CHARLOTTESVILLE — They couldn’t be anymore different, and yet, the same.
As sectional and regional champions, Eastern Hancock senior Shelby Mourey and junior Kaycee Ruble are both cut from a similar cloth. They each embrace challenges head on and find comfort in hard work.
Nothing is unobtainable during a track and field meet once they put their minds to it, but when they take their respective positions against the competition, their approaches veer in opposite directions.
“I get really jittery,” admitted Mourey, the girls’ track team’s record-setter in the high jump.
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“I do jumping jacks all the time. Everybody looks at me like I’m weird, but jumping jacks get me going. I don’t sit down ever. I move, move, move.”
While her teammate zeros in by spinning like a top, Ruble personifies yo-yo calm in and around the throwing circle.
In three years, she has leisurely rewritten the school’s shot put record seven times, including thrice this spring.
“I can’t afford to get too nervous like that because I usually sit a long time before I do anything,” Ruble said.
“I have a lot of time between throws when I have to sit and be quiet. You have to find something to do. I’ve found the best thing to do is not to even think about it.”
On Saturday during the IHSAA Girls Track and Field State Finals in Bloomington, they will put their methods to the test.
For Mourey, it marks her second-straight trip to the Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex at Indiana University. A three-time sectional champion since making the leap from long jumping as a freshman, Mourey’s second go-around has been a stark contrast to the first.
“The first time, I got a call back, so I didn’t expect to go. Back then, I didn’t feel like I belonged because I didn’t feel like I earned it,” Mourey recalled. “This time is definitely different. I’m going in knowing I deserve to be here.”
The numbers back up her claim.
Capturing her first-career regional title at Ben Davis last week in one of the state’s most-competitive fields, she cleared the bar with an impressive 5-foot, 5-inch flight. Her championship sectional jump measured 5-2.
Her personal-best height peaked at 5-8 during the Hancock County Meet, which secured her a runner-up finish to fellow state-qualifier Regan Lewis (5-9) of Greenfield-Central.
More remarkable, however, has been her heightened resolve. Battling severe shin splints as a multi-sports athlete, Mourey wrapped up basketball season and immediately faced limitations in the pit.
“She hasn’t practiced the high jump in right around two months,” Eastern Hancock head coach Jerry Cain said. “She just competes at the meets. That’s all she does.”
Mourey has been one of the team’s strongest sprinters since she hit the ground running four years ago after swapping track for softball. As a jumper, she sharpened her competitive edge early by working with former standout Kiersten Schrope, who is now at Marian University.
Two summers ago, she attended camps to hone her skill, turning potential into results.
“Everyone had told me I had natural talent, but I’ve never really done anything with it,” Mourey said.
“I went to lessons my junior year and they told me I would be close to jumping six foot by college. I thought they were insane, but I ended up getting 5-6 last year and 5-8 this year.
“This year, first practice, I had already beaten my PR in the 200 (meter dash) in my first practice. I was definitely ready to go out there and run, but I guess things happen for a reason.”
Start by chance
Ruble’s introduction to the shot put and discus occurred by happenstance.
As a seventh-grader, she was introduced to the sport by a classmate. Tossing on a whim to pass the time, she was quickly spotted by the coaches and by her mentor, throwing coach Brett Burkhart.
Her natural ability proved undeniable.
“I didn’t even know what shot and discus were until I walked out here that day,” Ruble said. “I just picked it up.”
Asked to compete for the Royals’ track team the same day, she was given a uniform, went out and won both events in her first try.
In her first high school season, she took third at sectional with a 34-05.
As a sophomore, she placed third again with a 35-02.
Seeded first at regional after winning her first sectional title behind a 36-foot, 6-inch throw at Pendleton Heights, Ruble defended her status as the region’s best.
She fended off the Perry Meridians, Lawrence Centrals and Ben Davises with a 38-10 to give Eastern Hancock its first individual regional championship duo in program history.
“When I went into the Ben Davis Regional seeded first, that was unexpected. I didn’t see that coming at all. I didn’t throw well at sectional at all,” Ruble said. “I think more than anything, I thought, ‘Wow, I’m the chick everyone is out to get.’ That was intimidating, but it was fun.”
Motivated to win and taught to channel her energy by coach Burkhart, Ruble is ahead of schedule, helping the team (along with Mourey) win the Mid-Hoosier Conference three years straight.
This year, the team finished with a 33-4 record and in the past four years have amassed a 147-20 mark.
Regardless of accolades and success, Ruble isn’t taking anything for granted.
“I didn’t expect to win sectional or regional. It’s something where I thought, maybe senior year? I’ve gone to regional every year, but I’ve never had the opportunity to win it,” Ruble said. “I call this entire process, Christmas. Anything is possible. … I’m going to go into state with the mindset that I’m there to throw and have a good time.”
Mourey wants to be on the podium in her final appearance before continuing her career at McKendree University in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.
Of course, the only way to achieve her goal is to get off on the right foot — literally.
Set to graduate on Saturday morning at 11 a.m., the departing senior will race down to Bloomington with her family after a brief handshake and a commemorative photo in cap and gown.
The high-jump competition is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.
“I graduate first. Right after that I’m going to run from there,” Mourey laughed. “I’m definitely going to wear my track uniform under my gown.”
More on the way
The Royals duo won’t be alone at the state meet. Greenfield-Central’s Regan Lewis will compete in the high jump. She carries a seed mark of 5-6 after taking both sectional and regional. Last year, Lewis placed sixth at state with a jump of 5-5.
Fellow Cougar standout Madison Wise will be busy competing in both the 300-meter hurdles and 100 hurdles. Greenfield’s Sydney Cook will run in the 800 meters.
Mt. Vernon’s Olivia Coleman will pull double-duty in both the long jump and the 400-meter dash.
The IHSAA Girls Track and Field State Finals
When: Events begin at 3 p.m., Saturday
Where: Robert C. Haugh Track & Field Complex, Indiana University, Bloomington
Order of Events:
3 p.m.: Pole Vault, Long Jump and Discus
3:30 p.m.: High Jump; Shot Put
4:15 p.m.: 3,200-Meter Relay Finals
5:00 p.m.: 100-Meter Dash Trials
5:15 p.m.: 100-Meter High Hurdle Trials
5:40 p.m.: 200-Meter Dash Trials
6:10 p.m.: Opening Ceremonies
6:15 p.m.: 100-Meter High Hurdles
6:25 p.m.: 100-Meter Dash
6:35 p.m.: 1,600-Meter Run
6:45 p.m.: 400-Meter Relay
7:05 p.m.: 400-Meter Dash
7:20 p.m.: 300-Meter Intermediate Hurdles
7:45 p.m.: 800-Meter Run
8:05 p.m.: 200-Meter Dash
8:15 p.m.: 3,200-Meter Run
8:30 p.m.: 1,600-Meter Relay
Who: Hancock County will send six individual participants to the state finals. They are:
Eastern Hancock: Kaycee Ruble (shot put) and Shelby Mourey (high jump)
Greenfield-Central: Regan Lewis (high jump), Maddie Wise (100- and 300-meter hurdles) and Sydney Cook (800-meter run)
Mt. Vernon: Olivia Coleman (long jump and 400-meter dash)