Strong performances by athletes from area schools, including two regional champions, marked the evening activity Tuesday at the IHSAA girls track and field regional at Shelbyville.
In the team standings, Warren Central won with a score of 113 points. Center Grove finished third with 55, Whiteland in a tie for sixth with 32 points, and Greenwood tied for 10th with 20.
Taylor Pennington’s win in the high jump was as much about brains as athletics brilliance, although the Center Grove standout clearly has both in abundance.
The early rounds of the event were a study in attrition, with competitors failing to clear the bar on more than 70 percent of the first 100 jumps attempted.
As entrant after entrant was eliminated, Pennington was a study in focus and efficiency, watching each of her fellow jumpers closely, passing at 4-11 and 5-3, and clearing the bar on her first attempt at 5-0, 5-1 and 5-2.
“I like to keep track of how they are doing and see how they do at lower heights to see who might be there at the end,” Pennington said.
Only two athletes remained at 5-4¼, Pennington and Regan Lewis of Greenfield-Central. At this point, Pennington uncharacteristically missed two jumps, and with Lewis already having cleared the height, not winning the regional was a real possibility.
Pennington does not waste any time, often attempting her jumps before the event director can finish calling out whose turn it is.
In this case however, she ran to the track’s outer fence for a quick chat with coach Caitlyn Fife, and before she could make her final attempt at the height, was interrupted by the playing of the national anthem.
“A lot of it is just mental. You know it’s between you and one other person. You have a higher height and since there are fewer people there is less of a break so it can be tiring,” she said.
“I don’t like to think about it. That’s why I go so fast because it’s all mental. If you think too much it will get in your head. It’s better to just go do it. I tried (during the anthem) to just sing a song in my head and say ‘Let’s go.’ ”
Pennington then approached the bar and cleared the height with apparent room to spare. She did the same at 5-5¼ on her first attempt, and with her opponent missing all three attempts at that height, Pennington had another regional title.
She returns to the state meet where she finished second last year.
The other regional title among field event contestants from Johnson County schools came from Whiteland’s Madison Csaszar in the discus with a personal best throw of 138-8, her fifth of six attempts on the evening.
Csaszar said her win might be considered an upset but added she wasn’t so shocked by it.
“I wasn’t expecting it, but I knew it was in there because of my practices,” she said. “I tend to do pretty well under pressure and because the girl that was supposed to win beat me at sectionals, it kind of brought out that inner drive.”
Csaszar said she will now focus on breaking her personal best again, this time at state.
“I definitely think I can do it again,” she said. “I have plenty of time to prepare. I think I can get top five.”
Also qualifying for the IHSAA Girls Track and Field State Finals from Johnson County schools were Danielle Muse of Whiteland, who finished second in the 1600 meters with a time of 5:10.90, Olivia Rassel of Center Grove, who finished third in the 100 at 12:44 and Melissa Nelson of Center Grove, who took third in the pole vault at 10-9.
The Center Grove 1,600 relay team of Tori Long, Aliyah Clinker, Lauren Rau and Rassel also qualified with a second-place finish in 4:01.32.
Also qualifying for the state meet was the Greenwood 3,200 relay team of Allie Dalton, Taylor Neely, Madison Renfro and Krista Robinson, along with Dalton individually in the 3200 meter run with a time of 11:01.13.
The state meet is June 6 at Indiana University in Bloomington.