There were some outstanding performances on the track and in the field this spring, but three girls ran away from the rest of the field.
Meanwhile New Albany senior Mariah Grant, Rock Creek senior Naimah Slaughter and Jeffersonville junior Aa'leiah Winford are the trio of finalists for the Girls' Track & Field Athlete of the Year.
The winners will be announced at the News and Tribune Sports Performance Yearly (NTSPY) Awards ceremony June 18 at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville.
MARIAH GRANT, NEW ALBANY
The senior saved her best for her last season.
At the Floyd Central Sectional she won four events to lead the Bulldogs to a runner-up finish. Grant captured the 100-meter dash (12.90 seconds), the 200 (26.31) and the long jump (18 feet, 3 1/2 inches) and was also a member of New Albany’s victorious 400 relay team (50.45).
The next week at the Evansville Central Regional, Grant won the long jump (18-0), was second in the 100, third in the 200 and was a member of the Bulldogs’ third-place 400 relay team to lead them to their first regional title in 38 years.
“Winning regionals was amazing because we weren’t really walking in expecting to win, but we executed well and did what we needed to do to get the title,” she said.
Then at the IHSAA State Finals, Grant finished 13th in the long jump, 23rd in the 200, 24th in the 100 and 24th in the 400 relay.
“The state meet was not my best meet,” she said. “I obviously scratched two of my jumps, but I cracked 19s in my jumps and I matched my PRs in state, so it wasn’t that bad of a meet. But it could have been better.”
However, it was hard to find fault with her season as a whole.
“This season I broke a lot of records,” Grant said. “In the long jump I did really well this year, which was surprising because last year I didn’t do as well. The sprints, as well, I broke my PR for the 200 and the 100. The 4 by 1 [relay] worked really well. It was a good season, a lot of PRs and a good way to go out.”
NAIMAH SLAUGHTER, ROCK CREEK
The senior had a sensational season that ended with a bang.
“It was pretty great,” Slaughter said. “I started it off kind of bumpy, but then went to state and broke my long jump record three times in a row and then tied my high jump record, which was 5-6. So it was pretty good.”
At the Jeffersonville Sectional, she won the long jump (17-feet, 5 1/2-inches) while also finishing third in the high jump and the 200.
Then at the Bloomington North Regional, Slaughter took third in the long jump, third in the high jump and 11th in the 200.
She, however, saved her best performances for the IHSAA State Finals.
After fouling on her first two jumps, Slaughter went 18-0 1/2 and 18-5 1/2 on consecutive leaps. Then, after going 17-2 1/2 on her fifth jump, she leaped 18-7 3/4 on her final attempt to finish third. She also took sixth in the high jump, clearing 5-6, to earn a pair of trips to the podium.
“It was really exciting and it’s the best I’ve done so far. I placed twice, got myself on the podium, that was my goal,” she said. “I had some people from school come support me, so they were really excited as well.”
Slaughter plans on continuing her track & field career at the next level.
“I plan on to continue running track in college, either at Bellarmine or IUPUI, and I plan on majoring in physical therapy,” she said.
AA'LEIAH WINFORD, JEFFERSONVILLE
The junior sprinter is a NTSPY finalist for the third straight year.
The reigning Girls’ Track & Field Athlete of the Year followed up her standout sophomore season with another solid campaign.
At the Jeffersonville Sectional, she won the 100 (12.24), 200 (25.54) and anchored the Red Devils’ victorious 400 relay (49.82).
Then, the next week she three-peated as champion in the 100 (12.36) and 200 (25.43) at the Bloomington North Regional while also helping the 400 relay team to a runner-up finish.
“My season went OK. I didn’t really do good in the beginning, but then I started to get back to myself. It was just about eating right, sleeping right, just doing everything right. Towards the middle my times started dropping,” Winford said.
At the IHSAA State Finals, she was 10th — one-hundredth of a second out of ninth and a spot in the finals heat — in the 200 and 18th in the 100 while also helping the 400 relay team to a 17th-place.
“I was pretty close to my PR in the 200, 24.83, so I wasn’t too disappointed about that,” Winford said. “I just gotta keep going.”
And she will keep going at Jeff for one more year, when Winford's goal for her senior season is simple.
“State champion,” she said with a smile.