BLOOMINGTON — The heat and humidity steadily soared on Saturday afternoon along with the pressures of the state spotlight, but it wasn’t enough to throw Eastern Hancock’s Kaycee Ruble off track.
Not one to get rattled by such trivial external — or internal — distractions, Ruble relied on her mettle during the 42nd Annual IHSAA Girls Track and Field State Finals, and it propelled her to a record-setting day.
Ruble set a personal best in the shot put with a 40-foot, 1.5-inch heave, which was good enough for seventh-place in the state and in the process landed her another Royal achievement.
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“She’s the first all-state track athlete in school history,” Eastern Hancock throwing coach Brett Burkhart proudly shared. “All we wanted to do was to make finals. We knew she had to throw 40 feet. She came through. It’s fantastic.”
One of three Hancock County athletes to medal in Bloomington, Ruble was joined by both Greenfield-Central’s Regan Lewis and Mt. Vernon’s Olivia Coleman on the awards podium.
For Lewis, a senior, the achievement has been ritualistic.
A four-time state-place winner in her illustrious career, the Ball State recruit finished fifth as a freshman at 5-05. The next season, she matched the same height for fourth and again for sixth last year.
In her finale, Lewis entered with a seed mark of 5-06, but she stalled after clearing 5-04 on her first attempt, settling for a seventh-place exit.
Though, she was disappointed, Lewis optimistically turned the page as she walked off the Robert C. Haugh Track & Field Complex an incoming freshman in the Mid-American Conference and the Cougars’ first four-timer in school history.
“It was a pretty successful last four years. This year not so much, but it’s alright,” she said. “Everyone out there is really good. It’s a really good field. I know I will get better in college. They have great coaches there and I’m really excited about the future.”
Coleman seized the present, nearly becoming all-state in two events and a three-timer for the Marauders.
The senior was all-state four years ago in the 400-meter dash after sprinting to a fourth-place medal in 58 seconds flat. Derailed by an anterior cruciate ligament tear as a sophomore, the IPFW commit’s return to the state finals put her in medal contention for both the long jump and the 400.
Coleman set a new school record in the long jump at 18-06, placing her sixth. She broke her own mark in the 400 with a blistering 56.78 run and a fifth-place finish.
However, upon review IHSAA officials disqualified her just prior to awarding the top-eight runners for taking six steps on the lane line.
“You can’t take three consecutive steps on the inside lane because you gain an advantage,” Mt. Vernon head coach Tim Leonard explained. “She ran the race perfect. Just like we talked about. … but she has such long strides and sometimes she hugs it.
“I’ve watched her all year long and she’s never hit those lines. She had a problem with it in the past, but I told her, ‘this is one race in one meet. You will run again,’” Leonard continued. “There will be a lot of adversity in your life. Adversity only makes you stronger.”
Overcoming past injury, Coleman’s perseverance led to a program-best 303 points scored this season and 780 amassed in her career. Despite the heartbreaking ruling in the 400, her performance garnered attention from several onlookers and an invite to this weekend’s prestigious Midwest Meet of Champions in Ohio.
“She broke her her own school record. She had a great night,” said Leonard, who has 31 years of coaching experience at Mt. Vernon and Noblesville combined. “She’s the best track athlete I’ve coached, boy or girl.”
Ruble’s status as the greatest thrower at Eastern Hancock is cemented much like her demeanor — and she’s right on schedule.
“I told her when she was an eighth-grader, it’s a four-year plan. I said, ‘I don’t care what you do your freshman and sophomore year, but your junior and senior years, we want you at state,’” Burkhart remarked. “It just so happens, she’s a natural. She’s got the talent and the will to throw, and I have her for another year.”
Already the school’s record-holder in the shot put, Ruble, a junior, pushed past her own mark at each level of the state tournament.
She won sectional and regional to hold a 15th seed at state but catapulted into the top five on only her second throw.
Opening with a 37-10.5, she launched her 40-footer on the next go-around to win her flight before it was even over, drawing cheers from her supporters in the stands.
“There was a girl that threw a 38, and then we had a 39. I knew, ‘man, I have to up my game.’ Luckily, I was able to pull it through,” Ruble said. “My main goal was just to win my flight, so I could go to finals. So that’s what I did.”
Taking a moment to smile and wave to her fans, Ruble didn’t break character for long, going right back to work with a 38-07.5 on her next attempt.
Afterward, she took a breather, sitting along the stands with her coaches and family, wearing sunglasses to help subdue a heat-related headache.
“She’s so relaxed out there. She says she’s nervous, but I can’t tell,” Burkhart said. “She’s PR’d every time since conference, so her demeanor is perfect for the ring. You want to be calm until the last second.”
Opting to forgo any practice throws to ward off fatigue, she surpassed her seed mark (38-10) on her final offering with a 38-10.5.
“Sometimes you get lucky and it all comes together at the same time. It did today. It was a great time to do it,” Ruble remarked on her first state experience. “I never expected to be where I am today as a junior. … I really don’t even know what to expect now. I hope to continue to get better. I’m really happy with what I did. I couldn’t do any better.”
HOW THEY FARED
100 hurdles: 19th – Madison Wise (Greenfield-Central), 15.55
300 hurdles: 17th – Madison Wise (Greenfield-Central), 46.50
High jump: 7th – Regan Lewis (Greenfield-Central), 5-04; 13th – Shelby Mourey (Eastern Hancock), 5-03
Long jump: 6th – Olivia Coleman (Mt. Vernon), 18-06
Shot put: 7th – Kaycee Ruble (Eastern Hancock), 40-01.5
800: 17th – Sydney Cook (Greenfield-Central), 2:19.74
400: DQ – Olivia Coleman (Mt. Vernon), 57.01