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Hornocker sets county mark in 1,600 during Marion Sectional

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SIDE BY SIDE: Mississinewa's Carli Fones (left) and Marion's Katie Gadd run stride-for-stride coming to the finish line of the 200 meter race in the Marion Sectional Tuesday night at Indiana Wesleyan. Fones won the race by .25 seconds.
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CHAMPION: Oak Hill’s Margo Hornocker (4) runs next to Norwell’s Sydney Lambert on the opening lap of the 1,600 meter race during the Marion Sectional Tuesday night at IWU. Hornocker became the first girl in Grant County history to run the event in under five minutes, winning the race in 4:59=8.
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BATTLE: Eastbrook's Audrey Altum and Mississinewa's Beth Lucas clear the final hurdle in the 300 meter race nearly simultaneously Tuesday in the Marion Sectional. Altum edged Lucas by .06 seconds to win her third sectional title of the evening.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

It’s hard to believe with all she’s accomplished in her distance running career at Oak Hill, senior Margo Hornocker’s only sectional championship in track and field came in the 800 during last year’s sectional.

That changed drastically Tuesday evening at the Indiana Wesleyan University track stadium when she added two more sectional titles to her list, and along with it another Grant County record.

Hornocker battled for the first 400 meters of the 1,600 with Norwell’s Sydney Lambert before quickly and steadily kicking away from the standout sophomore. By the time Hornocker reached the finish line she’d reestablished the county record for the mile and also became the first girl to run sub-five minutes with a blistering 4:58.80 and a near 20 second victory over Lambert.

Hornocker would close her final sectional competition with a win in the 3,200 running 11:11.86 to finish three seconds ahead of Oak Hill sophomore Mollie Gamble.

“During (the 1,600) I kind of tried to treat it like it was a workout because we’ve been doing all these paces in practice,” Hornocker said. “I just tried to keep myself relaxed but still going fast and I felt good really good.”

While Hornocker’s mile was the top highlight of the Marion Sectional, all of Grant County’s other teams had several highlights of their own.

Norwell ended the meet with 143 points to easily capture the team title for the third straight year getting past Oak Hill (97.6), Eastbrook (64) and Mississinewa (62) and Elwood (50) in the 14 team race. The Panthers and Indians showed marked improvement over last season where Eastbrook was seventh and Ole Miss 10th.

“I’m in awe with a fourth place finish overall,” said Ole Miss coach Leonard Arbogast. “We thought it was great when our guys moved up to fifth last year, but its Norwell and the county schools. We’re one of the best county’s around. It’s a big step. We’re only losing two seniors and we’re already talking about what are we going to do next season.”

Before Mississinewa moves into next season’s preparations in earnest, the Indians will start preparing for the Marion Regional with a handful of qualifiers. Carli Fones was a double winner for Ole Miss taking both the 100 and 200, narrowly edging Marion’s Katie Gadd by .25 seconds in the later. Beth Lucas finished runner up in both the 100 and 300 hurdles, both to Eastbrook’s Audry Altum, the latter by a scant .06 seconds in a memorable battle to the finish line.

Kenzie Skeens also moved to regional with a second place finish in the long jump and the Indians will send their 4x100 relay team into next week as well. The 4x100 and Lucas in the 300 also established new school records, as did Aurora Fisher in the 3,200.

Altum was the lone three-time champion in the meet, adding the anchor leg of Eastbrook’s winning 4x100 relay team to her wins in both hurdle races. Altum held off a hard charging Fones as the Panthers nipped the Indians by .02 seconds.

Eastbrook’s Jenna King (2nd in discus) and Rachel Manning (3rd in high jump) will also compete in the regional.

“We ran some good times tonight, I think everybody improved a little here and there,” said Eastbrook coach Stu Goble. “We went from seventh last year to third this year. The girls did a great job. 

“(Altum) just gets better with every meet. Hurdles are not something you can duplicate in practice, you can pratcice them all you want to but you can’t ever do them at race speed,” Goble added. Every time right now she gets in hurdles she just improves a little bit. The 300 hurdles are really new to her. She’s only race those four or five times just this year. Her confidence level is just incredible right now.”

Gadd set out to qualify for regional in both the 200 and 400 and accomplished just that. Her runner-up finish to Fones in the 200 was coupled with a third place in the 400. Gadd was the lone Marion athlete to earn a trip into the next round. 

“We’re really excited for her to get an opportunity next week in both the (200) and (400),” said Marion coach Kevin Alsup of Gadd. “She’s been struggling with some injuries..but she gutted it out. She wanted to get out in both of them. She deserved it today and got out.”

Hornocker and Gamble will be joined in the regional for Oak Hill by pole vault sectional champion Leslie Tibbets. Tibbets battle with Northfield’s Attie Schuler into a vault-off and came out on top with a top clearance of 8-feet. 

Oak Hill also sends its sectional runner-up 4x400 relay team into the regional.

“We had some girls that had some surprising performances and competed at a high level and for us to come here and make the moves that we did and still finish second, I’m happy with that,” said Oak Hill coach Paige Brunner. “I’m happy for our girls. Norwell is an extremely talented team and program.

“I told our girls the last three years we’ve won about 80 meets and lost three and all three have been to Norwell,” he added.

“That’s been the bump in our way. We knew it was going to be a stretch coming in so we focused on the individuals and got some PRs and got some girls out and we’re happy.”

Brunner was also happy to see Hornocker finish off her career-sectional competition with a lasting impression.

“I was happy for her today to come out and run obviously a strong, confident race,” Brunner said of Hornocker. “She looked like a girl - I don’t want to say was on a mission - but she knew what she wanted and went out and got it. To run 4:48 on her own was an amazing race.”

Madison-Grant will also send one girl into next week’s Kokomo Regional. Senior Katelyn Shouse ran a PR in the 100 hurdles (16.91) to finish third in the Northwestern Sectional and advance.