After finishing between the middle and bottom of the pack in the Hoosier Hills Conference the past four years, Columbus East girls track coach Glen Brown thinks his team can challenge for the title this season.
The Olympians, who won back-to-back HHC crowns in 2010 and 2011, might have the most talent they’ve had since that period. They lost state pole vault qualifier Emily Clancy to graduation but have 57 girls out for this year’s team, including more than 20 freshmen.
“With the hard work that we’re putting in and the potential that we have on our team from the young and the old, we’re looking to see if we can bring the conference championship home again,” Brown said. “We’ve had a down two years, but we think we can give everybody a run for their money this year.”
Junior three-sport standout Cortney VanLiew was a regional qualifier in the 200 meters last season. She was also a high jumper, but will long jump instead of high jump this year.
VanLiew, who has committed to play volleyball and beach volleyball at Florida Gulf Coast, is coming off a strong swimming season.
“Cortney is strong and ready to go,” Brown said. “She’s in really good shape.”
VanLiew, along with juniors Lydia Doughty and Kayla Gastineau, ran on the regional-qualifying 4×100 relay team. Gastineau is coming back from a stress fracture incurred during soccer season, while Doughty has a back injury and hopes to be back by the end of the season.
Junior Sydnie McCammon was a regional qualifier in the shot put. Senior Katie Mack was a contender to qualify for regional in both the high jump and 400 last season, but a foot injury kept her from competing in the sectional.
Junior Taylor Smith will run sprints and likely fill in one of the 4×100 relay spots. Senior Katie Emmert and sophomore Morgan Martindale return in the hurdles. Junior Seena Greiwe is back in the discus, and sophomore McKenna Downey moves from sprints to the pole vault.
Seniors Kira Singer, Maddie Lyons and Morgan Ketron and junior Emma Mensendiek lead the distance crew, while sophomores Kristen Lyons and Lizzy Frazier return in the 800. All were part of East’s semistate-qualifying cross country team.
The Olympians, who finished seventh in the HHC and sixth in the Franklin Sectional last track season, currently have 22 girls running sprints.
“We had some sophomores and a ton of freshmen who are sprinters,” Brown said. “We’ll have to see who comes to the top.”
The top newcomers include sophomore Gracie Schultheis in the 4×400 relay, freshmen Beyoncey Coleman-Turner in the throws and sprints and freshman Sarah Park in the hurdles.
“We have a lot of young talent, and a lot of upperclassmen, too,” Brown said. “It’s looking good.”
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Columbus East girls track
April 2;at Bloomington South;10:30 a.m.
April 5;at Seymour;4:45 p.m.
April 9;at Columbus North Invitational;11 a.m.
April 12;at Shelbyville;5:30 p.m.
April 14;at Brownstown Central;5 p.m.
April 19;Bloomington North;5:30 p.m.
April 21;Columbus North;5 p.m.
April 26;at Madison;5:30 p.m.
April 29;at Shelbyville Invitational;6 p.m.
May 3;Brown County;4:30 p.m.
May 10;HHC at New Albany;6 p.m.