Two weeks ago, we posted our top ten storylines entering the girls IHSAA tournament series. To kick off state meet week, we would like to revisit those storylines and update their progress. This is the first of FOUR stories that we will post leading into this weekend's state finals.
1. Killbrew's Pursuit of Greatness: Brebeuf senior Simera Killebrew's eye popping performances at the Marion County Championships last week grabbed everyone's attention. With the departure of Lynna Irby two years ago, many thought Indiana sprinting would take a step back. It has, but not that far. Killebrew's :11.50 is just over a tenth of a second off of Candyce McGrone's all-time state record of :11.39 and she has a shot if the conditions are favorable in Bloomington. Surely she would settle for a state title, however. The Brebeuf senior has some unfinished business at 200 meters as that title eluded her last spring. She won the 100 and anchored the 4x100 meter relay for the Braves, whose team title hopes and chances rest of the shoulders of Killebrew. She will be shooting for 22.5 points in Bloomington which could go a long way for Brebeuf.
Update: The record pursuit is still to be determined as Mother Nature played a significant role in times this past week. Killebrew cruised in the 100 and led an insane (SEVEN athletes hitting the standard) 200 meter contingent despite the poor conditions at Ben Davis last week. If we are talking records, the 100 meter state meet record of :11.47 and the all-time state record of :11.39 are the most likely. But the 200 field seems deeper so we wouldn’t completely discount something special there. With Brebeuf’s 4x100 botching the exchange at the regional, 22.5 is out of reach, but perhaps that becomes a blessing for track fans as Semira can now focus her concentration SOLELY on her two individual events.
2. A GREAT Problem to Have: No one in Indiana has a better "problem" than the head girls staff at North Central (Indy). The Panthers are absolutely LOADED (the Northrop teams of the 2000's come to mind) in the sprints. They have 3 of the top 7 100 meter girls times in the state, 3 of the top 6 in the 200, and a potential state champion in the 400 meter dash and 100 meter hurdles. How will they divide their lineup? Where will they place their emphasis? How taxing will the preliminary/finals double be for them? They have more depth than anyone in the state in these events, but can they outscore similar elite athletes from Brebeuf/Warren/Pike? Time will tell.
Update: The track will be littered with Panthers in the sprints next Saturday. North Central (Indy) qualified two (Skylynn Blue and Alyssa Robinson) athletes in the 100 meter dash, three (Blue, Robinson, and freshman phenom Ramiah Elliott) athletes in the 200 meter dash and have the overall top seed (Elliott) in the 400 meter dash. Hurdler Chanler Robinson went 1 for 2 as she failed to qualify in the 300 meter hurdles and the Panthers boast state championship quality relays in the 4x100/4x400. We will pump the brakes until the dust settles, but does anyone remember those Fort Wayne Northrop teams of the early 2000’s?
3. Paging HSE's Kennedy Drish: Another team in the hunt for the state title is Hamilton Southeastern. The Royals have a small margin for error however as they are not as deep nor as talented up front as the aforementioned teams above. What they do have however, is a nationally elite pole vaulter than can get them ten big points which could act as a HUGE difference maker in the team standings. The problem? Drish has not shown up in any results for HSE in quite sometime. When she is on, she will be tough to beat. Are the Royals just proceeding with caution and giving other athletes an opportunity, or is their more to this story?
Update: After a conservative approach to the sectional, where she vaulted just to qualify (using a four step approach), Drish silenced any doubts that she was back in top form as she matched her personal best in winning the Lafayette Jefferson Regional, breaking her own meet record from last year. Not much has changed from a team standpoint as the Royals are right in the mix for the title/runner up spot. They’ll need those 10 from Drish to keep their repeat hopes alive.
4. Changing Geography: Then Kokomo sophomore Tionna Brown surprised many (including us) by winning the 200 meter dash last year at the state finals. In the off season, the now junior is competing for annual powerhouse Fort Wayne Northrop. While this is not one of the Lady Bruins' most legendary or dangerous teams, they ALWAYS seem to show their best when the spot light is on. With all of the talk of Killebrew and Brown now competing on a slightly bigger stage, it will be fascinating to see if she can defend her title.
Update: Whether related or not, it should be noted that Brown skipped out on the long jump in the tournament series despite being a potential scorer there for the Bruins. We sometimes are accused of over analyzing decisions but perhaps the gauntlet of long jump/100/200/4x100 could affect her repeat chances. Northrop has a state quality 4x100 relay, which Brown did not have at Kokomo. We’d be surprised if its anyone other than Killebrew, but then again we were surprised last year.
5. Distance Choices: A lot has been made of the 800/1600/3200 debate in the upcoming tournament series. Who is racing what? Who will remain fresh? Can tired legs survive a double? Will a surprise name emerge? We went on record as stating we believe that Elizabeth Stanhope of Pike (800), Abigail Lynch of Brownsburg (1600), and Phoebe Bates of Carmel (3200) would be our state championship picks if all were "fresh" in those events when the gun was shot. The chess match, as we called it, will be interesting to watch as we’re not sure if that will be the case. It was pointed out that many might have a hard time seeing Bates, the defending 1600 meter state champion, not attempting to defend her title. Stanhope isn't even the top RETURNER at 800 meters, and Lynch is the wildcard. Other girls will have something to say about this but we could see one of these three eventually regretting a decision to double as it may cost them a state championship.
Update: The chess match has been sorted out as Stanhope has chosen to focus on the 800 solely while Lynch (1600/800) and Bates (1600/3200) are choosing to double in Bloomington. The 1600/800 have gained a lot of attention over the last two weeks as the emergence of Huntington North FRESHMAN Addison Wiley (4:55/2:11) has made things even MORE interesting at those distances. We’ve also gotten this far without mentioning Homestead’s Julia Dvorak who’ll be a force to be reckoned with. The 3200 title could still be Bates’ but she’ll have to do it on tired legs, something she was unable to do at the sectional and regional rounds.
6. Mystery Maddie: Many names were pointed out in terms of who we omitted from the above conversation, but the one that fascinates us is Crown Point's Maddie Russin. The defending champion at 800 meters has not run many impressive times this spring, but then again she really hadn't at this point last year either. Combined with the fact that the weather in "The Region" has been dicey (more so than any other part of the state in 2019) makes Russin an interesting case. She is more of a 400/800 specialist but, like Bates, we can't see her NOT trying to defend her title in the 800.
Update: Perhaps THE storyline of the distance scene over the past two weeks has been Crown Point’s defending 800 meter state champion in junior Maddie Russin. Russin ran the 400/800 at both the sectional and regional rounds and racked up 40 points for her team in winning both races. However, the weather conditions at the regional round wreaked havoc on times up in northwest Indiana and though she qualified in both (an amazing feat given the lack of rest time between races) she was not able to make it into the final heat in either event. She has since scratched the 400 and is focusing on defending her title at 800 meters. The problem? She’ll have to do it in time trial mode as her personal best is over SIX seconds faster than the next seeded runner. There’s a precedent for this (see Austin Mudd in 2011), but it will be a hill for Russin to climb nonetheless.
7. Wide Open Throws Though they will not play a BIG factor in the team race, the shot put and discus competitions should not be ignored. The top 15 girls discus throwers are separated by a mere 10 feet and though this is a common idiom used by coaches, it is true: "It only takes one throw." You do not have to be on top of your game six times at the state finals, just ONCE. Should be a fun watch. In the shot, Lake Central's Makeda Ellis has a comfortable hold on the top spot but has not matched that mark in nearly three weeks? Northwest Indiana weather? Coming back to the pack? An anomaly? Time will tell.
Update: We may now actually know LESS about how the throws may turn out than we did BEFORE the tournament started as we’ve already had two changes atop the discus leader board over the last two weeks. Lebanon’s Becca Merritt not only debuted on the list after winning the Carmel Sectional, she shot all the way to the top of it as she exceeded 140 feet. Her time up top was short-lived however as Terre Haute South’s Lauren England threw 143’-08.00” at Bloomington North last week to take over the state lead. We publicized how close it was at the top and we now have ELEVEN girls on our state’s best list separated by 10 or fewer feet in the discus. In the shot, Ellis’ mark is still at the top but the gap continues to close.
8. Pursuit of Records (Part 1) Warren Central's Prommyse Hoosier has been tearing up the long jump run way for quite sometime now. She has been the class of the state and has jumped over 19 feet even on "bad days", into headwinds and even inclement weather. The Warren girls staff made no bones about it and went public in saying that they traveled with a wind gauge all spring. Connecting the dots, they have their goals set high for the University of Tennessee recruit. She's a foot clear of the rest of the field and even though anything can happen, the question seems to be "by how much" rather than "will she?" The back story is: "Can she improve by 8.5 more inches over the next three weeks?" If so, she goes down as the greatest the state has ever seen.
Update: Jumping into a head wind (at the sectional) and the aforementioned weather at the regional round has put record pursuit #1 on hold. Despite those factors, Hoosier CRUISED to victories at both levels and has yet to be pushed all spring. Looking at the state meet performance lists, the 18 foot mark has now been eclipsed by multiple athletes. Even though Hoosier has not had her best recently, it has been “good enough.” Experience at the state finals plays a factor in the long jump more than any other event and Hoosier has it. Her pursuit will continue this Saturday and possibly beyond. She really started hitting her stride and making a name for herself nationally around this time last year. Will she again?
9. Pursuit of Records (Part 2) Noblesville's Shelby Tyler has a similar story to Hoosier. She has been winning left and right all spring, basically unchallenged in the high jump. Tyler was pushed by Zionsville's Katie Isenbarger the last three years, but now the spot light is all hers. She is just two inches away from the all-time high jump record, which is 34 years old.
Update: Record pursuit #2 is also still on hold, but should not be a surprise as Tyler did what was necessary to get the job done at both the sectional and regional competitions. She’s also pulling double duty in the pole vault (for the first time at this level) and has qualified (with a chance to score) in that event as well. She will not be intimidated by the atmosphere on Saturday, that is for sure. The event has gone a bit stagnant state-wide as many athletes simply jump just to qualify at the sectional and regional rounds before opening things up a bit at the state finals. We will see what she, and other athletes have up their sleeves in just a few days.
10. The Team Race All of the guess work will end in the next three weeks and it will come down to execution in Bloomington on June 1st. For the most part, it is strength versus strength. Brebeuf, North Central and Warren Central are loaded in the sprinting events and short relays which has ALWAYS been the recipe for a track and field team state title. Zionsville has tons of balance across the board as does Hamilton Southeastern. Warren, HSE and North Central have points in the field which are sometimes "safer." It'll be one of those five if we had to guess.
Update: We now view it as a three team race as North Central (Indy), Warren Central and Hamilton Southeastern have separated themselves as Brebeuf’s snafu in the 4x100 has eliminated their chances. West Lafayette had a great regional and if other teams slide, they could make things interesting as could Zionsville. The way we see it, its North Central (Indy) and then everyone else. The Panthers left the door cracked ever so slightly with Robinson’s failure to qualify in the 300 hurdles, but it’ll take a perfect meet from those teams mentioned above AND a 1-2 more “slip ups” for North Central (Indy) if they want to have a legitimate chance. FOUR teams could clear 40 points which is a rarity at the track and field state finals.
Post YOUR thoughts/storylines as well!!!
See everyone Saturday!!!