upon her runner-up finish at last year’s state meet, she wound up fourth with a best jump of 5 feet, 5 inches.
Again worthy of a prominent location on the award’s podium, Pennington nonetheless aspired to a loftier perch.
“It’s not what I wanted,” Pennington said. “Next year (as a senior) I want to be more consistent because I wasn’t as consistent with my jumps this year as I was last year.”
Pennington proceeded smoothly through the lower heights. She then proceeded to graze the bar on her first two attempts at 5-6, barely knocking off the fiberglass bar before missing badly on her third and final try.
Only a few feet away, Pennington’s teammate, Melissa Nelson, was securing a podium spot of her own in the pole vault.
The senior managed to tie her personal-best of 11 feet, 6 inches, which garnered a ninth-place finish.
“I hadn’t hit my PR since the (Metropolitan Interscholastic) Conference Meet, so I’m glad I got it here,” Nelson said.
“My very top goal was to be on the podium, but I’m also glad I tied my best height.”
Center Grove junior Tori Long finished 15th overall in the 300-meter low hurdles after taking second in her heat in a time of 46.91 seconds.
Long returned to run lead-off for the Trojans’ 1,600-meter relay along with senior Aliyah Clinker, freshman Olivia Rassel and sophomore Lauren Rau.
Seeded ninth, this quartet ran a 3:54.86 to place fourth while obliterating its old school standard of 3:59.24 set during the regular season at the Royal Relays at Hamilton Southeastern.
“I got knocked off the track last week, so we knew coming into this meet we could run a lot faster,” Rau said. “We had nothing to lose, and I think they overlooked us.”
Lawrence Central tallied 47 points to take home the team title with Pike second at 38. Center Grove with 13 points finished in a tie with Crown Point for 20th place.
Greenwood’s three points were supplied by freshman Allie Dalton picking up a seventh-place medal in the 3,200. Dalton’s time of 10:49.55 chopped nearly 12 seconds off last week’s qualifying time (11:01.13) at the Shelbyville Regional.
Center Grove senior Ali Calhoun completed her high school track and field career with a 15th-place effort in the discus. Calhoun’s best toss of 124 feet, 10 inches finished one spot ahead of Whiteland sophomore Madison Csaszar (123-10).
Neither advanced to the finals, though Csaszar knows the experience will serve her well in the future.
“I’m happy to be here. I have another two years, but I’m disappointed because I could throw another 20 feet,” said Csaszar, whose distances landed well short of her top regional throw of 138-8. “I came out here (Thursday) and I had some throws between 135 and 140.”
Csaszar’s father, Frank, is in the Army, so it’s likely she’ll be attending high school in Oklahoma next year. She isn’t ruling out a return to Whiteland as a senior.
Regardless of which school’s colors she’s wearing, Csaszar plans to put in the work necessary to improve upon what she accomplished this spring.
“My dad is all about fitness, and my coaches give me (summer) workouts. When you have the natural talent you want to pursue it,” she said.
Greenwood was the county’s lone representative in the 3,200-meter relay, finishing 24th of 27 teams.
The future looks bright for this group as the first three athletes to carry the baton — Dalton, Krista Robinson and Taylor Neely — are freshman. Running the anchor leg was sophomore Madison Renfro.
Whiteland senior Danielle Muse took 21st in the 1,600-meter run, finishing in 5:10.56. Muse’s time barely eclipsed her qualifying time at regional of 5:10.90.