Facing tough competition early in the postseason is a double-edged sword — it’s more difficult to survive and move on, but those who do make it out are better for the experience.
“We think it’s an advantage to come through a sectional like this, where you have to compete in every event just to try to get an automatic qualifying spot,” Whiteland coach Brandon Bangel said. “We feel like it helps you get ready for the next round, and for those girls that have aspirations of making it to the state meet or being on the podium, it just gets them that much more ready.”
Tuesday’s girls track and field sectional at Franklin, headlined by 11th-ranked Columbus North and No. 12 Center Grove, offered precisely that type of challenge — and the Trojans responded with vigor across the board, outpointing the Bull Dogs by a 177-123 margin to claim their seventh consecutive sectional championship.
Whiteland (107) finished third in the team standings, followed by Franklin (76) and Greenwood (47). Indian Creek (30) was seventh and Greenwood Christian (1) 10th.
Madi Kramer was a comfortable winner in both the 100 hurdles (14.87) and the 200-meter dash (25.56), establishing new personal bests in both, and she also ran on the Trojans’ victorious 4×100 relay with Alana Riley, Kristen Lavergne and Skyler Sichting (50.07).
“I had some competition,” Kramer said, “but I’ll have even more, so it leads me to believe I can PR even more and go really far. It makes me excited.
Shelby Wingler also claimed double individual gold for the Trojans, taking both the discus (137 feet, 5 inches) and shot put (43-7 3/4). Lavergne pulled out a close victory over Whiteland’s Sydney Rodgers in the 100-meter dash (12.56 to 12.59) and was also second in both the long jump (16-10), where she finished half an inch behind Lilly Rooks of Southwestern, and the 200 (26.58).
Kate Henselmeier earned a victory in the 400 meters (57.93) and teamed with Hallie Mimbela, Bella Hodges and Marissa Pogue to win the 4×400 relay in 4:07.99.
The Trojans’ 4×800 relay team of Lara Phipps, Mimbela, Hodges and Pogue finished second (9:55.46). Also moving onto regional were Sichting (second in the 300 hurdles), Kylie Crum (third in the shot) and pole vaulters Khloie Walker (second) and Emilia Brown (third).
Taking such a large contingent forward into next week provides a valuable support system, Kramer noted.
“It’s definitely very fun hearing them cheer you on,” she said. “We’re all very supportive of each other, and obviously, the more people through, the more chance we have to win as a team.”
Greenwood got individual wins from Amy Luttrell in the pole vault (11-0) and Ellie Irwin in the high jump (5-4), as well as a second-place efforts from Makena Cruse in the 400.
Whiteland didn’t have any individual winners but moved plenty of athletes through to the regional.
In addition to taking second in the 100, Rodgers was third in the 200 and joined Emma Gill, Brooklyn Franklin and Gabrielle Vargo on the second-place 4×100 relay. Drew Mallory was the runner-up in the discus (134-3) and third in the shot put (39-9 3/4).
Also advancing for the Warriors with third-place finishes were Melia Marlin (high jump), Brooklyn Taylor (discus), Katia Olmstead (1,600) and Victoria Jackson (800).
“I’m really, really happy with the way the girls competed,” Bangel said. “Everybody that we expected to get through got through, and we had girls that we didn’t expect to get through that got through, so I’m really pleased overall.”
The host Grizzly Cubs move six entries into next week — Brooke Coffman was second in the high jump, third in the 300 hurdles and part of the second-place 4×400 relay alongside Ainsley Botkin, Addie Morris and Lauren Klem.
Aubrey Runyon (100 hurdles), Olivia Nicoloff (100) and Klem (400) all finished third for the Grizzly Cubs.
Indian Creek’s 4×800 quartet of Hannah Seitzinger, Paige Iaria, Pheobe Dowty and Samuela Grosso advanced with a third-place finish.