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Jennings junior finishes second, third in hurdles

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It took a record performance to keep Jennings County’s Keri Ertel from winning a state championship Friday at the Robert C. Haugh Complex at Indiana University.

Ertel capped off her terrific season with a second-place finish in the 300-meter hurdles. Her time of 43.18 was behind only Fort Wayne Concordia’s Symone Black, who set a new state record with a 41.36.

The Panthers’ junior earlier had finished third in the 100-meter hurdles with a 14.40.

“Getting second is such a good feeling,” Ertel said of her 300 hurdles run. “I hadn’t really faced a lot of tough competition throughout the year, but to be able to get some redemption in the 300 and finish second was great.”

The redemption came when Ertel passed Bellmont’s Holly Hankenson in the final 100 of the 300 hurdles. Hankenson placed second ahead of Ertel in the 100 hurdles earlier in the day.

“It was an awesome feeling,” Ertel said. “I felt so confident going into this and knew that I had to run my two best races in order to win. It is a little bittersweet not getting the win, but to be able to improve every year I make it here has been great.”

Ertel had minor troubles starting just a hair late from the blocks in her preliminary round in the 100 hurdles, but was able to burst through to win her heat.

In the finals, she kept a steady pace with Black and Hankenson until the final burst when they pulled away. Black won the 100 hurdles in 14.17.

Ertel, who made her third appearance at the state championships Friday, said the jitters will never leave.

“No matter what, they are still there,” Ertel said. “I started a little late in my preliminary run, so that goes to show how much I was thinking about this.”

When asked about her overall season with the Panthers, Ertel said it was a year of improvements.

“This year has been satisfying,” said Ertel, whose previous best finish at the state meet was a ninth-place in the 100 hurdles her freshman season. “I was real comfortable in the hurdles this year, and knew I could prove myself even more.”

While next year’s track season isn’t necessarily a stone’s throw away, Ertel is already ready to begin her final campaign with Jennings County.

Only this time, she’ll be trying to reach the top of the podium.

“I’m already ready for next year,” Ertel said. “I can only go up from here. I just need to feel confident and train hard every day to get where I want to be.”

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