At Indiana University’s Robert C. Haugh Track & Field Complex, the finest athletes from across the state will converge for one last meet.

The boys track and field state finals will start at 3 p.m Friday, and three Jackson County athletes will represent the area.

Seymour senior Seth Ragon will once again compete in the high jump, while Brownstown Central senior Joseph Barnes returns in the shot put and junior Colton Ritz makes his debut in pole vault.

Ragon making third appearance

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This past winter, Ragon wasn’t sure what the spring held in store.

Fracturing his left foot during basketball season, it didn’t look good.

“Right there at the end of my basketball season, when I got the foot injury, they weren’t really sure how long it would take to heal,” Ragon said. “They said they didn’t know. At first, the doctor didn’t think I would be back until sectional time. It worried me because that would mean I had two meets to try and get to state.

“Luckily, on my last visit five weeks ago, they said I could ease back into it. I only missed three or four meets, which gave me ample time to practice.”

Following an up-and-down regular season after sitting out a few meets, Ragon performed when it mattered most.

He cleared 6 feet, 2 inches for third place at the Bedford North Lawrence Sectional and tied for third with a clearance of 6-3 at the Bloomington North Regional.

“It means a lot, really; not everyone has gone to state,” Ragon said. “I’ve just been lucky enough to compete at a high level at regionals. It’s really one meet that makes the difference whether or not you’re going.”

This year’s state finals will be the third straight for Ragon in the high jump.

“We’re kind of getting known for having a high jumper,” Owls coach Randy Fife said. “Any time you go to state once, it’s an incredible accomplishment. Two times is unbelievable, and three just doesn’t happen very often. We’re very proud of him and the work he has put in to get there.”

His sophomore season he jumped 6-2 for 23rd, while he didn’t place last year due to not clearing the minimum.

Ragon’s personal record in the event is 6-5.

He’s seeded 18th of 27 jumpers going into state at 6-3. There are nine jumpers ahead of Ragon with jumps of 6-4 while junior Nate Patterson, of Plymouth, is the favorite at 6-10.

“I just need to really focus on my steps,” Ragon said. “They need to be fine-tuned along with my over-the-bar stuff. Lately, I’ve not been holding my arch long enough and snapping out too early. It’s a lot of small things that need to be fine tuned.”

Last year, the high jump was moved inside due to rain.

Ragon said that the location change was a struggle.

Fife said he thinks that Ragon can have a big day Friday.

“I think the regional gave him some confidence,” he said. “I think it cements in his mind that he can do it. I think he will be focused, and there’s no doubt in my mind he can clear 6-4 and maybe 6-5 which would put him in the mix for scoring.”

Barnes taking laid-back approach

Don’t ask Barnes about the rest of the throwing field — he isn’t concerned with them.

Going into state Barnes’ sole focus is on himself.

He wants to enjoy the moment surrounded by friends and family before moving on to Indiana State University.

“I’m not going to worry about everyone else throwing,” Barnes said. “I probably won’t watch anyone else throw. I’m going to have a clear mind the whole time and do my thing.”

Barnes comes into state as the ninth seed of 27 in the shot put, throwing 53-7 1/2 at the Bloomington North Regional for a runner-up finish.

North’s Logan Calvin, who is seeded No. 1 (60-5 1/2) going into state, won that regional.

Prior to the regional, Barnes tossed 54-3 to win the BNL Sectional.

In those two meets, Barnes battled an ankle injury sustained the week before sectional.

“I’m feeling good; my ankle is fine now,” Barnes said. “I went to the doctor (Memorial Day) and they said everything looks good. I’m excited, and the pressure is down. Everything’s done, so I’m going to go out there and have fun. I’m not trying to prove anything.”

Barnes is capable of throwing much further than the numbers he has put up in the postseason.

“I think the key for Joe is to stay relaxed,” Braves coach Derrick Koch said. “Just talking and messing around with the guys, that helps him stay loose. I think that if he gets close to his PR it will be a good end to the season for him.”

At the Mid-Southern Conference meet, Barnes threw a school record 57-10.

He thinks he can shatter that mark.

“I want to as close to 60 feet as I can,” Barnes said. “At regional, I had three throws just out of bounds at the 60-foot line.”

At last year’s state finals, Barnes threw 50-11 3/4 for 15th place.

“It’s a great feeling (going back), and really personal,” Barnes said. “We’ve had some really good throwers in the past, but I don’t think we’ve had that thrower. I want people to say that Brownstown is known for throwers. I want  people to know that this is a throwing school, too, it’s not just fast kids and football: we can do other things, too, and (Ritz) is a good example of this too.”

Ritz focused on the task at hand

While he broke the mark almost a month ago, Ritz told Koch not to change the school record board before the season finished.

Ritz said he believes his best is yet to come in the pole vault.

In his first year going to state, Ritz is keeping a positive attitude and setting the bar high.

“I need to treat it like another meet,” Ritz said. ‘When you get in your head, it’s different: Then you start jumping worse. I just need to attack it.”

This week, he’s going to Shelbyville, Kentucky — where he practices during the summers and winters — to work with five other state qualifiers and coaches.

“We’ve been working a lot on invert, turn and finishing over  the top — just fundamentals still,” Ritz said. “I just want to get better every day. I have another season to impress people.”

Ritz cleared 14-3 to set the new school record and win the BNL Sectional before placing third at Bloomington North Regional at 14-0.

“(Ritz) has been focused all season,” Koch said. “I think just being there is a great experience for him. I want him to be back next year, and I think that whatever he learns this year will help him in his senior season. There will be nerves, and if he can handle it this time he will do great.”

Ritz said he thinks he’s performing at his best right now.

“Every meet feels a little better,” he said. “The sectionals and regionals both felt awesome. State is going to feel the best.”

Of the 27 vaulters, Ritz is the 12th seed going into competition.

Of those seeded above him, Ritz is the second highest seeded junior.

Frankfort junior Colton Crum has the highest vault from regional competetion, clearing 16-6.

Ritz said that it’s special to represent Brownstown Central on the big stage.

“It means a lot, it feels really good to not just represent my self, but the whole school,” he  said. “I just need to put everything I have in there. I’m standing for an entire community, not just myself.”

Koch said that sending two athletes is an impressive feat for the Braves.

“For a school our size, we have two girls (Brooklyn Snodgrass, Trentity Vaught) and two boys going to state,” he said. “It has been impressive for a school of our size. I think it’s a great showing for us. I’m excited to have two of our guys there.”

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Jordan Morey is sports editor at The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at jmorey@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.