PLYMOUTH — Of all the events in Indiana high school track and field, the 300-meter hurdles is arguably the most grueling.
Combining the worst aspects of the 400-meter dash with a hurdles race lends itself to a particular unpleasant experience, and you can read it on the faces of the athletes as they clear the last few hurdles. But not Abigail Powell’s Tuesday.
The Triton senior was actually smiling down the homestretch of the 300 hurdles at the Plymouth Girls Track and Field Sectional. Which is because, with her championship finish in the event, Powell had just completed a sweep of both hurdles races at the sectional.
It’s been a goal of Powell’s to take home a hurdles championship since her freshman season, and she got not one but two Tuesday night. As she crossed the finish line in the 300-meter race, she was beaming.
“It’s definitely been, I feel like, a long time coming,” she said. “I feel like I’ve worked hard this year, probably harder than I’ve ever worked because I wanted to go out with a bang. So here we are — swept the conference in both, won the sectional in both. On cloud nine. Really thankful.”
Powell was the only Ink Free News-area athlete to take home a championship at the Plymouth Sectional. She held her seed in the 100-meter hurdles with a 16.47 stop there ahead of Manchester’s Katie Barker and her 16.84-second stop. A short while later, Powell clocked a personal-best 48.75 in the 300-meter event to beat out top-seeded Kacee Peters of Plymouth by nearly a full second, backing up a dual championship finish at the Hoosier North Athletic Conference Championships a week ago.
“At conference when I ran the 300s, I felt strong, and I feel like that was kind of a breaking point for me. Now I know I’m strong in the 300, so I just give it my all,” said Powell.
“We knew that she could do that, that she had the potential to do that, but to see her actually win both of them, I was proud of her. I knew the 100s, she was seeded first, but we’ve been working really hard on the 300s,” explained Triton girls track coach Jeremy May.
“We’ve been doing a lot more distance — lot of 400s. In the last three weeks she said she’s probably run more 400s than in her whole high school career. She’s got another week of them. We’re going to just keep at it because her best chance of making it to state is in the 300s.”
Culver Girls Academy reprised a runner-up finish at last year’s sectional with 162 points ahead of runner-up Plymouth’s 132 score to top Tuesday’s team standings. Manchester placed third with 87 points, while Triton finished sixth with a score of 41, and Tippecanoe Valley placed seventh with a score of 27.
While Powell swept the two hurdles races, the Lady Trojans earned one other berth at next Tuesday’s Warsaw Regional. Freshman Makenna May cleared 8 feet in the pole vault for third place there, making coach and father Jeremy May proud.
“I’m excited because I’m her dad so I was like ‘Hey, this is awesome.’ To be a freshman and do that, and she’s just gotten progressively better, I’m proud of her,” said the Lady Trojans skipper. “Now if she can take it to the next step next year. She got third this year. Maybe one day her goal will be to win this sectional.”
Makenna also earned a sixth-place result in the 800 meters with a 2:44.58 stop there. Jaela Faulkner finished fifth in the pole vault with a 7’6” clearance and was eighth in the 400 meters with a 1:06.95, while Anela Hill was ninth in the high jump with a 4’6” jump. Triton’s undersized squad now says goodbye to just one senior in Jeremy’s other daughter, Alysha, after closing the season on a high note at sectional.
“Alysha, bittersweet, she had two scratches in the long jump and her last jump wasn’t very good. Her first jump was really good and she definitely would’ve placed, but she was over a half-inch. Proud of her. Been at every practice, never complained even though dad is the coach,” said Jeremy.
“Proud of the team for basically having 11 girls. We were competitive in a lot of meets. I don’t know where we’ll be tonight. I think we’ll get like seventh or something, so pretty good to beat some bigger schools being a 1A school. I’m looking forward to next year. Hopefully we can get the numbers up a little bit.”
Valley had to wait until the very last race of the night for a regional berth.
First-year senior Sophie Bussard overtook a Manchester runner on the backstretch of the anchor leg of the 4×400 relay, and she, Valerie Jimenez, Delaney Wagoner and Sydney Wagner clocked 4:27.15 for second place behind CGA’s relay and an appointment at Warsaw next Tuesday.
“Sophie actually came to us preseason and wanted to know if she could condition with us. She’d been to everything, and I’m like ‘Just come out and run some relays,’” recalled Valley coach Jenny Moriarty. “We ended up throwing her in more stuff, but, yeah I would’ve loved to have had her the past three years to see where she’d be. A great anchor.”
Valley came close to a regional appointment in the high jump, where Olivia Smith cleared 4’8” for a fourth-place finish. That mark actually represented the standard to get out Tuesday, but the Vikings senior lost out on attempts to CGA’s Am Shafeek-Horton to finish on the wrong side of the bubble.
“That kind of stunk. She was a senior so that was kind of hard. We had a lot of tears tonight,” said Moriarty.
Bussard also finished fifth in the open 400 with a 1:05.02 stop and was seventh in the 100-meter dash in 14.03 seconds. Wagner placed seventh in the 200 meters in 29.7 seconds, while Gabby Olson was sixth in the 100 hurdles in 18.68 seconds and eighth in the 300 hurdles with a 55.78 stop.
While Wagner, Wagoner, Bussard and Jimenez advance, the Lady Vikings will lose a grand total of eight of their 18 athletes to graduation this spring, leaving Moriarty with some serious recruiting to be done.
“With the number of girls, I was really happy even tonight, the scoring and everything. They’re all hard workers. I can’t complain about the girls,” said the Valley boss.
“They all come to practice. There’s no complaining. They just give 110 percent. Going to miss the seniors. I’ve just gotten close with a lot of them. It’s kind of hard to watch a lot of them go. I’m glad we get another week with a few of them.”
In addition to Barker’s runner-up turn in the 100 hurdles, Manchester earned seven other regional berths in Plymouth.
Gabby Brewer won the long jump championship with a leap of 15’08”. Olivia Auler placed second in the 100 meters in 13.22, Kailea Kerr took third in the 400 with a 1:03.99 stop, and Sarah Pegg placed third in the discus with a 96-foot toss. The Lady Squires collected top three finishes in each of the three relays, too, placing second in both the 4×100 and 4×800 with respective times of 53.48 and 10:51.01 and third in the 4×400 in 4:28.47.
Whitko had one regional qualifier in Carissa Beck, who recorded a 35’04.25” throw in the shot put to advance to regional in third place there.