TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State’s track schedule has helped its men’s and women’s teams escape the glacial Wabash Valley weather and enjoy warm days in Auburn, Ala., and Knoxville, Tenn.
With the Sycamores’ track facility basically laid to rest for competition and construction on a new one planned near the Wabash River to begin in 2014, major kudos go to everyone involved for continuing to produce athletes that are NCAA contenders who race with some of the world’s best.
Some of ISU’s current athletes are hoping for season-best performances this weekend against strong competition in the Drake Relays.
Former Sycamore NCAA pole-vault champion Kylie Hutson, who competes professionally for Nike and trains in her hometown of Terre Haute, also has been in Des Moines, Iowa, to compete in the Pole Vault in the Mall on Wednesday night.
Felisha Johnson is looking to cap her senior year in a big way, ranking No. 2 in the NCAA in the women’s shot put (59 feet, 4 3/4 inches) on the heels of her 2013 indoor title in the weight throw.
Brandon Pounds is the highest-ranking ISU male at 12th in the nation in hammer throw (213-5).
Hurdler Greggmar Swift has been unable to shave time in the 110-meter hurdles since running a 13.91 at Auburn on April 6. The Barbados native ranks 24th in the NCAA, while junior teammate Maurice Lyke is up to 40th in the nation with his time of 14.03.
“We’ve had a lot of days interrupted as this one has been,” ISU men’s coach John McNichols said while watching a downpour from his office window. “Leading into the Auburn meet, we really only had one day where we were able to practice outdoors. And it was 75 degrees and felt like we were in a heat wave. It’s just been one of those springs.”
Several Wabash Valley athletes are close to earning berths in the NCAA East Regional competition, which requires cracking the top 48 times in this half of the United States.
Terre Haute South graduate Taylor Head has continued his excellent first year of collegiate competition by moving into 48th in the 3,000 steeplechase with a time of 9:11.17 at the Jesse Owens Classic last weekend at Ohio State. Senior Dustin Betz of ISU is 32nd in the nation.
Terre Haute North grad John Mascari ranks 47th in the East in the 10,000 with his lone run of 30:00.2, so he’s on the bubble and will need to drop under 30 minutes to make the postseason.
Another North graduate, Indiana University senior Zach Mayhew, ranks No. 2 in the East and No. 6 in the nation in the 5,000 with a time of 13:41.95.
Two more former Patriots on the bubble looking to improve are Connor Curley is 57th in the East in the pole vault with a jump of 16-0 3/4, and Shaun Smith at 56th in the 100 with a time of 10.52.
After Wednesday’s opening day in the 104th Drake Relays, ISU senior Robert Webb is sitting in fifth place overall (third collegian) in the men’s decathlon and junior Rachael Johnson is 12th and junior Kelly Steffen 16th in the heptathlon.
High school track season also is heating up — and Wabash Valley athletes are appearing ready to make it a memorable season.
The Terre Haute North girls are contenders for Friday’s Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference meet, which will be the last for Terre Haute teams and athletes, at Ben Davis.
Carmel may be the favorite, but the Patriots, North Central and Center Grove are all in the running.
The Patriots and Terre Haute South have multiple athletes among the tops in the state.
North’s Keirra Porter and TaPring Goatee have run the second-fastest times in the state in their respective events so far this spring — Porter a 14.92 in the 100 hurdles and Goatee a 2:19.73 in the 800, according to the indianarunner.com website.
Freshman Lindsay Welker has the top time for a freshman in the 400 with her time of 59.46, which also puts her eighth among everyone in the state so far. She is ninth in the 800, but she has run a split in the Patriots’ 3,200 relay that would easily make her a state contender in the event. Coach Mike Dason’s relays also will be key in winning a MIC title. The 3,200 squad is third in the state, while senior Chanli Mundy ranks 13th in the 3,200.
North’s Rachel Gutish is the favorite to win the MIC pole vault as she ranks fourth in the state with a leap of 11-6.
“Carmel is the team to beat. We have a lot of talent. We’re going in there to see what we can do and have everyone in the right events,” Dason said.
Tasia Brewer of South joins Porter in the top 10 in the 100 hurdles, while the Braves’ boys have multiple runners on the state performance list.
Some of those performers made coach Kyle Walsh believe he had a team capable of winning the MIC this weekend as well. But injuries to Tyler Seibert (lower leg) and Jackson Bertoli (cyst on his leg) in addition to the absence of distance man Logan Hambrock this weekend for an academic competition have hurt those chances. Seibert, ranking ninth in the state in the 400 with a 50.34, and Hambrock will compete for Indiana State next year.
Junior Riley Stohler should contend for a MIC title in the 800 for the Braves as he ranks seventh with a time of 1:58.64.
Lee Davis of North ranks third in the discus with a heave of 161-10, while Nic Keller of South is fifth at 159-7.
The weather appears cooperative for some excellent performances this weekend. Best wishes to all these tireless student-athletes.
Follow Craig Pearson on Twitter @TribStarCraig or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.