BLOOMINGTON — The smile came out after Keri Ertel literally cleared her final hurdle in the 300-meter hurdles Saturday night at the Girls Track and Field State Championship at Indiana University.
The Jennings County senior had a big enough lead, there was no need to wait to cross the finish line.
Ertel became the Panthers’ first girls track and field state champion when she crossed the finish line in 43.47 seconds. She won by almost a full second against Lapel’s Plenseh-Tay Sakeuh.
“I knew she was coming up on me,” Ertel said. “I just had to stay strong. I really wanted to win, so I was going to give it everything I had.”
Earlier in the day, Ertel ran 14.74 to finish third in the 100 hurdles for the second consecutive year. Last year, she finished second in the 300 hurdles in 43.18, a faster time than she ran Saturday.
“I thought I would have to run that fast to win,” Ertel said. “But I’m happy all my hard work paid off because I’ve been doing a lot of offseason stuff.”
First-year head coach Leah McLeod said she was ecstatic for Ertel.
“It makes me want to keep crying, but I’m crying because I’m so happy for her,” McLeod said. “She deserves this. She had it in her head that she was going to be the 300 (hurdles) champ, and she came out and did exactly what she knew she could do,” she said. “I think she just put Jennings County on the map.”
The Panthers’ other state qualifier, junior Justine Corya, finished 17th in the 100 in 12.60 and 21st in the 200 in 26.12.
Meanwhile, Columbus North junior Katrina May earned a spot on the medals stand with a sixth-place finish in the pole vault. She broke her own school record with a vault of 11 feet, 9 inches.
“I’ve been waiting to (set a personal record) for a very long time, and to be able to do it in the state meet with such great competition, I’m very happy,” May said. “I competed mostly on a pole that I had never vaulted on in competition before, and I’ve been working on a lot of drills in practice that have been helping my running.”
May’s finish was an improvement from last year’s 16th-place effort.
“Last year, I had kind of a bad meet, so I was hoping to come in here and prove myself wrong and prove to everyone else that I could keep up with them,” May said.
It was somewhat of a heartbreaking day for the rest of the Bull Dog contingent. Sophomore Rachel Brougher just missed medaling in the 3,200, finishing 10th in 11:05.55.
“I felt like I gave it my all,” Brougher said. “They were going really fast, so you can only control your race, and I think it went well.”
Junior Sierra Lax took 11th in the 1,600 in a personal-best 5:04.25. She came back with a 14th-place finish in the 3,200 in 11:14.36.
“I am happy with my PR definitely,” Lax said. “This was a tough and fast race, and I’m so happy I got the experience to double this year. I went in nervous, but after finishing it, I’m overjoyed.”
That wasn’t the case with senior Debie Gedeon. She entered the meet seeded fourth in the 100 hurdles, but hit a hurdle early in her preliminary race and finished 15th in 15.33.
North senior Olivia Malone took 16th in the 300 hurdles in 46.39.
A pair of area seniors capped their careers in the pole vault. Brown County’s Emily Brady finished 11th with a vault of 11-3.
“It is really heartbreaking,” Brady said. “I’m happy that I was able to (make 11-3), but being so close to 11-6 and locking in a medal is tough.”
Columbus East’s Emily Clancy made the opening height of 10-0 and finished in a tie for 24th. She had cleared a school-record 10-6 in the Shelbyville Regional.
“I was kind of hoping for a little more, but at least I’m here,” Clancy said. “Today could have been a better meet, though. I didn’t jump as well as I could have.”
Seymour junior Megan Winter finished 23rd in the 1,600 in 5:32.80.