Teams get early look at big-time competition in North Invitational

Columbus North’s Neal White, in blue, keeps pace with the pack as he runs the first leg of the 4x800-meter relay during the Columbus North track invitational at Columbus North High School in Columbus, Ind., Saturday, April 6, 2024.

Mike Wolanin | The Republic

After seeing their outdoor track and field openers wiped out because of bad weather earlier in the week, Columbus North and Brown County, along with a Columbus East team that had one meet under its belt, had to go up against some powerhouse teams in Saturday’s North Invitational.

The Bull Dogs finished fifth, and the Olympians took ninth in the 10-team meet on both the boys and girls sides.

“I’m excited because this is our first meet,” said North coach Rick Sluder. “We had both of our outdoor meets canceled so far. I’m excited about where we’re starting. Even some areas where we didn’t score so may points in, we will score. They’re going to get better.”

No. 1-ranked Bloomington North won the boys meet with 154 1/2 points to 119 for No. 16 Center Grove, 108 1/2 for co-No. 21 Bloomington South, 84 for No. 10 Floyd Central and 69 for the co-No. 21 Bull Dogs. No. 11 Whiteland won the girls meet with 137 points to 95 for No. 17 Bloomington North, 87 for No. 13 Center Grove, 85 for Bloomington South and 68 for Columbus North.

“It is a good field,” Sluder said. “It’s tough to come out for your first meet and have an invitational setting. There’s a little pressure. You haven’t been out of the blocks in a race yet. But we handled it really well.”

Bull Dog junior Neal White was the lone local athlete to win an event on Saturday. White won the boys 3,200 meters in 9 minutes, 22.20 seconds.

“I was definitely happy to be able to get out, especially since we start our outdoor season about a week later than a lot of other schools,” White said. “I was kind of nervous about probably being one of the few people who hasn’t actually raced outdoors yet. So it was good to get back out there.”

White ran with Bloomington North’s Jacob Mitchell and Center Grove’s Kyle Montgomery for most of the first six laps in the eight-lap race before pulling away to win by more than 13 seconds.

“I was trying to keep it more relaxed the first six laps,” White said. “My plan was to make a move with 800 meters or a (kilometer) to go. I wanted to play it a little safer. This is the first time I’ve really doubled before a hard 3,200 because I did the 4×800 earlier, so my legs definitely didn’t feel as fresh, but I still felt strong and had a lot of energy left for the last two laps to make a strong move.”

White, Logan Vanzant, Akot Tong and Jace Works finished second in the 4×800 relay in 7:56.91. Drew Schiefer finished third in the shot put (49 feet, 11 inches), Owen Russell took third in the 300 hurdles (41.46) and fourth in the 110 hurdles (15.55), Tong was third in the 800 (1:57.21) and Draven Martinez finished fourth in the 1,600 (4:28.21). Ben Stevens, Derek Arau-Ortiz, Works and Tong placed fourth in the 4×400 relay (3:28.85).

“Our relays looked strong, which is big for our future,” Sluder said. “Our field events kids looked strong, so that was good for us. A few of our sprinters and a lot of our distance picked up. They’re starting the season where they ended it before, and that’s exciting for where we’re headed.”

East’s three points came on eighth-place finishes from Ryder Meek in the high jump (5-10), Jared Brooks in the shot (43-7) and in the 4×400 relay (3:50.12).

“I think we did well,” East boys coach Jerone Wood said. “We had some (personal records). All we ask is guys to come out and compete and do the best they can, and as long as they do that, that’s a result we can be happy with.”

Meanwhile, the Columbus North girls were led by second-place finishes from freshmen Avery Johnson in the high jump (5-1) and Emerson Chambers in the 100 hurdles (17.04) and from the 4×800 relay team of Kyleigh Wolf, Emma Lowther, Macy Eaton and Carys Glyn-Jones (9:52.55). Wolf (5:27.25) and Ainsley Sherlock (5:29.26) took third and fourth in the 1,600, Glyn-Jones was fourth in the 800 (2:16.96) and Adira Sluder finished fifth in the 3,200 (12:01.56).

“We had a good day, but we see some areas now for improvement,” Rick Sluder said. “We ran a lot of our younger kids. We knew we were young, so a lot of our younger kids got experience today.”

Sophie Glick led the Olympians with a second-place finish in the 400 (1:03.86). East took fifth in the 4×100 relay (51.65), and Jenna Guse was sixth in the 400 (1:04.69).

“I think everybody gave a really good effort,” East girls coach Kareem Ash said. “We had some PRs today. We’re dealing with a lot of injuries early in the season, so we’re mainly focused on recovery, trying to play the long game instead of trying to still push everybody into a lot of events going forward.”

Brown County did not score a point in either the boys or girls meets. The Eagle boys finished ninth in the 4×100 relay (49.00), and the girls took ninth in the 4×800 relay (12:02.88).

Brown County will host Columbus North and Seymour on Tuesday.

“I felt it was a good starting point for us with the two meets getting canceled earlier in the week,” Brown County boys coach Kirk Wrightsman said. “It was good to get out here today. We have a long way to go. We have a lot of work to do, but I do believe from where we were in February, having lost a lot from last year, it’s a good starting point for us to build off this week. But across the board, we have to continue training, and I think we’re going to improve. Hopefully, we can have Tuesday with North and Seymour.”