Suspense surrounding the boys and girls Johnson County Track and Field Meet tends to involve pursuit of second place.
Center Grove’s boys program has earned 15 consecutive team championships. The Trojans’ girls have claimed the past 10 titles.
Displaying a depth that makes it difficult for neighboring programs to keep pace, Center Grove looks to keep its dominance going at tonight’s event at Franklin Community High School.
Meanwhile, Whiteland could be in position to make the boys points race interesting.
“Center Grove has just dominated, and it’s still their meet to lose just because of the depth they have,” said Warriors coach Brandon Bangel, whose squad produced 109.5 points to finish runner-up to the Trojans’ 178 in 2013. “In the seven years I’ve been at Whiteland, this
is our most balanced and deepest team.
“This is the first time we can maybe at least scare them a little bit.”
Whiteland is strong in the sprints, with junior Brandon Benson and sophomore Brandon Patterson taking part in the 100- and 200-meter dashes along with the 400 relay.
Benson is competing in the 1,600 relay, while Patterson’s fourth event is the long jump.
Freshman Ryder Emberton could make the shot put and discus must-watch events as he competes against, among others, Franklin senior and defending state finalist Reid Abney.
“He’s the real deal,” Bangel said of Emberton. “He’s already gone 48 (feet) in the shot put and 142 in the discus.”
Senior pole-vaulter Cole Wuest cleared 14 feet on Thursday at Plainfield, inching closer to the Whiteland school record of 14-9. Leading the Warriors in distance events are seniors Jon Jackson (800, 1,600) and Gabe O’Keefe (1,600, 3,200).
“This year Whiteland should feel like they have a very realistic shot at it,” Franklin coach Mike Hall said. “They have one of the deepest teams I can remember in terms of speed, a good vaulter and the freshman thrower (Emberton).”
Greenwood senior David Dalton will be favored in the distance races after coming off a cross-country season in which he placed second at the IHSAA state finals in November.
Hurdlers Justin Veteto and Evan Tandy lead Center Grove’s efforts, with Franklin poised to gather points in the field events thanks to Abney, high-jumper Hunter Chadwell, long-jumper Mike Chadborne and pole-vaulters Drew Utterback and Skyler Lykins.
“From our standpoint, we’ve had several meets. We’re trying to establish a lineup for the (Mid-State) conference meet (May 6 at Plainfield) and the postseason,” Hall said. “There are so many things in this sport that are fluid, and there are so many events.”
On the girls side, Center Grove again is favored.
The Trojans are coming off Saturday’s fifth-place effort at Hamilton Southeastern’s Royal Relays, where they picked up first-place performances from junior high-jumper Taylor Pennington (5-8) and senior Ali Calhoun in the discus (118-2).
Shining brightest of all was the Trojans’ 1,600 relay quartet in which each class was represented — junior Tori Long, senior Aliyah Clinker, freshman Olivia Rassel and sophomore anchor Lauren Rau.
This group won at Hamilton-Southeastern in a time of 3 minutes, 59.25 seconds, to carve over four seconds off the previous school record.
Also watch for Calhoun in the shot put, Melissa Nelson in the pole vault, sprinters Rassel, Allison Utterback and Kiara Mabien, and senior distance specialist Shelbi Dishman.
“We’re always trying to figure out lineups and who are the best people in each event,” Trojans coach Wes Dodson said. “The kids get fired up for the county meet. It just always brings out the best in people.
“For me, it’s kind of nice when you know every coach and you can sit around and talk track with them.”