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Trojans standout has set goal of clearing 5 feet, 10 inches

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Taylor Pennington’s desire to be the best literally involves a running start.

Somewhere between the first of her carefully choreographed steps and lift-off, Center Grove’s high-jumper builds the acceleration necessary to help launch her 6-foot frame over a fiberglass bar.

Pennington’s hope is that it, along with her own technique, is enough to someday make her the Trojans’ first girls state champion in track and field.

The junior flirted with such a distinction at the 2013 IHSAA Girls Track and Field State Finals at Indiana University, clearing 5-7 to finish runner-up to Oak Hill’s Janae Moffitt, who went 5-10.

Pennington would have preferred the champion’s medal and the bump in her reputation that goes along with it.

Fate, however, knew what it was doing.

“I had been undefeated the whole season, so I wanted to get first. I was upset because I tried my hardest, and it wasn’t enough,” Pennington said. “But getting second was probably the best thing for me because it pushed me.”

Pennington’s offseason travels to IU to work out at — depending on the season — both the Hoosiers’ indoor and outdoor facilities demonstrates her desire to

get better. After all, the competition isn’t about to let up.

Moffitt remains only a junior. Five of the top six high-jumpers at state a year ago were underclassmen, the others being Noblesville’s Rachel Mather, Greenfield-Central’s Regan Lewis and Ellen Foster of Mount Vernon (Posey).

“It’s all about making goals for myself. I’m hoping for 5-10 this season, and we’ll go from there,” Pennington said.

Pennington jumped 5-4 over the weekend to take first at the Hoosier Qualifier at Purdue University. She’ll take part in the Hoosier State Relays at Indiana Wesleyan University next Saturday.

Center Grove begins its outdoor season April 2 with a dual meet at Bloomington South before taking part in the Columbus North Invitational on April 12.

Pennington first became interested in the high jump five years ago. But what began more out of curiosity evolved into a very serious undertaking.

“I started doing it in sixth grade during gym class. I had never heard of high-jumping before that, but I did it, stuck with it and love it,” she said. “You control it, and it’s all mental. It’s all you.”

Her path to becoming one of the state’s premier jumpers includes one sizable pothole.

After coming in second at the Franklin Community Sectional as a freshman with a best of 5-4, Pennington’s dreams of making it to state were derailed by a 14th-place effort at the Shelbyville Regional.

Pennington’s top height that day of 4-10 is exactly a foot beneath her vertical objective this spring.

“I’m sure Taylor was a little embarrassed. Since that point she’s figured out that she is really good and has been good since that meet. What she did last season was definitely a pleasant surprise,” Trojans coach Wes Dodson said.

“She started showing that confidence because (former teammate and four-time state finalist) Mackenzie (Kitchel) had graduated and Taylor wasn’t in anyone’s shadow anymore. I think people knew she was that good, I just don’t know if Taylor knew she was that good.”

She does now.

And though Pennington isn’t capable of touching the sky, it’s where her limit resides.

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