By GREG MENGELT
FLOYDS KNOBS —
On May 14, Floyd Central’s girls’ track team will try to do something its never done before — win its fourth straight sectional title.
It certainly won’t be easy.
The Highlanders will have to hold off New Albany and Providence, which finished second and third respectively in last year’s sectional, to win another title.
“I think it’s going to be a really competitive field,” Floyd Central girls’ coach Kyle Weigleb said. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be the favorites, though. In my opinion, we have the hardest working program around Southern Indiana. We’ve got great seniors and we’re starting to turn into a [great] program.”
The Highlanders will excel in the hurdles with Madison Kaiser and Kim Foster, in the distance events with Alyssa Moore and freshman Lydia Kotowski, who was the area’s top cross country runner, and with throwers Leah Wolfe and Alex Jewell.
Wolfe finished third in the Bloomington Regional to qualify for state a year ago, while Kaiser finished eighth in the regional as a freshman.
Led by a strong sprinting crew of Jayla Bethel, Aaliyah Bell and Courtney Palmer, high jumper Claire Hirsch and distance gurus Phoebe Bauer, Rose Kaforski and Bailey Knable, New Albany should give Floyd a test in the Hoosier Hills Conference and the sectional.
“They have great athletes,” Weigleb said of the Bulldogs.
Bauer and Temple Ricke missed Tuesday’s 69-63 loss to the Highlanders, but when they return, the Bulldogs should be strong again in 2013. Both struggled through cross country season with injuries.
“We have some key injuries,” New Albany coach Casey Schneider said. “If we can get Phoebe Bauer back to full force and Temple Rick back competing, then we should improve as the season progresses.”
Providence returns many sectional contenders, including defending sectional champion and state finalist Maryashley Betz. Sprinters Leah Mattingly, Haley Corby and Charmaine Solis, distance runners Kori Siebert, Erin and Allie Lowery and thrower Makenzie Ackermann should give the Pioneers a shot at winning their first sectional crown since 2002.
“I think Providence might be the favorite,” Weigleb said. “They have a lot coming back and their relays are awesome. I look for them to be contenders.”
Despite losing sprinter LaVada Roberson, Jeffersonville returns most of its talent from a team that lost the Jeff Sectional by a half-point to Southwestern last season.
Chelsea Lewis and Michaela Nesbeth should continue the Red Devils’ sprinting excellence. Taylor Hines finished sixth in the 800 at last year’s Bloomington Regional also returns.
Jeff should excel in the field events, led by thrower Nycia Ford, pole vaulter Maddy Whiteman and high jumper Alex Morgan.
“I expect a huge showing from the underclassmen,” Devils’ coach Ericka Herd said. “I am anticipating a successful conference and sectional showing of talent. As a coach, my goal is always to win. ... I coach them to compete to win.”
Led by state finalist middle distance runner Maggie Shields and thrower Emily Christman, Silver Creek expects to compete for the Mid-Southern Conference title and improve on last year’s fourth-place sectional finish.
The Dragons will miss standout sprinter Rachael Clemons, but Shields finished 11th in last month’s state indoor meet and is joined by two-time sectional champion 3,200 runner Brittany Sharp.
Jessica Backherms and Mackenzie Crouch help give Creek one of the top distance programs in the area and Elizabeth Mann should be a top-flight hurdler in 2013.
“We feel we can score more points in the conference and sectional but that may not be enough to win due to our lack of depth,” Dragons coach Darrell Kingery said. “However, with no seniors, not only does this year look promising but the future also looks good.”
Borden will be led by Leslie Beatty in the 400, Carson Casey in the throwing events and Shelby Kirchgessner, who excels in the 800 and the pole vault.
Beatty and Casey were Southern Athletic Conference champions a year ago. Casey placed fifth in the Floyd Sectional in the discus and Beatty was 12th in the 400.
“We would like to be more competitive in conference and have a few girls advance to regional — and possibly state,” Borden coach Liz Carmony said.
Kristen Sarver and Alicia Herrod should help New Washington stay near the top of the SAC, and after a strong cross country season, Henryville’s Sadie Spears should be among the top distance runners in the area.
Rock Creek sophomore Kylie Tincher led a three-athlete Lions team. Tincher should be competitive in sprints this season.
“ Kylie Tincher has put up some good numbers as a freshman and improved tremendously,” Rock Creek coach Kenton Aubrey said. “Now, as a sophomore, she looks to be prepared to make an even bigger improvement and compete for sectionals. She will only get better with experience.”
Tincher is joined by throwers Taylor Rivers and Ahyenday Thornton. Both are sophomores.
Attempts were made to reach all 13 area girls’ track coaches for our season preview. Not all responded.