FORTVILLE — It took all of the three hours and 16 different events on Tuesday night to crown the 2023 Hoosier Heritage Conference girls track and field champions.
And a fourth-place finish in the final event, the 1600-meter relay, just about sums up Mt. Vernon’s path to its second HHC title in three seasons.
The five points in the final race were enough for the Marauders (124.5) to hold off Hancock County rival New Palestine (121) and Delta (101.5).
“All night we were watching the scores and looking for places where we could offset them with two points here and there. It just seemed like between Delta and New Pal, we just kept going back and forth,” Mt. Vernon head coach Brian Williams said. “We were covering spots where they were maybe making points up. It was a little tighter than I wanted it to be, but we’ll take it.”
The Marauders and Dragons are no strangers on the track. A week ago, Mt. Vernon topped New Palestine by 12 points for the Hancock County title, and with the Marauders win on Tuesday, the two teams have now combined for the last six conference championships.
Mt. Vernon has won two of the last three, with the Dragons taking first place last season.
“We just competed very well, everybody competed well. I think we scored in every event, so everybody from the top to bottom did great,” New Palestine head coach Chuck Myers said. “Mt. Vernon stepped up and did a great job and just barely nipped us, but a good effort from all of our girls.”
With only two winners on the night, the depth of Mt. Vernon proved to be the key once again.
In the first event of the night, the 3200 relay team of Hannah Hauser, Emma Gasiorek, Emma Gale and Tenley Benz crossed the finish line in the top spot, and in one of the final events of the night, Riley Nielsen cleared the top mark in the pole vault (11-feet).
With the Marauders and Dragons separated by just .5 and only the 1600 relay remaining for running events, it was Nielsen’s victory, along with Elaina Moore’s third place in the pole vault, that gave Mt. Vernon a much-needed cushion before the start of the last race.
“I was hoping for a bigger spread because I didn’t want it to come down to a drop of the baton or something. We knew we were six and a half up when it started, so it was just a matter of making sure we didn’t let too many teams get in front of us,” Williams said. “The girls ran their second-fastest time, so they did a little bit more than kind of just walk through it.”
The Marauders got points in every event, and had two people earn points in all but one event. That was the difference in the win over the Dragons.
“It’s a pretty cool situation to be in given the number of girls that we lost from last year that scored a lot of points for us. We’ve had a bunch of new girls step in, and you can’t say anything more than, ‘You win two events, and you win the meet,’” Williams said. “That says a little bit about what we did in each event. We were putting people where they needed to be.”
The Dragons had three individual champions, and nearly matched the depth of Mt. Vernon.
They earned points in all 16 events, and Rylee Hurst, Sydney Miller, and Quin Lumbley all won individual events.
Miller topped her county winning throw in the discus by over 10 feet with a distance of 139-feet, 7-inches. The throw broke the New Palestine school record of 136-feet, 9 ½ inches set in 2012 by Sonya Napariu, and broke the HHC meet record.
“Sydney has been such a good thrower for us for the last four years. It’s really great to see her finally get that school record. She’s been working for that for the last couple of years,” Myers said. “It was a really high quality throw and that’s going to get her ready for the state tournament, and I’m excited to see what she can do there.”
The Dragons swept the throwing events, with Lumbley winning the shot put.
Hurst won the 400 with a time of 1:00.78.
For Greenfield-Central, Savannah Lake won both the 100 and 200 dashes, Addison Buckley finished second in the 300 hurdles and third in the 100 hurdles. Juliann Jones took third in the long jump.
The Cougars placed sixth with 63 points. Rounding out the team scores were Yorktown (84), New Castle (80), Pendleton Heights (42) and Shelbyville (6).