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Chasing the regional

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Connersville’s Gabby Gonzalessprints down the track in the 100 meter dash last spring at CHS.
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Connersville’s Jessica Beckman lets the shot put fly at a home meet against Oldenburg Academy and Union County on Monday, May 7.
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Connersville’s Kenzy Lynch clears a hurdle at a home meet against Union County and Oldenburg Academy on Monday, May 7.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

For the Connersville girls track and field team, things are rather clear tonight.

Turn in a tremendous effort in your respective event, or your season is over.

Activity will be buzzing throughout and surrounding the Connersville High School football stadium tonight, as the Lady Spartans will host track and field teams from Cambridge City Lincoln, Centerville, Hagerstown, Northeastern, Richmond, Rushville, Seton Catholic, Tri-High and Union County for the 2017-18 Indiana High School Athletic Association sectional meet.

Last year, Connersville finished third in the sectional, but the Lady Spartans believe that this time around, they can do better

“We have a good chance to win it this year, if the girls run healthy and up to their potential,” Connersville coach Kelli House said. “We’re going into this with the mindset to win it.”

To accomplish that, the host school will need to overcome at least one school that has already beaten them.

Earlier this season, CHS was defeated by Hagerstown in dual action. But the loss was by a very close margin, and there was one key event missing from that meet — the pole vault.

“I think that when you add our pole vault scores in this time, we will have a good shot at avenging that loss,” House said.

On paper, with skilled vaulters Abbi Jacobs and Claire Kleve putting big points on the board, that does seem likely.

But Connersville coach Jeff Cooley warns that things get a little bit fuzzy once you put 10 track and field teams on the scoreboard.

“It’s just a different animal when you’re comparing a dual meet to a full-blown sectional,” he said. “Hagerstown has a very solid girls team, no doubt. But, Richmond also has some really good athletes, so you have to figure that they’re going to take quite a few points, as well.

The Red Devils were last year’s runner-up, finishing a tantalizing seven points ahead of the Spartans.

 

And then there are the Lady Lions from Rushville, the defending sectional champions. One has to believe that, in a return to the scene of last year’s big win, they’re going to have something to say about the final outcome, too.

Cooley went on to explain that the true question would be how many points — and in which events — would fall to athletes from the other schools, denying them to Connersville and any other would-be front-runner.

But, all that said, he admitted that he still likes his chances.

In the sprint events (100, 200), Connersville will run Gabby Gonzales and Katelyn Burris. Gonzales was the runner-up in the 100 and finished third in the 200 last year. She will be fixed on beating Richmond’s Nakayla Bennett, the defending champ in both events.

Connersville’s middle distance (400, 800) will include Sicily Bowling, Claire Kleve, Marley Smith and Elaina McCreary.

“Marley has really been coming on strong lately. I believe she will be among the leaders and will be in the hunt to win,” House said.

House echoed that sentiment about Smith’s chances in the 1600. Also running for CHS in the distance events (3200 also) will be Amelia Ross, Hallie Wilson and Caroline Arndt.

“Caroline has dealt with shin splints much of the season, but has had an extremely good year in spite of that,” House said.

Carrying the torch for Connersville over the hurdles will be Kenzy Lynch (100 and 300), Laila Fitzgerald (100) and Gracie Newman (300).

Lynch was a regional qualifier in both hurdle events last season, and the belief is that the Spartans can advance two, or even all three this time around.

Running the relays for CHS will be the combination of Lynch, Burris, Gonzales and Allison Hoffman in the 4x100, Lynch, Kleve, Smith and Bowling in the 4x400, and the foursome of Bowling, Smith, Kleve and Arndt in the 4x800.

At least one of those will be worth keeping an eye on.

“I think the 4x800 has a serious shot at winning it,” House said. “I feel like Claire was the missing piece in that unit.”

Field events will feature Connersville athletes Elise Matney (long jump, high jump), Jessica Beckman (long jump) and Fitzgerald (high jump). In the pole vault, Jacobs will be aiming to eclipse her personal best effort of eight feet, a mark she established early this season.

In the throwing events, Beckman will be chasing down the school record in the discus event. She has reached a distance of 121 feet, 4 inches, just two inches short of the CHS standard of 121-6, established by Tracie Harry in 1986.

Beckman was the sectional champion in the discus last season, and was crowned the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference champion on Thursday.

“She’ll have a terrific chance at setting that record,” Cooley said.

“I really hope she can do it, she’s only a couple of inches short,” House added.

The top three place winners in all individual events and relays, plus any individual or relay team meeting the three Participant Standard in the sectional finals of their event will advance to the regional.

If the top three finishers, plus three Participant Standard advancers in an event leaves the regional with fewer than 16 competitors, the next best performances from the corresponding sectionals shall be added to bring the total number of entrants to 16 in each event.

The meet is set for a 5:30 p.m. start. Cost is $6 per person.