WHEN the Conference Indiana boys and girls track and field championships convene Friday at Bloomington North, it will be a going-away party for the Lawrence Central and Pike squads.
But don’t expect the other six conference schools to shed any tears for the Bears and Red Devils, who are moving to the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference next season. Lawrence Central and Pike have combined to win 12 of the 15 boys track titles and nine of the 15 girls track titles since the conference’s inception in the 1997-98 school year.
That could open the door for schools like Columbus North to compete for and win conference track championships. The girls have won one Conference Indiana title, but the boys have yet to finish at the top of the pack.
“With those guys being out of the conference, the sprints get a lot better,” North coach Lou Sipe said. “Obviously, our distance kids compete with them every year. Field event-wise, I think we match up. They have tremendous talent, and they’re very deep, so their relays are always good. Their sprints are good.”
The Bull Dogs’ best boys finishes were a second in 2002 and a third in 2004. They finished fifth last season.
The North girls, meanwhile, won a conference title in 2008 and have been second three times. That includes last year, when they edged eventual state champion Pike.
“We’ve been able to win the conference with Lawrence Central and Pike in it before,” North girls coach Steve Tyler said. “They typically are perennial powers, but Bloomington South, Bloomington North and Franklin Central are tremendous track teams, and really everybody in Conference Indiana is a very good track team. Conference Indiana is a great place to coach athletics, and it probably doesn’t matter what teams are there, everybody is going to be giving their best at those kind of meets.”
Sipe does see one drawback in Lawrence Central and Pike leaving the conference.
“The bad thing about them getting out of the conference, we’re not going to be able to see that elite competition about midway though the season,” Sipe said. “It won’t give our kids a real tale as to where they’re at and where they need to be. The conference to this point has really helped us with the success we’ve had in the sectional because we do get to see that elite competition.”
Lawrence Central’s boys and girls are both ranked No. 1 in the latest Indiana Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches polls. Bloomington South’s boys are No. 12.
“You always go into competition wanting to put yourselves in position to win,” Sipe said. “Our conference is really good. Top teams like Lawrence Central, Pike is always good, Bloomington South is really good, Bloomington North is really good this year. It’s kind of the time of the year where we put our shoes on and see what we can do against some of the elite teams in the state.”
North’s girls are ranked No. 13. Pike is No. 20.
“I’m very excited about Friday’s meet,” Tyler said. “I think we have a tremendous track team. We’re going to go over there and compete hard and see what the scores add up to. I believe that we will certainly compete for the conference championship, and we’re going to go over there with the intention to give Lawrence Central all they can handle, and I hope we’re ready to maybe pull an upset.”