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This time, Trojan going as underdog

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The moment Center Grove junior Taylor Pennington has waited all spring for arrives at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

Pennington along with 30 competitors begin the weeding-out process guaranteed to separate Indiana’s elite high jumpers from the merely good.

It’s the state meet. Time to raise the fiberglass bar as well as one’s game.

A year ago Pennington lived up to her second-seed status by finishing runner-up to Janae Moffitt of Oak Hill.

Still only a junior herself, Moffitt carries the No. 1 seed and every bit of pressure into Friday’s competition after clearing 5-9 at last week’s Fort Wayne Northrop Regional.

Pennington by virtue of her winning height of 5-5¼ at the Shelbyville Sectional is seeded fifth.

“Being seeded fifth, I’m hoping to be an underdog and surprise people, but I don’t want to get fifth or sixth place,” Pennington said. “I just have to not miss any going up to the higher heights.”

Pennington has maintained a desired level of consistency this season, winning most of the meets the Trojans competed in during the regular season.

On April 19 she tied her personal best of 5-8 at the Hamilton Southeastern’s Royal Relays. Pennington’s low point was taking third with a best of 5-2 at the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference Meet at North Central on May 2.

In between she captured the Johnson County Meet title for a second straight season by going 5-6.

“Finishing second at state last year kind of put a lot of pressure on me for this season,” Pennington said. “It was like, ‘I have to live up to this’ or ‘I have to jump this high.’”

Once Pennington returned to enjoying competitions as she had as a freshman and sophomore, no such burdens existed.

“Taylor basically won nearly every meet we’ve gone to, so I think she’ll be fine on Friday,” Center Grove girls track coach Wes Dodson said.

“She’s seeded fifth, but I expect Taylor to make a run at winning it. That (postseason) experience is so important, and Taylor has that. She’s a seasoned veteran who knows what she’s doing. You don’t have to jump great heights at sectional or regional. You just have to win.”

Also looking to provide points for the 12th-ranked Trojans at state will be senior Ali Calhoun in the discus (seeded 17th), Melissa Nelson in the pole vault (17th), freshman Olivia Rassel in the 100-meter dash (10th) and junior Tori Long in the 300 hurdles (24th).

Center Grove’s 1,600-meter relay team composed of Long, senior Aliyah Clinker, Rassel and sophomore anchor Lauren Rau is seeded ninth after taking second at the regional in a time of 4:01.32.

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