By Jake Thompson and Justin Whitaker
— With the indoor season already underway, the Hendricks County girls’ track teams are gearing up for a long season with the hopes of reaching the state finals in the first week of June.
The Brownsburg girls’ track and field team is not rebuilding, but reloading for another solid season.
With a core group of girls returning, the Bulldogs are looking for good placement at the top meets.
“The girls have set very high expectations for the team and are definitely aiming for the top in our big meets of county, conference, and sectionals,” coach Craig Beckner said. “Several girls have their eyes on school records and trips to the state finals as well. We have a pretty young crew that I think could put up some results by the end of the season that might even shock them. If they stay healthy and continue to work like they have been, I expect them to have a very impressive season and pick up several very big wins.
As much fun as winning is for a team, Beckner is hoping for more from the Bulldogs.
“Obviously getting big wins is always a goal at the top of the list, but my main goal Day 1 has simply been for the girls to enjoy being a part of the team,” he said. “They already came into the season with a load of talent and motivation to get better each day, so if we can just make sure they’re enjoying that process, then I’m confident that those big wins will follow.”
Leading the way for Brownsburg is senior Sibong Ncube who’s looking to make the state finals for the third straight year in the 100 hurdles. Other sprinters include senior Flo Akinribade, junior Isabella Zoog, sophomores Monique Burns and Briana Smith, and freshman Courtney Stull.
In the middle distance, the Bulldogs will be paced by talented sophomore duo Tavon McCollum and Rocky Sulkoske as well as sophomore Lauren Markovich and freshman Aliyah Walker.
Junior Jolori Schafer will compete in hurdles, sprints, and pole vaulting.
In the distance events, senior Kyra Jo Gaerke, sophomores Julia Popenfoose and Cassidy Brown, and freshmen Brooke U’Ren, Allison Hering, and Mackenzie Vondersaar will compete for Brownsburg.
The team’s throwing crew includes senior Shay Roberson, sophomores Brittney Newson and Crystal Stowers, and senior McDonald’s All-American basketball player Stephanie Mavunga.
Freshmen Claire Hathaway (long jump, sprints) and Megan Berry (pole vault) will look to compete immediately.
In his first season as the girls’ head coach, Beckner said he is enjoying his time so far.
“In my first three weeks on the job I’ve been most impressed by the quality of the students we have on this team away from the track,” he said. “I’m extremely lucky to coach the team of girls that we have and am enjoying every minute of it.”
The Tri-West girls’ track and field team lost only three runners from last year’s first-ever Sagamore Conference champion team and are ready to get 2013 underway.
Expectations are high for coach Brian Powers and the rest of the Bruins.
“I’m excited to see what they can do,” Powers said. “With so much coming back from last year, it’s really just a solid team from top to bottom. We have pieces in place and we have the potential to go as far as they can. They have the potential to make it to Bloomington for the state meet and I don’t see why they can’t do that.”
Powers said he believes this team can compete at all of the big meets with solid experience.
“I feel like we should definitely compete for a conference title,” he said. “We’ll see how county rolls and have a good amount of girls advance onto the regionals and hopefully onto state.”
Those key returners include seniors Keanna Lazaro, Jordan Lightner, Sydney McCalley, Megan Unger, and Gabby Edwards.
Powers also listed juniors Megan Cole and Carrie Chappell and sophomores Paige Lowe, Kayla Stamm, Madison Sprecher, and Karen Jones as key returners.
“I just keep thinking of our team and everyone I think of is someone who is coming back and it’s just really exciting to have so many returners,” Powers said.
Freshmen Michelle Davis and Kate Henley and junior foreign exchange student Lisa Anderer are all expected to contribute for the Bruins as well.
As Powers has tried to plan out the events, he said he’s had trouble getting the roster figured out.
“You look around and I’m trying to write in who is participating in our meets this week and I mean there are certain kids who it’s hard to find something to get them in and they’re solid runners,” Powers said. “It’s a good problem to have. It’s a problem because I don’t like excluding someone who’s coming out and working hard. At the same time, you have got to field your best team.”
Powers is in his second year as the high school coach and learned some unexpected things in his first season.
“I learned how long of a season track is,” Powers said laughing. “Our official practices started in February and went through June last year. You really learn how important it is to rest some kids.”
The 2013 season for the Danville girls’ track and field team will be all about continued improvement.
“We anticipate our girls developing into athletes who will be very competitive by the end of our season,” Danville coach Pat McKenzie said.
Expecting to lead the Warriors this season is senior hurdler Olivia Stevens and junior hurdler Chelsea Gould.
McKenzie is also counting on sophomores Nick Kiefer, Lydia Russell, and Cami Collins.
“(They) are versatile athletes who will have an impact in a variety of events,” McKenzie said.
Stevens, Kiefer, Collins, Gould, and sophomore distance runner Melanie Foreman will make the core of Danville’s points.
“(They) should provide a solid foundation for the team and lead in scoring points,” McKenzie said.
Expectations for the top meets are unknown at this time as the Warriors’ goal is simple.
“We’re striving to perform our best in the county, conference, and sectional,” McKenzie said. “But it’s very difficult to project our placing in these meets at this time.”
Danville only has two seniors in Stevens and Heather Siller this season. McKenzie likes what they bring, but also expects a lot from the remainder of the team.
“They will definitely be valuable, but we’ll also be looking for our younger girls to perform well in varsity competition,” he said.
With some new faces and experienced veterans, the Cadets should return to the track and find some individual successes, but the team aspect may be a bit more complicated.
“Our goals are to improve individually and that should help to bring us success in the county, conference, and sectionals,” Cascade coach Rosie Fakes said. “We’re short on numbers this year so we’ll struggle to compete with full teams.”
Nicky Stewart — last year’s county and sectional champion in the 100 — returns for Cascade. Stewart’s experience will be invaluable for the Cadets, along with teammate Miranda Chastain.
Fakes points to Regina Solik and Savanah Leopard as the ones to take charge in the field events.
“All of these girls bring a great work ethic to the program,” she said. “They lead by example as well as talking the younger competitors through the tougher practices. I couldn’t ask for better leaders.”
Stewart holds the school’s 100 record, one broken by recent graduate Shelby Reynolds the previous season. It was a record that had stood at Cascade since the ‘80s.
Miranda Chastain will compete in the hurdles and distance runners Megan Frederick and Hadley Whicker should also contribute this season.
With a smaller team, Cascade’s objectives are a bit altered compared to larger teams and Fakes is expecting their successes to come in different ways.
“We set goals as individuals and I set team goals,” Fakes said. “I talk to them about supporting their teammates and knowing how they finished at meets. We have great student athletes on the team. It’s not too difficult to create a team atmosphere. These young athletes are still developing and I look forward to watching them progress.”
Coming off of a season where the Orioles won a county title and their first sectional title in school history, along with a fourth-place finish in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference, aspirations for this season’s team are high.
“One of my team goals for this year is to be one of the most hard working and competitive teams in our county and conference,” Avon coach Stephanie Chenoweth said. “When I mean competitive, I mean competing with the best of the best. I think it’s time for our athletes to take the leap forward to being a force to reckon with. We had a dose of success last year winning county and sectionals, now we want more.”
The Orioles took two runners and a shot putter to the state finals last year and of the three, one returns. Sophomore Malyka Abramson comes back for the Orioles after a stellar cross country season where she won individual sectional, regional, and semistate titles.
Abramson, along with Courtney Kerr, Megan Price and Victoria Collins will anchor the distance events.
Chenoweth points to seniors Kiya Keili, Danyetta Johnson, Julie Jones, and Collins to guide the Orioles this season.
“Keili is one of our quietest leaders, but is a leader by example,” Chenoweth said. “Johnson is one of our most vocal leaders on the team. She is one that leads by hard work and dedication. Collins is someone that has been part of the track team for four years and knows the expectations. She’s someone many girls already look up to. Jones is also a quiet leader and leads through example.”
Hannah Heim and Megan Badgley join Johnson and Keili to form a formidable group of sprinters. Lauren Briskey and Joelle Navarro will take on the hurled load for the Orioles.
In the field events, Heim looks to return to the long jump pit, Gabrielle Long will take over discus and shot put responsibilities, Kailyn Hutson will high jump, and Julie Jones will take on pole vault duties.
Like the boys’ team, Plainfield coach Brian Pelkey has the same aspirations for the girl’s squad this year. Pelkey hopes the Quakers can win county, conference, and sectional titles, along with advancing as many competitors as possible to the regional and state meets.
Returning to help Plainfield to its goals are Brynn Olinger, Ravyne Barnett, Morgan Heald, Ali Lynch, Molly Gillenwater, and Michell Goda.
“(They) have all provided invaluable leadership for our younger girls,” Pelkey said.
Samantha Woodford qualified for the state meet in the 800 last season and is coming off of an impressive cross country year. She was also the Mid-State Conference winner in the 1600 last season.
Pelkey hopes the Quakers’ offseason work will lead to success on the track.
“Our distance athletes have worked very hard in the offseason,” he said. “They know that they have to build a winter base to have a higher peak in the spring.”
Barnett, Heidi Clossin, and Zoie Cason will pace the Quakers’ sprinters. Olinger and Woodford look to lead the distance events, Sam Burgess and Ali Lynch take on the hurdles, while Sydney Simpson, Marina Pfeil, and Kara Mercer will all contribute to Plainfield’s relay teams.
In the field events, Cason and Maddie Stansberry look to lead in the long jump, Katie Schnepp and Sam Burgess will compete at the high jump, Kallie Nelson and Savannah Rogers take on pole vaulting duties, and Goda, Anna Reistad, Sophie Warner, and Katie Byrd all look to lead the throws.