By Jake Thompson email@example.com
Hendricks County Flyer
---- — After setting school records, placing at the state finals, and winning conference championships last season, coupled with the addition of new coaches this year, there are plenty of intriguing storylines heading into the Hendricks County girls’ track and field season.
Avon’s track team has been on the rise the past few seasons, culminating with two consecutive county and sectional titles. Avon also finished with a school-best third-place finish in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference.
The Orioles have continued to reload and should be the county and sectional favorites again this year.
“What I am most looking forward to this year is the potential this team has,” Avon coach Stephanie Chenoweth said. “We have an amazing coaching staff that has been working so hard with the young ladies and I know all of it will pay off. I cannot thank them enough for all they do for the track programs.”
Chenoweth said seniors Kailyn Hutson, Stephanie Purdy, Paxton Reardon, Chloey Loman, Harjot Kaur and Maggi Paxton “all have been a part of the program for four years and have done an incredible job leading the way.”
Avon’s impressive distance group — comprised mostly of cross country members that took fifth at state this season — should provide stiff competition for any opponent. Returning for Avon is junior Malyka Abramson, last season’s fifth place state finals finisher and school record holder in the 3200. Bolstering that group are Courtney Kerr (1600, 3200), Kelsie Mothersead (800), Lauren Heeger (800), and Megan Badgley (400). Freshmen Taylor Nicholson and Kate Bernicke will also have a significant impact.
Lanique Ellis and Monique Ellis return as half of the squad that took down the school record in the 4x100 last season. Avon is looking to fill in the other two spots and according to Chenoweth, freshman Diamond Mitchell “has shown to be a force to reckon with.”
Lauren Briskey and Joelle Navarro have been working hard at improving in the hurdles.
Avon’s field events should be strong as well with Hutson (high jump), Gabrielle Long (shot put, discus), Katrina Hopkins (shot put, discus), Madison Keele (pole vault), and Lauren Briskey (pole vault) all preparing for the challenge of a county and sectional three-peat.
Tri-West will have its work cut out for them as they try for a three-peat in the Sagamore Conference. The Bruins lost some key contributors from last season, but return a wealth of talent to try and make a run at the title.
After a strong showing at indoor conference, first-year coach Rebecca Saylor feels confident about the Bruins’ chances.
“Well, after winning indoor conference this past weekend, I am very hopeful we will be bringing the title home again,” Saylor said. “If everyone places where they did Friday night in the indoor meet, we will only do better in outdoor, because we will have the discus and Carrie Chappell and Paige Lowe didn’t even run their normal events.”
Chappell and Megan Cole return to lead the Bruins from their captain positions. Chappell will contribute in the distance events while Cole will specialize in the long jump and sprints.
Madison Sprecher and Molly Hanley both will take spots from graduated seniors in the mid-distance events.
Saylor said she expects the sprinters to be a strong group with Lowe, Cole, Kate Henley, and Shania Armstrong leading the way. Kayla Stamm will run the anchor leg of the 4x400 for the Bruins and the 400.
Karen Jones, who set Tri-West records in the shot put and discus last season, returns for the Bruins.
Plainfield finished a very successful 2013 season with a Mid-State Conference title, a third place finish at county and took fifth at sectional while finishing with a 6-1 record.
With the graduation of 13 seniors, some of which were major point contributors, the Quakers will have to hope its returning athletes answer the call.
“We were able to win the Mid-State last year and look to defend our championship,” Plainfield coach Brian Pelkey said. “We always strive to win Mid-State Conference, (and) Hendricks County.”
Pelkey said Sydney Simpson, Heidi Clossin, Savannah Rogers, and McKenzie Leath “have shown tremendous senior leadership for our younger athletes.”
Also helping Plainfield’s efforts will be junior Samantha Woodford, who has been to the state finals the past two seasons in the 800. Last year, Woodford placed fifth in the 800 state finals and broke her own school record in the process. She also broke a 32-year-old conference record in the 800.
“Sam is the top returning runner in the 800 in the state and she can run any of the distance or sprint events and excel,” Pelkey said.
Woodford, Marina Pfeil, Sydney Simpson, Saige Woodford, Zoie Cason and Amanda Hoffman will all be in the mix for the 4x800 team. Clossin, Caison, Woodford and Burgess also make up the 4x400 team.
Burgess, Anne Krietenstein, and Saige Woodford look to lead the Quakers in the hurdles.
Pole vault depth should not be a problem as Savannah Rogers, Maddie Lincks, Haley Albright, Kailah Michael, and Emily Smith have been putting in work with new coach Henry Hopkins.
Burgess, Heather Hoffman and Riley Blackwell look to lead the high jump while Cason, Alexa Laser and Maddie Lincks all will compete in the long jump. Top throwers will include McKenzie Leath, McKenzie Shrewsberry, Thalia Santiago, Delaney Slaton, Katie Byrd, and Liza Ash.
With a year under his belt, Brownsburg coach Craig Beckner now has a better idea of what to expect heading into this season and that should benefit both the coach and the athletes.
“With the girls getting to know me and my expectations over the past year, as well as me getting to know them, I think that makes the way we have operated this season really smooth from Day 1,” Beckner said. “Just having that consistency and knowledge will help build our program to where I think it should be as we move forward.”
While the Bulldogs lost some points from departing seniors, many varsity scorers from last season were freshmen and sophomores.
“Our overall core remains strong from last season,” Beckner said. “Picking up some new additions that will contribute right away will help fill in for last year’s seniors and add some depth that is always a key component when putting together a solid line-up for each meet.”
Captaining the Bulldogs this season are seniors Jolori Schafer and Jaqueline Batayneh.
Juniors Cassidy Brown, Julia Popenfoose, and Alex Smock are coming off a successful cross country season and look to carry that over into the distance events.
Tavon McCollum and Briana Smith will be joined by sophomore Mallory Roark and make up Brownsburg’s mid-distance group.
With the loss of several sprinters due to graduation, Brownsburg hopes Briana Smith can help bring along a young group. Courtney Stull and Schafer should hold down hurdle spots.
Claire Hathaway, who qualified for state in the long jump last season, returns with teammate Courtney Stull to the pit. Megan Berry was one of the top freshman pole vaulters in the state last season. Throwers Crystal Stowers and Brittany Newson will also look to make an impact.
“I was really excited to get back to this group and continue working with them this season,” Beckner said. “We’ve also added some fantastic new coaches that have already made a huge impact on our team.”
Cascade welcomes first-year coach Kristy Newcomer to the fold this season. The Cadets took fourth in the West Central Conference, sixth at county and 12th at sectional.
However, trying to improve on those finishes may be difficult with such an inexperienced squad.
“We have a very young girls’ team this year with many underclassmen,” Newcomer said. “We have several girls that are showing some great potential in both running and field events. We strive to be competitive at conference this year and hope that our girls will have a strong showing at sectionals.”
Cascade seniors Anna Arthur and Megan Frederick are set to lead the Cadets. Arthur will specialize in the shot put and discus while Frederick will lead the 1600 and 3200.
“Both girls are hard workers who bring a lot of leadership to our team,” Newcomer said.
Hadley Whicker and Chloe Whicker will join Frederick in the distance events. Lexi Blackburn and Caroline Cameron will be instrumental in the mid-distance events. Olivia Fisher leads the Cadets in the sprints and will be joined by Emma Griffith, Jalynn Gorman, and Sophie Dugan. Maureen Flanigan will take over hurdling duties.
Arthur will lead the throws and is joined by Jessi Trauner and Grace Potts. Madeline Bosworth leads the high jumpers.
First-year coach Andy Wise takes the helm for long-time coach Pat McKenzie this season at Danville. However, the loss of two athletes, one to early graduation and another to injury, along with the departure of Olivia Stevens have left the Warriors searching for points.
“(That) has left us in a wait-and-see position,” Wise said of the situation. “We believe we’ve got some solid young talent on the team, but we have a lot of work to put in this season to put us in a position to be competitive at the county meet and possibly compete for the conference championship.”
With regards to that situation, Danville would like to rely on a large group of seniors, but Wise is working with a smaller group that includes Jordan Richardson (throws), Grace Lewis (mid-distance), Brianna Bailey (sprints) and first-year thrower Jessica Evans.
Wise said mid-distance and distance runner Melanie Foreman has “pulled together a core group of for offseason conditioning work and is looking to have a solid season.” Molly Clark, Claire Gilbert, Heather Kilburn, and sophomores Vanessa Denny and Delaney Graham have all dropped time so far this year.
Cami Collins returns to lead the 400.
Junior Nicki Kiefer and sophomore Shelby Suding will hold down sprinting duties for the Warriors. Freshman Madison Jones could break into that mix with some improvement.
Kiefer also will lead Danville in the long jump and, along with Collins, will also be in the pole vault pit. Lydia Russell, last season’s sectional champion in the high jump, returns and has already tied her personal best from last season.
Richardson and Andria Utley, along with Bella Lay and Cassie Utley, are all improving in the throws and forming a solid unit.
“The return of Collins, Foreman, Kiefer, Russell, Suding, and Andrea Utley represent about half of the points we scored at conference last year, so we are hopeful we can continue to develop in a positive direction to be ready on May 16 for the SAC meet,” Wise said.
— Follow Hendricks County Flyer sports editor Jake Thompson on Twitter @JacobEThompson.