Mackenzie Caldwell and Gabby Sims have each won three state track and field medals in their first three years at Columbus North.
Winning a fourth might prove to be the toughest challenge yet for the Bull Dog seniors Friday at Indiana University.
Caldwell and Sims are seeded outside the top nine for the first time since they’ve been competing in the state finals. That’s partly because they didn’t run as fast in last week’s regional as they did last year and partly because so many other girls from around the state are running blazing times.
“I’m excited that I’m able to run for a fourth year,” Sims said. “It’s an honor, especially seeing the times that have been put up this year. I feel blessed to be able to be at state again.”
Sims finished fourth in the 400 meters as a freshman and third each of the past two years, running a school-record 56.31 seconds last season. Each of those years, though, she ran in the fast heat at state.
This year, Sims will be in the middle of three heats. She is seeded 14th based on her Shelbyville Regional time of 58.33.
“It will be different,” Sims said. “After my regional race, I realized I probably wouldn’t be in the fast heat, but honestly, I’m still excited about it. There’s still a chance to medal, and there’s a chance to go out and go hard. There’s no point of not giving everything I have in this race.”
Pike freshman Lynna Irby has the fastest time in the 400 at 55.09. The nine runners in Sims’ heat are all between 58.23 and 58.87.
Sims ran a 56.5 relay split this season.
“I’m excited for my heat because we’re all within the same second right now,” Sims said. “It’s going to be really fast. Usually every year, someone sneaks in (to the top nine) from that heat.”
Caldwell, meanwhile, is looking to build onto a résumé that includes a sixth-place finish in the 3,200 as a sophomore and third-place efforts in both the 1,600 and 3,200 last season. She also has three All-State cross-country medals, including a runner-up finish as a senior.
For this year’s state track meet, Caldwell is seeded 14th in the 1,600 and eighth in the 3,200 after running 5:07.24 and 10:58.46 in the regional.
“I’m glad that I have the experience from the past two under my belt, and I know that will help me run great races,” Caldwell said. “Every year is different, and you never know what to expect going into the meet, but I’m going to do my best and see what happens.”
Hamilton Southeastern’s Rachel Nichwitz has the fastest 1,600 time at 4:55.81 and defending state champion Anna Rorher of Mishawaka has the top 3,200 time at 10:42.00. Caldwell’s school records are 4:55.19 and 10:37.84.
Caldwell said she never considered dropping the 1,600 to focus on the 3,200.
“I want to go for both of them because I like the idea that I get to have two races,” Caldwell said. “I don’t think that one of them will affect me in a negative way for the other one, so I don’t see any reason to drop one. I’m confident that I can still run a solid 3,200.”
Lou Sipe, who is in his first year coaching the North girls, is confident that Caldwell and Sims can come away with high finishes again on Friday.
“Obviously, they have experience being there, so that will help pay some dividends once they’re there and in that environment,” Sipe said. “Mackenzie is tough, and she’s going to do well.
“Gabby is the same way,” he said. “She’s tough. She’s been there. She’s a veteran. They’ll get over there to Bloomington, and they’ll both do very well.”
No matter how they fare at state, Friday won’t be the end of the duo’s running careers. Sims will run track at Ball State, and Caldwell will compete in cross-country and track at Colorado.
“It’s definitely sad, but it’s also exciting,” Caldwell said about the end of her high school career. “There’s a new chapter ahead of me, and I’m ready for that.”