Despite losing a state finalist to graduation, the Center Grove girls track and field team is poised to once again be one of Indiana’s strongest squads, thanks to several key returners.
Leading the way are 2013 IHSAA state meet qualifiers Taylor Pennington and Melissa Nelson.
Graduated distance specialist Tori Schoettmer placed fourth in the mile run at the state finals one year ago and was eighth in the two-mile run. But Pennington, a junior, was runner-up in the high jump, and Nelson was a finalist in the pole vault.
“We also qualified our 3,200 relay team last season,” fifth-year coach Wes Dodson said. “From that team, sophomore Taylor Hickey and senior Shelby Dishman are back.”
Other returning distance specialists include seniors Rachel Dever and Lindsey Kovacs, and sophomore Alexa Kovacs.
In the hurdles, second-year runner Tori Long, a junior, is expected to excel along with senior Katlyn Place and sophomore Lauren Ralph.
“Tori worked really hard in the offseason,”
Dodson said. “We’re expecting good things from her.”
The Trojans should also be strong in field events, thanks to the return of two-time Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference discus champion Ali Calhoun, a senior, and junior thrower Stephanie Stone.
But the strongest and deepest area for Center Grove will most likely be sprints.
Fourth-year varsity speedster Erin Rosebrough is expected to run the 100- and 200-meter sprints and 400 relay. She’ll be joined by fellow senior Aaliyah Clinker and freshman Olivia Rassel.
Sophomore basketball player Lauren Rau also will run short distances for the Trojans.
“We’re returning a lot, and we have a lot of incoming talent,” Dodson said. “We’re definitely strong in the fields, but we have a lot of depth at sprints. We have several girls who can run different things.
“I’m pretty excited.”
Only three letter winners return for the Lancers, but assistant coach Derric Lacey is optimistic about Edinburgh’s team this year.
“We feel pretty good about the 100 (sprint) and the long jump,” he said. “With a little more time, we may be able to surprise some people.
“That’s what we do.”
Senior Morghan Wright is a fourth-year varsity team member who specializes in hurdles.
Junior Melissa Bryant is a sprinter and long-jumper, and sophomore Lilia Perez is a distance specialist.
“We desperately need senior leadership from Morghan, and we know what Melissa is capable of,” Lacey said. “Lilia was strong last year, and we’re looking for her to run with the elite runners in the conference and county this season.”
Coach Tim Leonard saw significant progress from his young Grizzly Cubs squad in 2013 and expects that momentum to carry over into this season.
“We finished a lot better in bigger meets than we have in the past and we even sent a few to regionals,” he said.
“Overall, we were a lot more competitive than in the last couple of years, and that’s very encouraging.”
Senior Kylie Smith is again expected to be among the area leaders in the pole vault. She’ll be joined in the field by sophomore thrower Kinsley Castro.
Versatile senior Traci Smith should also be a strong point contributor for Franklin in field events.
In distance events, sophomore Zoisa Piotrowski will lead the way.
In the sprints, senior long-jumper Mia Cano and sophomore high-jumper McKinley Purdy also will see action in the short races.
“Collectively, as a group, these are the girls who scored pretty well in the past,” Leonard said. “We’ll rely on them this season for consistent scoring.”
Leonard also believes some talented newcomers will contribute.
“There are some who have potential but I don’t like to single anyone out until I’ve seen them in a meet and know what they’re capable of,” he said.
Overall, Leonard expects the Cubs to be a very balanced team.
“I think we can score points in all areas and won’t have one that’s really more dominant than the other,” he said. “Based on what I’ve seen so far, I’m very pleased with the work ethic and attitude.
“I don’t know how it will translate in meets, but I like how we’re approaching the season.”
Greenwood fans have a lot to be excited about this season, particularly the return of multiskilled senior Rachel Krutrulis.
She was Greenwood’s leading points scorer last season and was the Female Athlete of the Meet at the 2013 Johnson County Meet.
“She was a regional qualifier last year and was the county champ in the 100 hurdles, the 300 hurdles and the long jump,” Woodmen coach Blaine Williams said. “She was the highest-scoring female at the county meet.
“That was quite a thrill for a first-year coach.”
Krutrulis will be joined by fellow seniors Alyia Rosado, a distance runner who scored more than 40 points in 2013, and Sydney Hite, who added more than 35 points herself.
“Sydney is a very versatile athlete for us,” Williams said. “She can run anything from the 100 to the 400 and has even done the long jump before. We can also use her in relays.”
Expectations also are high for sophomores Katy Allen and Krista Jones, who both tied for the school record in the pole vault as freshmen.
“The sky is the limit for them,” Williams said. “We’re looking for each of them to make improvements and to continue to break records.”
As a freshman, mile specialist Madison Renfro also scored more than 40 points and was named the school’s most valuable freshman athlete. During her second varsity season, she’ll see action in the middle- and longer-distance runs.
Sophomore hurdler Tori Harper returns after scoring more than 35 points as a freshman and big things are expected from newcomer Allie Dalton, who finished 10th in the state cross-country meet last fall.
“Allie comes from a very talented family. We’re looking forward to seeing what she can do as a freshman,” Williams said.
Greenwood’s coach likes the combination of experienced upperclassmen and talented underclassmen he’ll have to work with in 2014.
“Our hurdle crew is strong, and I feel really good about anything from 800 on up,” he said. “I’m also excited to see what our 4x8 team looks like.
“We have two sophomore vaulters who continue to improve, and a couple of pretty capable high jumpers.
“Overall, we have a lot of seniors who know what it’s going to take for us to improve.”
Coach Rose Moore said she thinks Indian Creek has more depth heading into the 2014 season than in previous years.
“We were really young last year, and we’re still young but I’ve already seen improvement from last season to this one,” she said.
“For the most part, everybody is working pretty hard in practice.”
Sophomore Mikayla Baugh is the team’s top returning sprinter and will primarily be featured in the 100, 200 and long jump, but sophomore Emma DeHart also will see action as a sprinter and long-jumper.
Sophomore Grace Bartko will run in relays with a focus on the 400 while fellow sophomore Haley Sichting will run hurdles.
The Braves’ primary distance runners will be junior Josie Whitaker, sophomore Rowan Hayden and freshman Emma Russell.
In the field, senior thrower Amanda Atnip is back along with sophomore Lucy Kieweg.
Pole-vaulting duties might fall to junior Sam Morris and freshman Annie Ferry.
Despite heavy graduation losses, fourth-year coach Brandon Bangel expects the Warriors to compensate with a larger-than-normal roster.
“We had a couple of seniors last year who scored the majority of our points, so we know we’re going to have some growing pains,” Bangel said. “However, about 40 girls initially came out for the team this year, so we’re definitely going to have strong numbers.”
Bangel was referring to graduates Melissa Rios and Gjensis Rigsbee.
Rios, in particular, had an impressive senior campaign while winning the Johnson County and Mid-State Conference titles in the 100 and 200. She also placed 13th in the state 100 race.
This season, the Warriors expect to be strong in the field thanks to the return of junior pole-vaulter Alex Kirk and sophomore thrower Madison Csaszar, who formerly went by the last name “Wingert.”
“Alex is very versatile,” Bangel said. “The pole vault is her best event, but she also runs the 100, 1,600 relay and will even high jump at times if we need her to.
“This is the first year she hasn’t done gymnastics, so we’ve been able to really work with her. She’s going to surprise some people in the pole vault.
Bangel has equally high expectations for Csaszar.
“Madison had a very good freshman year in the discus and is much stronger now than she was a year ago,” he said. “I expect her to contend for state finals and maybe even be on the podium.
“She has that potential in the shot put, too.”