AS a member of the IHSAA Board of Directors, Jennings County athletics director Mike Broughton has spent the past couple of state track and field meets passing out medals to the nine place-winners in each event.
This weekend, Broughton hopes to pass out four medals to two of his own athletes — junior Keri Ertel and senior Tom Alsup. Ertel will compete in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles in Friday’s girls meet, and Alsup will throw the shot and discus in Saturday’s boys meet at Indiana University.
Both Panthers will be making their third trips to state. Alsup has been there the past two years in the discus. Ertel made it in the 100 hurdles as a freshman and finished ninth in that event and last season finished 13th in the 300 hurdles.
This year, Ertel enters the state meet as the top seed in the 100 hurdles with her regional time of 14.32 seconds.
“I think I’ll still be nervous, but I think I’ll be able to handle my nerves better,” Ertel said. “I’m glad I had those two years to (gain experience).
“Hopefully, I can focus on my race and not get too nervous and not let my nerves get the better of me.”
Ertel, who owns school records in both events, lowered her 100 hurdles school record from 14.56 to 14.32 in setting a regional record last week at Shelbyville. She also won the 300 hurdles at the regional in 44.94 and is seeded sixth at state.
“I want to medal in the 300s,” Ertel said. “I think I’ll be a lot better at state because I’ll have someone in front of me to push me.”
“When she gets somebody right beside her, that helps her out,” Jennings girls coach Brian Guthrie said. “It pushes her a little harder. The 300s, she hasn’t been pushed a lot, so we don’t know what she can do with her time until she’s been pushed neck-and-neck all the way.”
In the offseason, Ertel worked on strength with Nathan Frasier at MVP in Columbus and on hurdling with Ernie Clark at the Indiana Track Club in Bloomington.
Besides the hurdles, Ertel anchored the Panthers’ 400 and 1,600 relay teams to regional berths. She ran a 58 split in the 1,600 to help Jennings to a school record in the sectional.
“My 400 time has dropped a lot, too, so I think that’s helped with my 300,” Ertel said.
“She’s gotten a lot stronger,” Guthrie said. “We’ll use her in four events. When we use her in four events, that’s going to make you stronger hopefully and not wear you out.”
Meanwhile, Alsup qualified for state with a third-place finish in the discus and a fourth in the shot. Normally, only the top three qualify for state, but Alsup met the state standard with a personal-best throw of 55 feet, 2½ inches on his final attempt.
“It was exciting,” Alsup said. “I knew I could do it. I was hitting (personal records) all week in practice and warmups. It felt good to do it in a meet and have it count. It was something I really wanted to do, and to do it this year with the state standard was pretty awesome.”
The discus wasn’t as dramatic for Alsup. He threw 163-0 on his second throw in the preliminaries, which was just 8 inches off his personal-best from earlier this season.
“Discus wasn’t too bad, but we had a lot of good throwers today,” Alsup said. “I started off well in the discus, and it stayed pretty well.”
Alsup spent his freshman year at Scottsburg, where he threw the shot. He added the discus after moving to Jennings County his sophomore year.
“He messed with it a couple times there, kind of messed around with it,” Jennings boys coach Bill Ludwig said. “He just threw shot, and then he came here and I said ‘We don’t just throw shot. We do both. You ought to be good at the discus, as well as the shot,’ and that proved out.”
Last year, Alsup threw only in the 48-foot range in the shot, so he’s improved by about 7 feet.
“The marks prove it,” Ludwig said. “Discus, he’s a lot more consistent. He’s gotten stronger and has improved technique.”
“I threw during the summer and tried to lift weights,” Alsup said. “I tried to stay in shape for track. Since I don’t do other sports, that’s what you have to do.”
Alsup hopes to throw in college, but he isn’t sure where. He wants to major in criminal justice or sports medicine.
Heading into state, Alsup is seeded seventh in the discus and 11th in the shot.
“Top nine is definitely a big goal of mine in both,” Alsup said.
“I think there’s still more in there,” Ludwig said. “I think he’s still trying to do too much arm and less body (in the discus). His release wasn’t real sharp today on any of his throws. Middle 160s usually will place, so that will be our goal going over there so Mr. Broughton can give him an award.”