For the better part of three track seasons, Columbus East girls coach Glen Brown tried to convince standout sprinter Cortney VanLiew to try the 400 meters.
In last week’s Franklin Sectional, VanLiew decided to give it a try. In her first open 400 race ever, the junior ran 1 minute, .73 second to finish second and qualify for today’s Warren Central Regional.
“If you would have asked me a month ago, I would have told you you were crazy and that I’d never run the open 400,” VanLiew said. “I did not want to run the open 400 because I’ve heard how hard it was, and I didn’t know how I would do. So I don’t know what exactly changed, but I’m glad I made the switch that I did.”
As a freshman and sophomore, VanLiew mainly competed in the 100, 200, 4×100 relay and high jump. She ran the 4×400 relay some last season and has anchored that race all of this season. She also gave up the high jump in favor of the long jump this year.
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With times consistently under 1:01 in the 4×400 relay, she realized she could be successful in the open 400.
“I knew it was possible,” VanLiew said. “I just wasn’t quite sure how to pace myself in the open 400 because it is a little different, and I’m not chasing people. So I was a little shocked that I did actually run that fast. I was thinking maybe a 1:01 or 1:02, so it was a pleasant surprise.”
The decision to drop the 200 and 4×100 relay for the 400 in the sectional actually came prior to the Hoosier Hills Conference meet. But for that HHC meet, Brown kept VanLiew in her normal events to try to score as many points as possible, and the Olympians came through with a runner-up team finish.
VanLiew is seeded sixth in the 400 for today’s regional. Brown thinks she will need to break the 1:00 barrier to have a shot at finishing in the top three and earning a berth in the June 3 state finals.
“She has another gear, so she can do it,” Brown said. “I think she needs to go under one minute (to earn a state berth), and that’s our goal for this week. If she gets under a minute, that will give us our best shot.”
If VanLiew qualifies for state in track, it would be the second sport in which she has accomplished that feat. She made it in the 50-yard freestyle in swimming as a sophomore.
Neither one of those sports, however, is VanLiew’s best. She has committed to play volleyball and beach volleyball at Florida Gulf Coast University beginning in 2017.
“It’s one of my main goals — to be able to make it to state in more than one sport,” VanLiew said. “I think it would be awesome. I loved state when I went for swimming. I’ve heard track is different, but I think it would be fun.”
Warren Central Regional
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Warren Central High School
Who: Qualifiers from the Franklin, Warren Central, Connersville and Franklin County Sectionals, including runners from Columbus North, Columbus East and Hauser.
Advancement: Top three in each event and anyone else meeting the state qualifying standard from the state’s eight regionals advance to the June 3 state finals. If that number is less than 27 in an event, the next-best performances are added until the field totals 27.