If Seymour would have had a full roster at Saturday’s Bedford North Lawrence Regional, the Owls most likely would have been practicing this week for the unified track and field state finals.
Several members, however, were on the band trip to Disney World, with their families on vacation or had some other obligation, so only 13 of the team’s 40 athletes were available to compete.
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That resulted in Seymour placing 12th out of 12 teams with 55 points. BNL edged Jennings County 119-118 for the regional title.
The top six teams advanced to Saturday’s state meet at Indiana University in Bloomington. Others moving on from the BNL Regional were New Albany (109), Columbus North (106), Bloomington North (94) and Jasper (88).
Also competing were Mooresville (83), Franklin Central (80), Boonville (73), Mt. Vernon (69) and Brownsburg (66).
The 12 teams had qualified for regional after placing in the top three at sectionals May 18.
Competing in Borden that day, Seymour placed second with 94 points. That was with a full team.
Coach Jessica Floyd said making it to regional was a great accomplishment after Seymour finished last in the sectional in 2018, the first year of unified track and field at the school.
“Last year, I felt like we were participating, like we were just there, we were participating and learning,” she said. “This year, I felt like we were competing. We took what we learned last year, and now, we were able to apply it and really be able to compete, and to see our athletes compete was really cool.”
At regional, there were six flights in the mixed long jump and mixed shot put, six sections of the 100-meter dash and 400-meter dash and two sections of the boys 400-meter relay and girls 400-meter relay.
In each flight or section, points were earned based on placing, with first collecting 10 and decreasing in increments of two points or one point from there.
Seymour’s top placer was Peyton O’Donnell taking second in Flight 5 of the mixed shot put with a toss of 24 feet, 2 inches. He also took third in Section 6 of the 100-meter dash, crossing the finish line in 18.91 seconds.
Placing third in their flight were Kaylee Waskom (10-7) and Seth Lane (6-8¾) in the mixed long jump, and Keara Riley, Ella Wingler, Haley Ackeret and Aidan Hiester (1:11.68) in the 400-meter relay.
O’Donnell, a junior, said he had fun running alongside Hiester in the 100 and throwing the shot put. This season, he said he made a lot of friends and improved.
Riley said her teammates’ encouragement helped her improve this season.
“I just love being with my friends and running and just doing the best I can and having fun with everybody,” the sophomore said. “I think I’ve improved really good. I’ve just done the best I could do.”
Hiester, a junior, said she liked anchoring the relay and helping O’Donnell finish his race.
Helping the team qualify for regional is an accomplishment she won’t soon forget.
“Honestly, it was incredible, especially just because I participate in other sports and I haven’t gotten that opportunity,” she said. “I think getting the opportunity for my first time to participate in regional with these kids by my side, that is the most rewarding part of this is seeing their smiles and all of that.”
The team growing from 17 athletes last year to 40 this season was a big accomplishment, too, Hiester said.
“This year, just seeing the numbers the first day of practice was amazing, like, ‘Wow! This is what this could be,’ and it just showed what we can be in the future, too,” she said. “It was awesome to build all of these different relationships, and we got a bunch of different kids from different sports, which was really cool.”
Sophomore Levi Croquart was among the newcomers this spring. He said unified track and field allows everyone to see how much potential they have.
“It’s different because normally, when I did track, it was all about me, me, me, my personal best,” he said. “But now, I find myself encouraging other people more than I do myself.”
He also was happy to be a part of the first regional team.
“In my previous years (of track and field), getting to regional was impossible,” he said. “But now, I couldn’t do it without everybody else. It’s cool knowing you can depend on everybody else.”
Rachel Cain served as an assistant coach for the first time this year. She said it was great seeing everyone on the team get along and improve.
“It has been just an incredible accomplishment for all of our athletes seeing them cheering each other on … even if they weren’t participating, just coming to cheer on their teammates and friends that they’ve made throughout the season and seeing how hard they worked at sectional and then get to move on,” she said.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t have all of our athletes here today,” she said of regional. “Still, we came out and gave it our best. They continued to work hard.”
Other teams at regional took notice of Seymour, Floyd said.
“They saw us and they were like, ‘Oh, Seymour, when did you get a unified track and field team?’” she said. “Some of these teams have been around since it started four or five years ago, and they are excited to see more and more schools adding unified track teams to keep building the whole program.”
Cain liked how athletes from the advancing teams acknowledged Seymour.
“Even after scores were announced, teams who are going to go on to state took the time to come over and congratulate us for making it here, high-fiving all of our athletes, telling us ‘Awesome job,’” she said. “That was awesome.”
Floyd said she already has been approached by other students at the high school about competing in unified track and field next year.
Riley and Hiester are among the athletes who will be back next year.
“It felt really great because we’re the first (unified team) in Seymour to be able to get to regional, so that’s really important to me. Now, it gets me to work even harder,” Riley said.
“The numbers this year (at regional) were definitely unfortunate … but it shows that we can do that and we can maybe advance to state next year,” Hiester said. “We’ll set our standards high. We know that we can.”