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Indians track teams should have better depth

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

GAS CITY — Mississinewa boys' and girls' athletes compete this spring on a newly resurfaced and expanded eight-lane track, and the Indians saw immediate benefits in their season-opening meet Tuesday evening.

A school-record performance from Aurora Fisher in the 3,200 meters and a near record from Carli Fones in the 100 anchored the girls' performance in the triangular with Madison-Grant and Elwood. Ole Miss won with 81 points, followed by Elwood with 63 and Madison-Grant 10.

Even without distance standout Brennen Butche, the Indians boys also cruised to behind three first-place performances from Cory Quakenbush and Jacob Ehmer, scoring 85 points to Madison-Grant's 36 and Elwood's 33.

Coach Leonard Arbogast also has greater numbers with a combined 62 athletes out for the track and field teams, and he hopes that can close the distance with Oak Hill and Eastbrook, the two pre-eminent programs in Grant County. As Arbogast has discovered, depth is an important ingredient in challenging those schools.

"One challenge with larger numbers is you need to figure where you're at and spread them around and maybe we can get some kids focusing on a couple events and maybe get stronger at them and we really need to work on that second and third (athlete) and that's what we're hoping to find out," Arbogast said.

"We want to improve in the county and (Central Indiana) conference," he added. "That's been our goal for the last four or five years and that's where the No. 2 and 3s come into play. If we find the No. 2s we can improve in the conference and county."

A cold afternoon-evening with temperatures hovering in the 40s might not have been conducive for good times. Yet, Fisher was able to set a new standard in the 3,200 with a 12:40.5 clocking and eclipse Amanda Baldwin, who had ran 12:41 last year. Fisher finished the meet a triple-winner, adding firsts in the 1,600 in 6:14 and anchoring the 3,200 relay.

Fones ran 12:65 seconds in the 100 and was about one-half second off the school standard held by Sydni Mingo in 2012. The sophomore standout joined Fisher as a triple winner with triumphs in the 200 in :28.1 and anchoring the 400 relay team.

"We're still trying to get used to (the new track)," Arbogast said. "It's certainly an upgrade from what we've had, surface-wise, and you saw a 3,200 record broken by Aurora. She actually ran a little faster indoors.

"But overall, for early in the season season and in the cold there were some times, and we hope in the long run to see faster times."

Mississinewa's girls had a third triple winner with junior Beth Lucas sweeping the 100 hurdles (:17.1) and 300 hurdles (:53.0) races and joining Fones in the 400 relay. Lucas is a transfer from Oregon where she was a successful hurdler and advanced to the second round of their state tournament.

Lucas, Fones and boys' standout Heisman Skeens will represent Mississinewa on Friday in the Lafayette Jeff Sprint Invitational. At the same time, Butche will run in the prestigious "Miracle Mile" distance event at Franklin Central, Indianapolis.

The girls may not have the depth of the boys' team, according to Arbogast. Yet, Fones, a regional qualifier last year, Lucas and Fisher have the potential to win or finish high in most races.  

"When the weather warms up we're going to try and find some other events for (Lucas)," Arbogast said. "Carli has been working hard and she wants to get on to state, and we have a number of kids who want to do that — they don't just want to get to sectionals and be done.

Arbogast said other point producers for the girls should be Haleigh Skeens in the sprints, Jenna Dawson in the 400 and 800 and freshman Alayna Webb in the sprints and jumps. Webb gave the Indians their only field events victory in the long jump (14 feet even).

Butche looks to parlay his fifth-place finish in the IHSAA cross country state finals last fall to a strong track and field season. However, he currently is nursing a back-hip injury and was held out of Wednesday's meet and won't compete today in a dual against Wabash in preparation for the Miracle Mile.

"He says there's no way he won't race Friday," Arbogast said of Butche. "We're trying to make sure he stays healthy ... and it's actually paining him more to sit and have to do alternative training. He's been in the pool and doing different things and trying to work through it."

Ehmer stepped up in Butche's absence and won the 800 in 2:22 and the 1,600 in 5:23 and ran on the winning 3,200 relay. Returnees Cameron Sizemore and Zak Huffman provide additional depth in the distance events.

Tabias Mead won the 100 in :11.4 and Heisman Skeens won the 200 in :24.2 on Wednesday and they are the top boys' sprinters. Quakenbush won the long jump in 19-8 and then picked up firsts in the 400 in :55.0 and the 3,200 relay.

Mead also could help in the throws, where Weston Lockwood and Jason Arbogast already are solid contributors. The Indians also look for depth from Kaden Cole and Elijah Standridge in sprints, Ian Fetterhoff in sprints, Camden Dorothy in distance and Chris Pavey in hurdles.