Lake Central's Brooke Lambert successfully vaults 12 foot 3 inches at the girls track regional at Chesterton Tuesday afternoon. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 2, 2013 7:57AM
Remember the days when Northwest Indiana athletes winning track and field state titles was more frequent?
I do … it wasn’t that long ago.
Yes, I’m a “region rat” and a big homer who always cheers for NWI kids. But why wouldn’t anyone cheer for area kids once they get to state, whether it’s a rival high school or individuals?
Even though I’m a Clark graduate, it doesn’t mean I cheer against Gavit or Morton or Hammond High — only when they’re facing Clark.
So I’m looking forward to seeing some state titlists the next couple days from the track complex at Indiana University since it’s been scarce lately.
There has only been one individual state champ the last two years — Portage’s Tori Bliss in the shot put in 2011, which was her third straight title in the event. The year before was a real good year when Bliss won both shot and discus in the girls meet and Hobart’s Jarvis McMillian won the 100, 200 and 400 sprint races.
In 2009 we had a pair of girls state titles — Valparaiso’s Megan Ranegar in the 3,200 run and Merrillville’s Rebecca Neville in the long jump.
Call me an eternal optimist, but I think region athletes could really clean up this week.
After finishing third in the discus last year, Gelen Robinson of Lake Central is focused and ready to claim a gold medal. But he’s not the only one in good position to stand on the top of the medal stand — not even close to the only one.
Don’t count out Hobart’s Nick Stack, who is following in his family’s footsteps by competing in the pole vault at state (Jim Stack won the state title in 1986). LaPorte’s Anthony Didion (800 and 1,600) and Morgan Township’s Alex Kostelnik (3,200) could do some damage in the distance runs.
On the girls’ side, though, there really could be multiple state winners like in 2009.
Pole vault comes to mind first as Lake Central dominated the regional in the event. The Indians went 1, 2, 3 with Brooke Lambert posting 12-foot-3-inches, while Kaitlyn Moricz and Katie Brown went 11-6 to tie for second. Lambert’s 12-3 is significant because it’s the same height posted by last year’s state champ Hannah Acton of Bloomington South.
Moricz also qualified in the long jump in which she finished third in the state last year.
Last year Rensselaer’s Chelsie Meeks finished runner-up in the discus to Rachel Dincoff of DeKalb by around a foot. You can bet she’s got her eyes on improving by one place.
In hurdles, both Keyera Lige of Bowman (won 300 at regional) and Kassidy Swenson of Valparaiso (won 100 and finished second in 300 at regional) have a shot at the top, while the 100 dash — the glamorous event in track and field from a running standpoint, has a potent trio of Merrillvile’s Airrica Harper, Bishop Noll’s Shanna Cooper and West Side’s Arielle Borders vying for a title.
And it’s been a long time since the region has a state champ in a relay. That could change this week, too.
Softball and baseball kudos: The softball season still has two weekends remaining and baseball has three weekends left in what has been a very rainy season. But before we reach the state finals in Indianapolis, a couple teams deserve some kudos for much-improved seasons despite not advancing out of sectionals.
Valparaiso’s softball team lost to Hobart in the sectional semifinals to finish with a 14-12 record.
That may not seem that impressive, but it marks the first winning record the Vikings have finished with in “at least six or seven years,” according to coach Tracy Corneil.
“It’s a credit to my girls,” Corneil said. “They’ve dedicated themselves to working hard and playing travel ball in the offseason.”
Playing more travel ball is a simple lesson that some Duneland Conference teams that start with the letter “M” don’t follow in recent years.
Sticking with the Duneland for baseball, Chesterton won its first DAC title since 1985. The Trojans couldn’t get out of a tough sectional, losing to Hobart in the first round, but no one can take that trophy away in a year with some really good teams in the DAC, including defending state champ Lake Central and sectional champ Portage.