WARSAW – Sam Alexander’s face lights up when she talks about what being a part of the Warsaw girls track program means to her.
The senior standout of the Tigers is passionate about her team and her sport.
“I just love this team,” said Alexander prior to a recent practice. “Being a part of it has built me into the person I am. There is just so much good potential in all of these younger girls that we have this season. To see them excited about track and this team just makes me excited.”
Alexander is one of the slew of stars for coach Scott Erba’s squad. She reached the awards podium twice at the State Finals in 2015, placing eighth individually in the long jump and also eighth as a member of the 4 X 100 relay team.
“I have high expectations for myself this season,” Alexander remarked. “The thing is that I want to push myself to the limit. It was a high to get on the podium at State twice last year. Once you get on the podium, you want to get back there. But I just want to do the best that I can and not think about placing.”
Alexander already holds the school record in the long jump, both indoors and outdoors. She tied her mark with a jump of 18-3 indoors earlier this month at a Hoosier State Relays qualifier event. Her outdoor record is 17-11.25, which she achieved at State last year.
“I expect Sam to be back at State in the long jump,” said Erba. “I think that she can jump 18 outdoors. Her attitude and leadership for this team is strong. I think that she has handled success well and is helping pull along our younger girls with her leadership. I also think that being at State last year was a huge motivating force for her.”
Alexander, who was a gymnast from age six to fifteen, did injure her hamstring at the indoor meet. She spent five days on crutches and was out of practice for about 10 days.
“I’m not worried and I’m not going to let a minor injury slow me down in my last year,” said Alexander.
Erba said on Monday via email that he expects Alexander to be okay to compete on Wednesday in the outdoor season opener and also on Saturday at the Hoosier State Relays State meet at Purdue.
Alexander, despite her prowess as a sprinter too, makes no bones about her top event.
“Long jump is my passion and my specialty,” stated Alexander. “I’m a long jump girl. I don’t feel any pressure in track. You just need to stay humble and learn from past mistakes. I love this sport.”
The Tigers look to continue their tradition of winning championships this spring. Warsaw has won nine straight sectional titles and four regional championships in a row. The team was 20th at the State Finals in 2015.
“We’ve been fortunate to have girls step up for us every year,” said Erba. “We never rely on just one or two people. Depth is the key for us. Our expectations are to win the NLC and the sectional again and our goal is to win the regional too.
“We lost some great seniors from last year, but we’ve already had some eye opening efforts indoors. It’s just filling in the pieces to the puzzle once we get outdoors and compete. We have great leaders, like Sam and Audrey (Rich), and distance people like Allison (Miller) and Mia (Beckham).”
Warsaw boasts an outstanding senior in Audrey Rich. She was part of the 4 X 400 relay team that was seventh, ran a leg on the eighth-place 4 X 100 team and also competed in the 200 at the State Finals in 2015.
The Tigers also welcome back the quartet of seniors Brooke Rhodes and Hannah Dawson and juniors Allison Miller and Anna Craig, who all competed at State a year ago. Sophomore distance star Mia Beckham, who had a sensational cross country season in the fall, will also be a big-time contributor. Also look for others such as Lauren Orr, Charlene Orr, Emma Hayward, Claire Kehler, Raina Armey, Sierra Palmer and Carmen Yoder to potentially impact the varsity outcomes this season.
Lakeland Christian Academy Cougars
Key Returner: Melissa Goss.
Key Newcomers: Carlie Wise, Nathaly Zapata.
Tippecanoe Valley Vikings
Key Returners: Lexi O’Connell (sectional champion last two years in 100 hurdles), Breelyn Conley (400, relays, regional qualifier in 2015), Makayla Ruiz (shot put and discus, regional qualifier in shot put in 2015), Breanna Kruger, Hannah Brower, Melinda Kruger.
Key Newcomers: Haley Hoover, Anna Walters, Gabby Olson, Payton Warner.
Coach Alysha Wachtmann’s comment: “We have a young, but talented team this year.”
Key Returners: Jaela Meister regional qualifier in 300 hurdles in 2015), Katie Hepler (regional qualifier in pole vault in 2015), Baylee McIntire (regional qualifier in 800 in 2015).
Key Returners: Katlyn Kennedy (17th in shot put at State Finals in 2015, third in shot at Warsaw Regional, second in shot at Warsaw Sectional), Sarah Lancaster, Elizabeth Zorn, Alexis Manges, Hannah-Marie Lamle (regional qualifier in 300 hurdles in 2015), Adrienne Gill, Reagan Atwood, Aubrey Kuhn.
Key Losses: Hannah Winters, Shelby Swartz
Key Newcomers: Alexis Brinson, Casey Schroeder.
Coach Scott Lancaster Comments: “We’ve got a large group of freshman to come in and they’re kind of scattered throughout events. Though it seems like they’re gravitating towards shot and discus. That’s a very large group for us and that’s great to see. We’re a little bit light on the sprints so some of our hurdlers will have to pick up the slack in the relays. We’ll have to rely on other people stepping up on relays as well. We’ll also have to rely on some girls, when we go to invites on the weekends, to range from a 1600 down to a 200. We’ve had a lot of young kids come in for field events outside of just the throws and we’ve been soft in those areas in the past. We also have some young hurdlers so we’re really excited about those things.”
Key Returners: Brigit Nemitz, Kaitlyn Reed (9th in high jump at State Finals in 2015, regional qualifier in the 100), Suzanne Sickafoose, Abby Overmeyer.