For the first time, four Jackson County schools will be represented at the girls track and field state finals at Indiana University’s Robert C. Haugh Track & Field Complex.

Brownstown Central, Crothersville, Seymour and Trinity Lutheran all will send athletes Saturday.

Barger paving the way

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When all is said and done, senior Breanna Barger will go down as one of if not the best girls runner to ever come out of Crothersville.

Barger, who holds five school records across the same number of events, defied the odds at the Bloomington North Regional in the 800-meter run to advance to IU.

Seeded 13th in the regional race, Barger shot out to the front of the pack and placed third in 2:25.66 to secure Crothersville’s first state berth for a girls runner.

Barger’s time set the school record for the run.

“She has been dedicated, and it has finally paid off in this manner,” Tigers coach Cheryl Nehrt said. “Breanna is a wonderful person, and it couldn’t have happened to a better person. As a coach, we’re really, really proud of her.”

At the Seymour Sectional, Barger ran a 2:35.43 for runner-up in the 800.

“I worked hard for it, and I can’t wait to experience (state),” Barger said. “I want to try and get around a 2:20. I’m expecting a lot of competition and a lot of fast times. I do a lot better in competition just because I don’t like to lose. My times are always a lot better.”

Barger will look to shock the field again this weekend, as she’s seeded last of 27 runners in the 800. Pioneer senior Madison Kiser is the favorite, coming in with a time of 2:12.48.

Throughout her running career, Barger always has pushed herself to get better.

“Breanna is a self-motivated runner,” Nehrt said. “I haven’t really had to push her. When we went into the regional, our whole purpose was the school record. Making it to state was a bonus. She’s one of those kids that never asks if she’s done, but what else can she do.”

Barger said it’s special for her to represent Crothersville on the big stage.

“It means a lot, all these little kids that look up to me, and it shows them they can be something,” Barger said. “All of the coaches that have supported me through the year, I’m glad I can do it for them.”

Braves send two back to IU

Brownstown Central senior Trentity Vaught and sophomore Brooklyn Snodgrass both return to state in the same events they qualified for in 2016.

Vaught will throw the discus, while Snodgrass will sprint the 100-meter dash.

At last year’s state, Vaught threw 99 feet for 25th place of 27 in the discus.

She has dramatically improved her distances and consistency this season, winning the sectional with a toss of 118-6 and placing third at regional with a throw of 121-11.

Her personal best is 122-8, but Vaught wants more.

“I really want a 135. That’s my goal,” Vaught said. “I’m really going to need to stand up in the front, not bend my knee and emphasize the lift at the end of the throw.”

Vaught plans to throw at Ball State University and wants to finish her high school career on a high note.

“I really want to get a good mark in before I go to Ball State to throw,” Vaught said. “I want my coaches to know that I’m serious about progressing and becoming a better athlete.”

Braves coach Maria Conklin said she believes Vaught has what it takes to make the finals.

“She has really good pull and arm speed. She gets after it on the front,” she said. “We’re working on tweaking a couple things. I want her to be top nine. I think that would be a big honor for her. I think she’s capable of doing it.”

This time around, Snodgrass isn’t going to let her nerves get the best of her at IU.

“Last year, I was freaking out when I got there as a freshman,” Snodgrass said. “There were so many people, and they were all so much taller. They’re a whole different breed of human (at state).”

With a time of 12.92 in last year’s state finals, Snodgrass was 24th of 27.

She comes into the 2017 meet with a time of 12.75, which placed her third at regional.

Snodgrass was sectional champion in the event, clocking 12.77.

“I’m seeded 24th as of my regional time, but it was not the best I’ve ran,” Snodgrass said. “I’m looking for a strong start and to stay consistent through the race. I’ve had a little wobble after the start my last couple races, and it has thrown me off a little.”

Earlier this season, in a tri-meet with Columbus East and Jennings County, Snodgrass set the school record with a handheld time of 12.4.

“I think she can have a good race and break her school record again,” Conklin said. “We’ve been working on her starts and coming out of the blocks. She’s coming out really strong right now after not coming out as well in regional.”

Avon senior Diamond Mitchell is the race’s favorite (11.73).

Peters sets the bar higher

Trinity Lutheran senior Hailley Peters has high expectations for her second and final state meet in the high jump.

With sectional (5-3) and regional (5-4) titles under her belt, Peters aims for a top-eight finish with her final jumps.

“It’s just tremendous,” Cougars coach Caleb Tormoehlen said. “Coming from a school this size and going over there and competing with Bloomington North, South and some of the other bigger schools is super-exciting. The school and coaches are proud.”

This year, Peters is tied for the 14th seed following regional competition.

Five jumpers come in at 5-4 1/4, three have cleared 5-5, two 5-6 and three 5-7 or higher.

Zionsville junior Katie Isenbarger is the top seed at 5-9.

Midway through the season, during a meet in Osgood, Peters set the school record by making it over 5-5.

“I’m excited and happy with what I’m doing right now,” Peters said. “I feel like I’m getting the lower heights that I need to clear on first attempts. My goal is to be on the podium. I want to keep up with the better jumpers in the state.”

Peters cleared 5-2 last year, placing 18th of 27.

“She needs to keep her speed up on the approach,” Tormoehlen said. “Hayden Stuckwisch has been awesome working with her this year. She needs to make sure she doesn’t take a step out when she needs to jump and finish at the end.”

Both Peters and Tormoehlen are hoping everything comes together one last time.

“I would really like to see her in the top eight,” Tormoehlen said. “It’s going to take some work she hasn’t done quite yet. She has shown numerous attempts this year where she’s more than capable of hitting 5-6 or 5-7.”

Chase making first appearance

While she has competed at the state level in cross-country twice, the highest level of running in track is foreign to Seymour sophomore Ashton Chase.

Prepping for her state debut in the 1,600-meter run, the distance runner is staying confident and not trying to overthink the process.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Chase said. “I feel like a lot of my confidence is coming back, and I’m feeling confident about myself right now. The coaches are telling me to just go out and run my race. I need to go out and have fun. I want to give it all I’ve got and leave nothing behind.”

Chase was sectional champion in 5:22.46 and third at regional in 5:13.16.

She’s the 23rd seed coming in, and Greencastle sophomore Emma Wilson is the favorite (4:55.96).

Chase ran with Wilson at Bloomington North last week.

“I think she will surprise some people,” Owls coach Randy Fife said. “In the season, we didn’t really focus on a specific race for her. She ran the 4×800 relay, 1,600 and 3,200. She was never really dedicated to that 1,600 like she is now.”

Fife said for first-time state athletes, it’s about finding balance with the hype.

“We make sure that they know what they’ve accomplished so far,” Fife said. “We don’t want to put much pressure on them. She will go and compete, and the athletes will worry about how they do. There’s a balance between going up to have fun and going up to compete.”

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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.