Rising to the occasion

Columbus East girls track coach Glen Brown thinks his team can contend for the Hoosier Hills Conference title this season.

If the Olympians are to be in the running, they’ll need some points from an area where they haven’t scored a ton the past couple of years — the hurdles.

East doesn’t have star power in the hurdle events, but they do have depth. Seven girls are hurdling for the Olympians this spring, and four scored points in Tuesday’s dual meet at Seymour.

“I think we have a pretty bright outlook,” said senior Katie Emmert, the leader of the hurdling crew. “We’ve been training really hard in all of our practices, and we did pretty well against Seymour, so hopefully, we can do that again in conference.”

Junior Becca Bryan, freshman Sarah Park and Emmert pulled off a 1-2-3 sweep in the 100-meter hurdles on Tuesday. Emmert won the 300 hurdles, while freshman Olivia Williams finished third.

That came after East failed to score in either hurdle event in a season-opening loss at 13th-ranked Bloomington South.

“Our times are starting to come down,” Brown said. “The first meet, we had a lot of wind, a lot of adversity with young kids. We’re down to where we can be competitive, and this is only the second meet, so I think we’ll get even faster.”

The Olympians also have sophomore Morgan Martindale, who scored in several meets last season but has been slowed by an ankle injury this year. Freshmen Breiana Burton and Cheyanna Heid provide even more depth.

Brown calls Emmert his “rock.”

“I’m not sure she had her best race at Bloomington, but she did well (Tuesday) night, and she’s going to keep getting steadier and steadier,” Brown said. “She knows what she has to do to get the times down, and she’s helping the younger kids along.”

Also helping those younger kids along are a pair of former East athletes. Breanne Gibson and Brock Horn, both of which work for Cummins, are coaching the hurdlers.

So far, they’ve had a lot to work with.

“We have a bunch of great freshmen this year and an amazing senior leading our team,” Bryan said. “I think we’re going to be very strong.”

Bryan is an interesting story. She competed in gymnastics her first two years and finished ninth in the state in the all-around competition as a sophomore last year.

This year, Bryan gave up gymnastics to become a cheerleader and train for track season.

“Since I wasn’t doing gymnastics, my winter was a lot more available, and I got to come in to some winter workouts and work on some technique, which has definitely helped a little bit,” Bryan said.

Martindale and Park were starters on the Olympians’ sectional champion girls soccer team. Park was a standout hurdler in middle school but wasn’t sure how she would do when she reached the high school level.

“I kind of expected to be at the back of the pack coming in,” she said. “It was pretty cool to be toward the front.”

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Columbus North Invitational

When: 11 a.m. Saturday

Where: Columbus North High School

Teams: Columbus East, Columbus North, Bloomington North, Broad Ripple, Center Grove, Chicago Whitney Young, Lexington (Kentucky) Sayre, Terre Haute South