By SCOTT DAVIDSON
WARSAW – Warsaw girls track coach Scott Erba has thought all along that his team could have the best season ever in program history in 2012.
That’s why the slogan is etched in big letters: BEST SEASON EVER on the back of the team’s t-shirts this year.
The Tigers continued Tuesday night to make their coach look very, very smart.
Depth made the difference as host Warsaw used quantity and quality for a regional championship on their home track at the Tiger Athletic Complex at WCHS. The Tigers won just one event, but scored points in 13 events to total 70 points. Defending champ and No. 20 South Bend Adams was second with 57 points. There were no records set in the regional, which played out under gorgeous conditions.
The regional championship, coming on the heels of NLC and sectional crowns for the undefeated, No. 14 Tigers, is the third overall for the program, joining championship teams in 1992 and 2007. Warsaw finished in fourth place in the regional in 2011.
Warsaw qualified four individuals in junior Ashley Erba, sophomore Ann Harvuot, senior Lauren Burish and sophomore Claire Hickerson and two relay teams for the State Finals June 1 at Indiana University in Bloomington. The 1,600 relay team of freshmen Nicole Eckert, Megan Kratzsch and Tennie Worrell and sophomore Jackie Ferguson placed second Tuesday night, while the 3,200 relay team of seniors Brooke Kline and Lilly Fleming, junior Kristin Quick and freshman Ellie Bearss placed third. Both relay teams posted season-best times.
“The big thing coming into tonight was that we had kids in 14 events, so we felt good about our chances,” noted coach Erba. “We scored in 13 of those and that was very helpful to us in winning the championship.
“We thought coming into the season that it was possible for it to be our best season ever. We’ve made that our motto since the start of the season. That’s why we put it on our shirts. We don’t like to put sayings on our t-shirts that we don’t think can happen. We felt good with who we had coming back from last year and what we did in cross country in the fall and in the indoor season. With all those different parts, we thought this could be the best team ever in Warsaw girls track. So far, they have shown that week after week.
“This win is a confidence builder for the team. When they perform like this and see the results it makes a big difference. It’s a big thing for our program and the future of it too.”The Tigers individual champion was Ashley Erba, who cruised to victory as expected in the 3,200. The junior won the race in 10:33.61, more than 33 seconds in front of runner-up Corinne Cominator of Northridge. Her time was the second fastest in the state this year, only trailing her 10:31.16 from the sectional last week. Erba, the state cross country champion last fall, was strong after finishing second in the 1,600 just an hour earlier in the evening to junior Bethany Neeley of Eastern (Greentown). Neeley, the state runner-up in the 1,6000 in 2011, won in 4:53.23 and Erba was second in a school record time of 4:55.12. Erba placed third in the 1,600 and fourth in the 3,200 at the Bremen Regional in 2011.
“I wanted to break 10:24 (the regional record) in the 3,200,” said Erba. “The last mile was not great. I was having some stomach issues. I know Neeley really well. She’s a great runner with a great kick. I wanted to go out quick and be consistent in the mile. I had a PR by three seconds in the mile.
“The team championship means so much to us and is so exciting. We’ve talked about it for the last few years. In the last month, we’ve brought it back together and knew we could do this.”
Coach Erba opted after the regional to scratch his daughter from the 1,600 at the State Finals. Erba was 20th in the 1,600 at State in 2011.
“The purpose of that is to give her a chance at another state title,” said coach Erba. “Could she be on the podium in both events? Yes. But, we want to give her the best opportunity to win a state championship in the 3,200.
“I was a little concerned about her going into the 3,200 tonight. But she looked relaxed, calm and strong and ran her race. She gave us great performances tonight.
“Our relay teams gave us a huge lift tonight with all three of them placing in the top four. My hat’s off to our 3,200 relay team. They ran a season best tonight. And our 1,600 relay team had three freshmen on it.”
Burish earned her second straight trip to State in the discus. The dimumitive (by thrower standards) Burish was third with a top throw of 125-5.
“It was about regaining my confidence tonight because I knew I had this in me,” said Burish, who placed 20th at state in the discus in 2011. “I had been struggling with my technique lately. My personal best is 128-11 and I had been 10-13 feet under that the past few weeks.
“After sectional last week we worked hard on finishing and exploding out on my throws. The last couple of practices before tonight went well once I got it figured out with my coaches. I really want to place in the top 10 at State this year and turn some heads for Warsaw throwers. I don’t think we get enough credit.”
Burish, who will play basketball and throw shot and discus at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois, was not the only Tiger thrower who was strong Tuesday night. Junior Samantha Jensen was fourth in the discus and senior Sarah Heagy eighth in the shot put.
Harvuot, who just missed a State berth in the 100 in 2011 with a fourth place finish, was emotional Tuesday night. She was second in the 100 to South Bend Adams star Aaliyah McKinney, who also won the 200, and then finished seventh in the 200. Harvuot posted a personal best time in the 100 and had a personal best effort in the 200 trials before having a tough race in the 200 finals.
“My goal was second in the 100 and it was good I reached that. She’s just faster than I am. But I was determined to make it to State this year and I did. I would have been disappointed if I didn’t make it.”
Hickerson earned her State Finals spot by making the state standard at 11-2 in the pole vault, where she placed fourth for the Tigers.
Triton’s Megan Howdeshell placed seventh in the shot put. It was a tough night for the senior. Howdeshell did not make the finals in the discus, where she was the defending regional champion. She scratched on two attempts in the prelims and then had a throw of 92-8. She entered Tuesday night with a personal best of 135-2, better than the state qualifying standard of 127-6.
Freshman Jazzmine Brown of Tippecanoe Valley placed seventh in the 400.
Warsaw 70, South Bend Adams 57, South Bend St. Joseph’s 49, Mishawaka 40, Fairfield 36, Penn 31, Northridge 28.5, Eastern (Greentown) 28, Goshen 24, Concord 24, Plymouth 23, Elkhart Memorial 22, Culver Academy 22, Kokomo 21, Mishawaka Marian 19, Northwestern 18, Bremen 16, South Bend Riley 16, Elkhart Central 9, Wawasee 9, South Bend Clay 8.5, NorthWood 8, Rochester 6, South Bend Washington 6, Rochester 6, Culver 6, Cass 6, Maconaquah 5, Western 4, Tipton 4, Manchester 2, Tippecanoe Valley 2, Triton 2, Northfield 1, Logansport 1.
1. Plymouth (Meagan Fisher, Libbie Reed, Maggie Morrow, Allie Wright) 9:31.74; 2. Penn 9:35.40; 3. Warsaw (Brooke Kline, Lilly Fleming, Ellie Bearss, Kristin Quick) 9:37.48; 4. Northridge 9:41.94; 5. Marian 9:43.34; 6. South Bend St. Joe 9:45.09; 7. Wawasee (Breanna Robinson, Kaely Bame, Courtney Linnemeier, Jen Slabaugh) 10:13.91; 8. Culver Academy 10:17.27.
1. Mikaila Chamblee (St. Joe) 14.84; 2. Liana Yoder (GO) 15.02; 3. Dezha Moore (SBA) 15.11; 4. Keeana Walton (MAC) 15.43; 5. Becca Kropf (FF) 15.47; 6. Jenna Pfeiffer (BRE) 15.60; 7. Jessica O’Connell (CON) 15.87; 8. Brenna Huff (Penn) 16.30.
1. Aaliyah McKinney (SBA) 12.23; 2. Ann Harvuot (WAR) 12.43; 3. Chelsey Wakes (MISH) 12.48; 4. Rachel Staud (St. Joe) 12.58; 5. Morgan Carroll (St. Joe) 12.64; 6. Jametria Culbreath (ELK CENT) 12.83; 7. Mariah Swartz (Cass) 12.83; 8. Kayla Shaffer (Culver) 12.89.
1. Bethany Neeley (Eastern) 4:53.23; 2. Ashley Erba (WAR) 4:55.12; 3. Corinne Cominator (NR) 5:04.97; 4. Sierra Moore (ELK MEM) 5:18.53; 5. Jessica Balko (MISH) 5:20.74; 6. Sara Slabaugh (BRE) 5:30.03; 7. Olivia Golden (NOR) 5:33.02; 8. Olivia Martinez (CGA) 5:34.88.
1. South Bend Adams (Georgia Williams, Ashley Locke, Chrishana Stoner, Aaliyah McKinney) 48.82; 2. St. Joe 48.88; 3. Kokomo 49.82; 4. Warsaw (Regina Anderson, Mariah Harter, Brittney Rhodes, Ann Harvuot) 49.82; 5. Elkhart Central 50.26; 6. Northwestern 50.42; 7. Mishawaka 50.95; 8. Concord 51.49.
1. Ayiana Gains (SBR) 58.25; 2. Allie Wright (PLY) 59.59; 3. Ahmanah Woods (SBA) 59.81; 4. Margaret Hartnagel (Marian) 59.85; 5. Ayanna Moody (MISH) 1:00.11; 6. Allison Hoefle (ELK MEM) 1:00.94; 7. Jazzmine Brown (T. VALLEY) 1:01.55; 8. Megan Kratzsch (WAR) 1:02.24.
1. Becca Kropf (FF) 44.50; 2. Jessica O’Connell (CON) 44.99; 3. Mikaila Chamblee (St. Joe) 45.03; 4. Liana Yoder (GOS) 45.91; 5. Jackie Ferguson (WAR) 46.69; 6. Lindsay Nichols (TIP) 47.50; 7. Dezha Moore (SBA) 47.58; 8. Kelcie Bailey (Penn) 48.17.
1. Brittany Neeley (EAST) 2:15.54; 2. Shannon Hendricks (Marian) 2:16.60; 3. Sierra Moore (ELK MEM) 2:18.22; 4. Meagan Fisher (PLY) 2:18.48; 5. Amanda Farrough (SBC) 2:18.94; 6. Breanna Robinson (WAW) 2:19.04; 7. Bethany Neeley (EAST) 2:22.6; 8. Brooke Kline (WAR) 2:24.22.
1. Aaliyah McKinney (SBA) 25.32; 2. Morgan Carroll (St. Joe) 25.85; 3. Allison Garner (SBW) 26.05; 4. Kaitlyn Daanen (Northwestern) 26.36; 5. Angelica Ramon (NorthWood) 26.42; 6. Georgia Williams (SBA) 26.67; 7, Ann Harvuout (WAR) 26.84; 8. Kayla Shaffer (Culver) 28.47.
1. Ashley Erba (WAR) 10:33.61; 2. Corinne Cominator (Northridge) 11:06.79; 3. Anna Meyer (ROCH) 11:09.64; 4. Kristina Galat (Penn) 11:13.06; 5. Anna Rohrer (MISH) 11:19.81; 6. Lauren Pottschmidt (Penn) 11:20.34; 7. Jennifer Schrock (Northridge) 11:37.58; 8. Jenna Halderman (Northfield) 11:46.52.
1. South Bend Adams (Georgia Williams, Ahmanah Woods, Chrishana Stoner, Aaliyah McKinney) 4:02.11; 2. Warsaw (Nicole Eckert, Jackie Ferguson, Megan Kratzsch, Tennie Worrell) 4:03.44; 3. South Bend Riley 4:03.76; 4. St. Joe 4:04.47; 5. Fairfield 4:06.43; 6. Concord 4:08.35; 7. Marian 4:09.78; 8. Northridge 4:11.92.
1. Jenna Pfeiffer (Bremen) 5-5; 2. Abby Darr (MISH) 5-3; 3. Sarah Wagner (Eastern) 5-3; 4. Lily Russo (Northridge) 5-3; 5. Michelle Adeniyi (SBC) 5-3; 6. Kylie Ballard (Northwestern) 5-2; 7. Azariah Stahl (ELK CENT) 5-2; 8. Lindsay Nichols (Tipton) 5-1.
1. Melissa DuBois (CON) 17-2; 2. Lauren Stutzman (Goshen) 16-9.75; 3. Lindsey Grochwalski (Penn) 16-8.50; 4. Amber Miller (Northwestern) 16-6.50; 5. Mariah Swartz (Cass) 16-2.25; 6. Rosalyn Miller (FF) 16-1; 7. Lindsey Budnik (MAN) 15-11; 8. Casidhe Vandall (MISH) 15-6.
1. Leah Heckaman (CGA) 126-10; 2. Mallory Conrad (ELK MEM) 125-11; 3. Lauren Burish (WAR) 125-5; 4. Samantha Jensen (WAR) 122-8; 5. Donna Zehner (Culver) 110-6; 6. Karla Corral (Goshen) 110-5; 7. Summer Blackamore (KOK) 110-5; 8. Katie Champion (LOG) 110-2.
1. Leah Heckaman (CGA) 40-11.75; 2. Maria Tomlinson (MISH) 40-10.75; 3. Summer Blackamore (KOK) 37-9.50; 4. Sierra Smith (FF) 37-3.25; 5. Jordan Edington (WAW) 37-2; 6. Caily Tanner (Western) 37-0; 7. Megan Howdeshell (Triton) 36-11.25; 8. Sarah Heagy (WAR) 35-9.75.
1. Sophie Brown (FF) 11-10; 2. Whitney Grace (Penn) 11-2; 3. Anh Pham (KOK) 11-2; 4. Claire Hickerson (WAR) 11-2; 5. Melissa Berger (NorthWood) 10-0; 6. Casidhe Vandall (MISH) 10-0; 7. Amber Miller (Northwestern) 10-0; 8. Corinna Cottingham (Western) 9-6.