KOKOMO – Sitting by herself as her teammates mobbed each other Tuesday night, one could gather Audrey Rich just needed a moment. Rich had several shining moments at the Kokomo Girls Track Regional, and deserved a few seconds to collect her thoughts.
Rich was the 100 and 200 dash champion and anchored Warsaw to a title in the 4×400 relay, which turned out to be very important as the Tigers took the final 10 points of the meet to land at 92 points. Rich sat with a smile on her face as she found out that her exploits helped her team stand three points clear of Penn for Warsaw’s fifth straight regional championship.
“I have a lot of performance anxiety before I run, I was super nervous tonight,” Rich admitted. “But knowing the girls on my team are supporting me, praying before every race and having that all behind us. It’s not the individual that makes the meet, it’s the team.
“I don’t know. I like to finish things and give the absolute best effort. If I come across the finish line and still have a little left, then I know I didn’t do it right.”
Rich narrowly claimed the title in the 100 dash at 12.59, barely leaning over the line faster than South Bend Clay’s Ariel Green at 12.62. Rich’s teammate, Sam Alexander, was third at 12.69 as part of Alexander’s equally huge evening. The top three performers in each event earned automatic bids to the IHSAA State Finals next weekend.
Rich won the 200 at 25.60 and joined Alexander, Abbi Curtis and Maygan Bellamy for a 49.02 runner-up in the 4×100 relay, South Bend Adams the champion there.
Rich’s final leg of the 4×400 relay was the magical touch Warsaw seemed to have all evening. Trailing Adams’ speedster Tajaa Fair around the front edge, Rich managed to close the gap and catch Fair on the third turn. Heading into the final 100 meters, Rich was cruising home for the valuable 10 points as relay mates Alexander, Bellamy and Remi Beckham cheered in amazement. Penn’s third-place finish in the relay settled Warsaw’s jubilation.
Alexander was second in the long jump at 17-11, making the state standard in her first set of jumps, reliving a lot of pressure.
Mia Beckham qualified for state in both the mile and two-mile. Beckham navigated a busy front of the pack in the mile, riding the coattails of champion Rae Ann Bedke of Manchester for much of the final push. Bedke won at 5:06.41 to Beckham’s 5:09.11. In the two-mile, Bedke again got out front and couldn’t be caught at 11:07.93 to Beckham’s runner-up 11:11.05.
The Warsaw 4×800 also earned an automatic qualifier for state after Hannah Dawson, Brooke Rhodes, Dayton Groninger and Allison Miller posted a collective 9:33.43, taking second to Penn.
“Our returning girls have been here before and showed it tonight,” said Warsaw head coach Scott Erba. “You start things off with Samantha (Alexander) getting the long jump standard right off the bat and the four-by-eight team runs a season-best time. That’s a really good start to the meet and it just keeps going from there.”
Erba noted late Tuesday night that Rich will scratch from the 200 and Alexander the 100 at the state meet to narrow focus on the 100 and long jumps, respectively.
Whitko’s Kaitlyn Reed returns to the state finals in the high jump after earning the state standard with her leap of 5-4. Coming in with the top height of 5-6, Reed couldn’t quite match her school record from a week ago, but returns just the same.
Whitko’s Suzi Sickafoose was oh, so close to earning an automatic qualifier in the 400, placing fourth at 1:00.26. NorthWood’s Erica Stutsman was the 400 champion at 58.96.
Stutsman’s teammate, Riley Hershberger, punched her ticket to Bloomington in both hurdles events, placing second in the 100 (14.96) and 300 (46.10), her 100 time making state standard. Tippecanoe Valley’s Lexi O’Connell was fifth in the 100 hurdles at 15.61 and Triton’s Abigail Powell was ninth in the 300 hurdles at 48.91.
Wawasee had a handful of events score points at the meet.
Katlyn Kennedy concluded her fine throwing career in the shot put, taking sixth at 36-4.25 after escaping the sectional on a call-back following a Northern Lakes Conference championship in the event. Alexis Manges was seventh in the discus with her best toss of 107-1.
Hannah-Marie Lamle competed in both hurdles events, but placed highest in long jump, making the finals. Lamle’s best effort sent her 16-10.75, which bested her seed by nine full inches.
Wawasee’s 4×800 relay team of Elizabeth Zorn, Sarah Lancaster, Aubrey Kuhn and McKenzie Smith posted a season PR of 10:08.89, taking seventh in its best showing of the year.
“We’ve got a bright future,” said Wawasee head coach Scott Lancaster. “This is a tough field. Our sectional is tough enough, but then you have to run against it basically two weeks in a row, and three if you count conference. But that gives us an advantage in the fact that every week we have to step up our game. Our girls come in knowing where they need to perform at.”
Fairfield’s Jessica Miller will go to state in both the 100 hurdles (third, 15.06), and with the Falcon 4×100 relay team (third, 49.20), as will teammate Andrea Hager in discus (first, 117-10). Plymouth’s Nicole Horvath was a double qualifier in the shot put (first, 40-10.25) and discus (second, 117-6). Goshen’s 4×800 relay and Concord’s Janiyah Barnes in the 200 and Jasmine Hudson in the 400 were state qualifiers.
The IHSAA Girls Track State Finals are Friday, June 3, at the Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex at Indiana University in Bloomington.