Whiteland girls track and field second at regional; several locals advance to state

Even if temperatures hadn’t been nearing 90 degrees in the air and easily exceeding that mark at track level, the girls competing in Tuesday’s regional at Shelbyville were feeling the heat with trips to next week’s state meet on the line.

But most of Johnson County’s top athletes stuck to the old “never let ‘em see you sweat” mantra, coolly taking care of business.

Perhaps nowhere was that more apparent than at the pole vault, where Center Grove’s Khloie Walker, Greenwood’s Amy Luttrell and Trojan Hannah Smith all punched return tickets to state with a 1-2-3 finish.

Walker and Luttrell both cleared 11 feet, 6 inches, with Walker claiming the win by virtue of fewer misses; Smith topped out at 11 feet to ensure that the three friends would have another chance to compete against one another.

“We’re all pretty close,” Smith said, “and so I feel like we feed off of each other’s energy, and we were just over there having a good time. We were having fun.”

The evening was also an enjoyable one for the Whiteland girls, who went into the final night of the event with a chance to win the team championship. Warren Central clinched the trophy by winning the 4×400 relay to finish with 87 points to Whiteland’s 79, but Warriors coach Brandon Bangel couldn’t have been more pleased with his team’s performance.

“Our girls did such a great job,” he said. “We outscored where we were seeded in probably the majority of the events, so we didn’t necessarily expect to be where we were at going into the 4×4. So I’m super proud of this group; they’ve done a phenomenal job all year, and to be in the mix with a team as good as Warren Central is — honestly, it’s an accomplishment. Second place isn’t as fun as winning, but I’m super proud of this group.”

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Whiteland took first in the 4×100 relay, with Emma Gill, Marissa Kratowicz, Annibelle Gillbert and Elnora Stevenson crossing the line in 49.25 seconds. Rodgers also advanced as an individual in the 100-meter dash, placing third with a time of 12.15 seconds.

The Warriors’ 4×800 relay of Madison Fleury, Bella Fuentes, Lena Shipp and Tori Jackson landed in second place (9:31.97), while Jackson was third in the 800 (2:16.55), Stevenson was third in the long jump (18 feet, 2 1/2 inches) and Ashley Cooprider was third in the high jump (5-2).

The Warriors had a pair of throwers advance, with Carly VonDielingen (third in 132-7) and Sophia Dyer (sixth in 125-1) both eclipsing the state qualifying standard in the discus. VonDielingen also earned her way forward in the shot put, placing third with a 41-foot heave.

Center Grove wound up third as a team with 69 points, advancing several athletes to state besides Walker and Smith. The Trojans’ 4×800 relay team of Marissa Pogue, Diana Hodges, Gretchen Meisberger and Hallie Mimbela opened the track portion of the meet by winning in a time of 9:30.89. The Trojans rallied past Whiteland for the victory, with Mimbela chasing Jackson down over the final 100 meters to steal the race.

Dee Biddings advanced in the 200-yard dash for Center Grove, clocking a time of 25.38 seconds to reach the state standard.

“I was really pleased with our effort,” Trojans coach Wes Dodson said, “I thought we really competed well. We got a lot of girls to the state meet, which is the goal going in, right? … It wasn’t perfect, but it was a darn good day.”

Franklin, which finished fifth with 49 points, set itself up for a good state meet.

Junior Aubrey Runyon was again the Grizzly Cubs’ headliner, earning her way to Bloomington in four events. Individually, she was the runner-up in the 300 hurdles with a time of 45.99 seconds and third in the 100 hurdles with a time of 14.87. Runyon also teamed with Addison Martin, Hanna Stewart and Sami Frazier to finish second in the 4×100 relay (49.88) and joined Ainsley Botkin, Stewart and Lauren Klem on the runner-up 4×400 relay, which set a school record at 3:58.88.

Klem also made it to state as a solo artist, taking second in the 400-meter dash (59.66) to become just the second four-year state qualifier in school history.

“We got kind of a rough start in some areas, and we weren’t really sharp in some of the areas we were hoping to early,” Franklin coach Ray Lane said. “I was really proud of how the girls rallied. … Once we got to the track events, Aubrey kind of got us going with the hurdles there, and then the 4×1 came out and we had our mojo going from there.”

Greenwood’s Emma Gardner moved on to state in both the discus and shot put, placing second in both the discus (135-3) and shot put (42-1). The Woodmen were ninth as a team with 29 points but take a pair of potential medalists to Bloomington.

Indian Creek sophomore Libby Dowty set a meet record while winning the 3,200-meter run comfortably in 10:56.76. Dowty was also the runner-up in the 1,600 meters, finishing in 5:01.52, but she has opted to scratch out of that race next week to put all of her focus on the 3,200.

“I didn’t really run the times I wanted to, but I’m grateful to be able to make it to state,” said Dowty, who was the girls state cross country champion in the fall.

Having cleared the last hurdle on the way to Indiana University, the local qualifiers can shift their focus to that final meet, where numerous chances at medals await.

Tuesday’s competition offered about as good of a tuneup as possible.

“This felt like a state finals night,” Lane said. “The weather and the conditions, just being really hot, so I felt like we kind of weathered the storm and found ourselves during the trials and had a strong finish.”

The goal is an even stronger one next Friday.