Whiteland’s Stevenson has lofty aspirations in sprints, long jump

Proper nutrition is one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle for young athletes — and often one of the last ones they figure out.

Whiteland sophomore Elnora Stevenson was reminded of its importance when she skipped breakfast before a morning meet at Columbus North a couple of weekends ago.

“It affected me pretty bad,” she said. “It affected me with my jumps. But after I ate, I felt pretty good, I felt great, and I jumped farther.”

When she’s fueled up right, Stevenson is one of the best long jumpers and sprinters in the state of Indiana. She surprised even herself with an eighth-place finish in the long jump at last year’s state meet, crashing the podium as a freshman, and she was also a regional qualifier in the 200-meter dash and part of the Warriors’ state-qualifying 4×100 relay.

“We really didn’t have super high expectations going into last year, and she obviously had a really good end of the season,” Whiteland coach Brandon Bangel said. “Now she realizes where she can get to, so she’s more focused in practice, doing a better job, more serious about things.”

If the state meet didn’t make Stevenson realize where she can get to, the indoor season did. She went over 18 feet in the long jump during every meet, leaping 18-9 at the Hoosier State Relays in March to finish in second place. She then popped a lifetime best of 19-1 1/2 during a dual against Franklin Central earlier this month, breaking her own school record — and while that leap was wind-aided, according to Bangel, the string of recent performances has Stevenson setting some lofty goals for herself.

She wants to break the Warriors’ record in the 200 — her best of 25.91 is well within reach of Gabi Allen’s mark of 25.55 — and she would like to win a state championship sometime before she graduates.

“It made me realize that if I have a good day and I eat right, rest right, then I have a chance to do really great things,” Stevenson said of her runner-up showing at HSR.

Bangel, who doubles as the Warriors’ strength coach, has seen an increased maturity in Stevenson from last year to now, calling her a “really strong girl for her size” who works extremely hard in the weight room.

He cites senior distance standout Tori Jackson, a Ball State recruit and returning state medalist, as a shining leadership example that the rest of the team, Stevenson included, has been able to follow.

“Having a Tori Jackson on your team, where kids can see what high-level athletes — how they prepare, how they warm up, how they cool down, just how they go about being a varsity athlete, that trickles down to the rest of the kids,” Bangel said.

Where Stevenson will slot into Whiteland’s postseason lineup has yet to be determined. She’ll certainly be in the long jump, and she’s highly likely to be a part of the Warriors’ 4×100 quartet again (all four of last year’s runners — Stevenson, Emma Gill, Marissa Kratowicz and Sydney Rodgers — are back). Bangel says she could run either the 100 or 200, but probably won’t run both come sectional time for a couple of reasons.

One, it’s tough to be at your best in both sprints, especially with less time in between once the meets are no longer coed. Two, Whiteland has an abundance of sprinting talent, so there’s no need to force the issue when there’s someone else who’s fresher and about as fast.

“Sometimes other people should run it,” Stevenson conceded, “because I’m always tired after four events.”

If she’s not overworked or underfed, Stevenson is a serious threat to come away from her sophomore state meet with multiple medals. On the way, she wants to help the Warriors win a county championship today and perhaps conference and sectional team titles next month.

Expect her to be ready for all of those, especially after learning that hard (but important) lesson not too long ago at the Columbus North meet.

“She saw the fact that it impacted her ability to perform like she’s capable of,” Bangel said. “So it was a good lesson for her, and it was kind of a low-stakes environment, which is nice, so she’ll learn as she goes, and then obviously as she gets to be a junior and senior she’ll know what she needs to do physically and then nutrition-wise to make sure she’s at her best.”

When she is, Stevenson is pretty hard to beat.


Johnson County meet

Where: Whiteland HS

When: 5:30 p.m. (pole vault starts at 4:30)

Admission: $7; county passes accepted

Live webstream: ihsaatv.org/MidState

Live results: abtiming.com