By GREG MENGELT
After winning 24 sectionals in the first 27 years of IHSAA girls’ track, Jeffersonville has failed to win three of the last four.
Last year, the Red Devils fell a half-point short against first-time champion Southwestern.
On Tuesday, Jeff looks back to get its program back on track with its 26th sectional crown.
“We’ve been talking about that half-point since the season ended last year,” Jeff second-year coach Ericka Herd said. “We’re using that for motivation. If we take a point here or a point there for granted, we’ll win up back where we were at last year.”
Since last year, Jeff has added standout freshman Hailey Lacy, who is the favorite in the 400-meter dash and the long jump, and sophomore Chelsea Lewis has become elite. Lewis won the 100 and 200 at last week’s Hoosier Hills Conference meet.
Holdovers like Taylor Hines — the co-favorite in the 800 with Silver Creek’s Maggie Shields — are hungry to avenge last year’s loss.
Hines, Lacy and Lewis are members of Jeff’s favored 400 and 1,600 relay teams.
“I think it’s going to be a great meet,” Herd said. “I’m excited about it. I feel confident that we can claim the title. I’m confident we will compete well.”
Madison, Silver Creek and the defending champion Rebels figure to push the Red Devils for the championship. Southwestern returns senior hurdler Savannah Hubbard, who was the hero in the Rebels’ championship last year, and Madison figures to score in most events.
“From what I’ve seen of their times and distances, Jeff is the favorite,” Silver Creek coach Darrell Kingery said. “Southwestern won it last year and many of their girls this year are seniors. They’ll be in the hunt. It could come down to two or three teams by five or so points.”
Silver Creek has several contenders, including Maggie Shields, who is the top seed in the 800, and Brittany Sharp and Mackenzie Crouch, who are the second and third seeds in the 3,200.
The Dragons’ 3,200 relay team is also seeded second to Madison in the night’s opening event.
“We’re hoping to be top-three,” Kingery said. “When you get to this point in the season, you put the girls in events [in which] you think they can move on. If we compete like we did at conference, we can be top-three, I think.”
Perhaps the most impressive field on Tuesday is in the discus throw. Five girls have thrown over 100 feet and five more over 90 feet. Only four are likely to advance to Bloomington.
Creek’s Emily Christman, Jeff’s Nycia Ford, Henryville’s Natalie Uhl and Charlestown’s Megan Brooks — the shot put favorite — are among those who will fight for the four regional spots. Crouch and Hornets’ Hannah White are outside contenders.
“There are going to be a couple of good throwers who won’t go to regional,” Kingery said.
Henryville’s Sadie Spears, who is coming off four Southern Athletic Conference titles, is a huge favorite in the 1,600 and the 3,200.
For New Washington, seniors Alecia Harrod and Kriston Sarver wil compete for titles in the 100 and 200 with Lewis and Scottsburg favorite Mo McNeely in the sprints. Sarver will likely battle Emily Holland of Madison and Switzerland County’s Olivia Hewitt for the title.
Along with Brooks in the throwing events, Charlestown’s Lauren Crowe and Whitney Andrews could advance to the regional. Crowe’s seeded fourth in the 300 hurdles and fifth in the 100 hurdles and the high jump. Andrews is the fifth seed in the 1,600 and the seventh seed in the 800.
CORYDON CENTRAL SECTIONAL
After beating a tough Hoosier Hills Conference field for its second straight conference title, Floyd Central should have little trouble winning the Corydon Sectional for the fourth straight season.
Knowing that, the Highlanders enter Tuesday’s sectional with a side goal in mind: Advance as many as they can to next Tuesday’s Bloomington North Regional.
“We want to get the best seedings possible in the regional,” Floyd coach Kyle Weigleb said. “That’s going to give us the best opportunity to qualify kids for state. Winning [on Tuesday] should make things take care of themselves.”
Floyd could get at least one athlete to the regional in every event. Perhaps the toughest will be in the hurdle events, where Madison Kaiser and Kim Foster will have to compete against a tough field, which includes last year’s state finalist Maryashly Betz of Providence.
“It will be a tough final heat with two solid Corydon girls, a girl from Crawford and [Betz],” Weigleb said. “It will be a nice finals there.”
With strong sprinters and distance runners, New Albany figures to be a solid second on Tuesday. Providence and the host Panthers could battle for third.