SHELBYVILLE — In a sectional that included the state’s top-ranked team, the Hancock County representatives Tuesday in the 41st Annual IHSAA Girls Track and Field State Tournament opener at Shelbyville weren’t expecting to shock the world.
Still, the Greenfield-Central and New Palestine ladies more than held their own as Warren Central picked up its third straight sectional championship and 15th title in the last 19 years.
The Cougars and Dragons registered record-setting performances and impressive individual victories before finishing second and sixth, respectively, behind the Warriors in the team standings.
“They’re loaded – everywhere,” G-C coach Jan Hacker said of Warren Central. “I’m like, do they have a weakness anywhere? They’re very talented.”
WC finished with 173.5 points, ahead of the Cougars (100.5), Franklin Central (94.5), Roncalli (73.5), the host Golden Bears (65), the Dragons (51.5), Scecina (22), Triton Central (14), Lutheran (11.5), Morristown (10) and Beech Grove (eight).
For G-C – led by sectional champs Regan Lewis (high jump) and Jackie Landuyt (discus) – it was the program’s highest-ever team finish in a sectional that included the Warriors.
New Palestine also improved; the beasts added 10.5 points to their score from the 2013 sectional.
Absent from the Dragons’ lineup last spring was distance standout Sarah Schwartz. The former county cross country champ broke a bone in her foot halfway through the track season last year and missed the postseason. Tuesday, she won the 1,600 meter race in five minutes, 38.06 seconds.
“It was terrible to watch everyone else run while I was sitting out,” the sophomore said. “So this feels awesome.”
In the 1,600, Schwartz took the lead halfway through the third lap after intentionally hanging with the pack, then crossed the finish line a full 10 seconds in front of the runner-up.
“She did a good job of sticking and moving, and then the third lap kicking down and taking control,” said Dan Weimer, a Dragons distance assistant under head coach Chuck Myers. “She had an unfortunate thing with the injury last spring, but like all great champions, she fought through adversity and continued to try to do her best.”
Schwartz will be joined at the regional next Tuesday, also at Shelbyville, by teammates Annabelle Dockins (a sophomore, second in long jump) and Rachel Wineman (junior, second in high jump). A pair of New Palestine relay teams finished fifth; the top four individual and relay finishes equal regional qualification.