TERRE HAUTE —
In the NFL and other pro sports, there’s a saying for when a back-up replaces an injured starter and is expected by coaches to perform with little to no drop-off for the team.
It’s called “next man up.”
At Terre Haute North High School, coach Mike Dason’s No. 5-ranked girls track and field team was dealt a devastating blow recently when junior Jessi Conley, a member of the Patriots’ 3,200-meter relay squad which placed ninth in the 2012 state finals, suffered a leg injury that knocked her out for the rest of this season.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed,” Dason told the Tribune-Star. “Right now, we’re losing 10 seconds [in the 3,200 relay]. Ten seconds is a lot at the state level. That means they’re all going to have to step up.”
Maybe Dason should say “next girl up.”
In this case, that would be freshman Sarah Coletti, who joined seniors TaPring Goatee and Sydney Dickerson and freshman Lindsay Welker on one of the best 3,200 relay teams in the state. Senior Annie Mullican also runs with this group whenever one of the others can’t compete.
“That is very tragic [what happened to Conley], really,” Dickerson pointed out. “It was really unexpected. But it helps that we had Sarah to fill in for her.”
“We’re very excited to have Sarah fill in,” Dason echoed. “She’s a hard worker. We really didn’t know what to expect from her … she’s finally coming into her own. She had the pressure put on her in the meet against Carmel the other day.”
That meet was last Tuesday when the Patriots battled No. 1-ranked Carmel and Warren Central at Carmel. Although Carmel outpointed North and Warren Central 58-43-33 in a meet that scratched some events because of inclement weather, the Patriots’ 4-x-800 relay squad (with Coletti running the second leg) did defeat runner-up Carmel by more than nine seconds (9:33.28 to 9:42.90).
“I was very nervous,” Coletti admitted a few days ago. “But I think we did great. I think I’m fitting in with them — very much so.”
Coletti, who also plays basketball for North, has lived in Terre Haute for only three years. But she’s seen enough of the Patriots’ track team in the last few months (indoors and outdoors) to form an opinion.
“I think we’re very good,” she assessed. “We have a lot of potential in a lot of events. And at practice, we work really hard.”
Dason believes these 4-x-800 relay girls can soon break the school record of 9:30.26 (set in last year’s state meet by the foursome of Conley, the since-graduated Emily Cotterman, Dickerson and Goatee). He had hoped the mark might fall last Thursday against Terre Haute South, but that meet was postponed by rain.
The Vincennes University-bound Goatee and the super-freshman Welker own North’s fastest individual times in the 800 this season (2:16), but Dason emphasized that all of the girls are valuable in making this relay team click.
“Everyone obviously knows TaPring’s name and what she’s capable of doing,” he said of the former state champion in girls cross country. “The advantage we have as a team is that we have two of the top 800 runners in the state on this [relay] team [in Goatee and Welker].”
Welker and Coletti, both only 15, competed as eighth-graders at St. Patrick’s last season. So they’re handling the pressures of their first high school track season with admirable poise.
“We’ve been looking forward to having Lindsay on our team for the past two years,” Dason acknowledged. “We know that track is her absolute favorite sport to do. She has the capability of doing many running events, just like TaPring.”
Welker said she has competed in the 200, 400, 800 and 4-x-400 relay, in addition to the 4-x-800, this season.
“I think it’s a great group of girls [on the 4-x-800 relay],” Welker noted. “It’s nice that we have different ages and we still come together. Each day, we just push each other to get better. It just makes each one of us stronger.”
Dickerson also earned words of praise from Dason.
“She started to become outstanding in the 800 last year,” he explained. “She’s been one heckuva 400 and 800 athlete. She adds consistency to this team. She is my constant that we can always count on what she’ll be running. She’s been running on this relay team since she’s been at North.”
Dickerson, 17, doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight with the 19-year-old Goatee and their much younger teammates.
“Our [4-x-800 relay] team is definitely improved from last year, especially with the freshmen we’ve added,” mentioned Dickerson, who said she’ll probably attend the University of Southern Indiana in the fall (but not sure if she’ll participate in track). “And I’ve improved my times over the last several years and I know that TaPring has improved also.”
As for the future, Dickerson thinks the sky’s the limit over the next few weeks.
“We’ll do the best we can,” she stressed. “And if that ends up being in the top three [in the state], then that’s what will happen.
“I’m really glad to be a part of this relay team, probably because it’s the best one I’ve ever been on.”
Dason is glad to have Dickerson and the others on this team as well.
“It’s one of the best [4-x-800 relay] teams in the state,” he insisted. “That’s a quote from the Carmel coach [Tim Mylin]. They’re looking to be on the podium [top nine] and finish higher than what we finished last year.”
“I think we’re going to do really well,” added Goatee, who also competes in the 800, 4-x-400 relay and pole vault. “We’re already a few seconds off the school record. Unfortunately, we don’t have Jessi Conley anymore. But our replacement for her [Coletti] is doing well. We just want to go as fast as we can go.”
The Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference championships are Friday at Ben Davis. But first, the Patriots have a meet today with West Vigo and Greencastle at West Vigo.