The big one: Four Jackson County athletes heading to state track and field finals

School is no longer in session, but the spring sports season isn’t over for some local high school athletes.

Two girls and two boys will represent Jackson County at the 2019 IHSAA Track and Field State Finals on Friday and Saturday in Bloomington.

Seymour senior Ashton Chase and sophomore Josh Pennington and Brownstown Central seniors Brooklyn Snodgrass and Caleb Bollinger will compete at Indiana University’s Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex at Indiana University.

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Bollinger making

return to state finals

Brownstown Central has become known as a pole vaulting school. The Braves have now sent a pole vaulter to IU for four straight years.

Friday’s competition will mark the second straight state appearance for Bollinger, who enters as the No. 22 seed of 29 total competitors.

At last week’s regional at Bloomington North, Bollinger, a two-time sectional champion, set a personal record of 13 feet, 8 inches to finish runner-up.

“This is my senior year, and this is it,” he said. “Being able to go back means a lot to me. We’ve worked so hard, and now, it’s finally time for us to relax and jump how I’m supposed to jump.”

Bollinger said he changed his form going into his final season at BCHS and started making trips to Bloomington to work on his craft.

“The biggest thing I changed was the top of my jump,” he said. “I wasn’t getting around enough to catch the ride of the pole. Now, I’m starting to get upside down on the pole, and it is giving more of a ride. My run, too. I’m a football player and run like a running back. In pole vaulting, you want to be more upright when you run. It has really helped with the jump.”

The No. 1 seed is Lawrence North senior Nathan Stone, who comes in at 17-0¼. The No. 2 through No. 5 spots have all cleared 15 feet.

Colton Ritz, a 2018 BCHS grad, holds the school record at 15 feet. Ritz and Bollinger both went to state last spring.

In the 2018 meet, Bollinger cleared 12-6 to tie for 22nd overall.

“I’m feeling really good right now,” Bollinger said. “I’m finally healthy for once. My expectation for the meet is to jump my best. There’s no certain goal I’m trying to hit. I don’t really want to get heights in my head.”

Braves coach Derrick Koch said he feels Bollinger can set another personal record at state.

“For most of the season, he was hitting 12 feet. He’s really peaking now,” Koch said. “He’s really stepping up to the competition and doing what he needs to do to advance. Mentally, he’s ready to go. I have been impressed with his mental preparation.

“I want him to PR. I know he’s looking at 14-0 or higher. If he goes in and sets a personal best in that atmosphere, that’s what we’re looking for.”

Bollinger is going to attend Eastern Kentucky University and plans on studying fire science. He said he’s considering trying out for the track and field team there.

Pennington set for first state appearance

In one year, Pennington went from last in the regional meet for the 110-meter hurdles to almost winning the event.

He shaved a full second off of his time during the regional May 23 to punch his first ticket to state.

Pennington enters the state meet at No. 26 of 27 in the hurdles with a time of 15.31. At the regional, he led 70 meters into the race before getting edged at the finish.

“It feels good to still be practicing and not have everything over,” Pennington said. “It’s not like I can just come out and practice whenever I want. Even if it’s me by myself, it still feels good.”

While Pennington seemingly emerged onto the scene this spring, Owls head coach Randy Fife said the staff knew he had the potential.

“He was our school record holder in the middle school, and he had a good year as a freshman,” he said. “He came in and three-stepped right away, which is pretty rare for a freshman. This year, we spent some time on the hurdles early in the year and then ended up moving him to the long jump and to relays.

“He didn’t do as much hurdle work through the middle of the season, but late in the year, he started making a lot of progress. He surprised the heck out of me with the improvement he showed.”

Eight runners come in having met the state meet standard of 14.65. The only athlete to break 14 seconds is Franklin Central senior Malachi Quarles, who enters at 13.79 as the favorite.

Fife wants to see another PR out of Pennington at state.

“I want to see a clean race. If he can get a good start and to the first hurdle without slowing down, he will have a chance to PR again,” Fife said. “I think making the finals will be a challenge because it’s a loaded field, but anything can happen.”

Pennington has participated in the hurdles for four years and said he learned to do the event from his coaches and watching videos online.

“To me, hurdles is fun. Running and jumping is fun,” Pennington said. “A lot of guys think it’s really hard, but it’s not. You just have to get it down. It’s a really fun thing to do.”

The school record in the high hurdles is 14.6, set by Dan Bottorff in 1978.

Fife said Pennington’s advancement to state is a big feat and that it has been years since SHS has sent an athlete to state in the event.

“If you make the state finals in the hurdles, that’s a mark of a really good athlete,” he said. “That’s not an event you can get in easily. I’m really proud of him.”

Chase eyes pair of school records

The most decorated female runner in Seymour High School history has just one race left on her schedule, and she intends to make the most of it.

Chase knows the IU track and is going into the meet ready to compete for a podium spot in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs.

Saturday will be the third time Chase runs the mile at state and the first time for the two-mile.

While she ran both the 1,600 and the 4×800 relay at state last year, she said it means a lot to her to qualify in two individual events this spring.

“It’s my last year of being here at Seymour High School,” Chase said. “It’s big for me to make it to state in two events. I’m really proud of making both.”

In the postseason, Chase has put together the best performances of her track career.

At this year’s sectional, she was seven-tenths off of the school record to win the mile with a time of 5:07.30. She was second place and a second slower at the regional the following week.

While the regional mile wasn’t quite where she wanted it to be, she made up for it in the two-mile. Chase was seven seconds off of the school record for the 3,200 with a time of 11:26.08. In the sectional, Chase finished in 11:43.

“Going into sectional this year, she has been a totally different runner than what I’ve seen the past three years,” Owls coach Spencer Sunbury said. “Where she is at right now is so much better than where she was the past three years with her confidence, speed and strength. She’s enjoying it. There’s no stress of what she’s doing next year. She seems to be having a little more fun with racing.”

Chase is the No. 14 seed of 27 in the 1,600 and 23rd of 27 in the 3,200. Brownsburg sophomore Abigail Lynch is the favorite to win the 1,600, coming in with a time of 4:52.73, and Hamilton Southeastern senior Lulu Black is expected to win the 3,200 (10:46.48).

Chase was 15th at state as both a sophomore (5:13.65) and a junior (5:12.19) in the mile.

While Chase won both the 1,600 and 3,200 all four years of her career in the sectional, last week was the first time she had run the two-mile at regional.

In the past, Chase focused on the 4×400 and 4×800 relays, 800 and 1,600.

“It wasn’t even my plan to have her in the two-mile this year,” Sunbury said. “I asked her and she said she wanted to try it. Even when she qualified out of sectional, she thought about it a little bit. She said she wanted to give it a try. I think she’s excited about running both of those at state. Last year, we just focused on the mile. I felt like that is where she had the best chance. I think it has worked out. She has excelled in both of them.”

Once she’s done with the state meet, Chase will start her collegiate running career at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Chase said her coach at IUPUI has attended several meets this year and that it’s hard to believe her high school career is almost over.

“I’m trying to think happy thoughts right now,” she said. “I’m going to give it everything I have.”

Snodgrass ready for historic finish

While she didn’t break her own school record in last week’s regional, Snodgrass may have put together the best race of her career.

The Brownstown Central senior entered the 100-meter dash as the No. 7 seed at the Bloomington North Regional after barely squeaking out of the sectional with a third-place finish.

At the regional, Snodgrass shocked the competition by taking third place in 12.81. By leaning at the very end of her race, Snodgrass beat out the fourth-place runner by four-hundredths of a second.

“I kicked it into a whole other gear,” Snodgrass said. “I didn’t really think the entire time. I was so excited about my PR in pole vault that I went right down there and didn’t do my normal routine. I didn’t do a runout, and I completely forgot to set my blocks. The starter was talking to us, and I turned around and realized I hadn’t done anything.”

Snodgrass is making a fourth straight appearance at state in the 100.

Only two other female track and field athletes — Kassie Kovert and Winter Holman — have advanced to state each year of their career at BCHS.

“She persevered and knew what she needed to do in that final race,” Braves coach Maria Conklin said. “Going into the regional, she was the seven seed. Others probably didn’t expect much, but she knew what she needed to do. She needed a strong start out of the blocks.

“I think the experience was it. I saw a picture at the end, and you can see that it was her lean that got her in at the end. It’s just that experience. It would be nice if she could beat her school record one more time.”

Snodgrass owns the school record in the 100 at 12.47 seconds, which she set during the 2018 sectional.

The senior was 24th as a freshman (12.92), 21st her sophomore year (12.70) and 23rd last spring (12.74).

This year, Snodgrass enters as the No. 23 seed of 27. Brebeuf Jesuit senior Semira Killebrew (11.89) has the fastest time entering the meet.

“I just want to have fun. It’s my last go-around,” Snodgrass said. “I know some of the girls there now from being there before. I just don’t want to get last, which is my goal every year.”

Snodgrass will attend the University of Indianapolis this fall. She said she was directly admitted into the school’s physical therapy program and is considering trying out for the track team depending on her academic load.

Whether she runs in college or not, Snodgrass hopes she has left a legacy at BCHS.

“I want to be remembered as a good athlete that encourages everybody,” Snodgrass said. “I feel like I’ve done that. I try to encourage everyone I’m with. I just try to be supportive of everyone.”

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Boys Track and Field State Finals

When: 3 p.m. Friday

Where: Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex at Indiana University in Bloomington

Admission: $10

Local qualifiers: Brownstown Central’s Caleb Bollinger (pole vault) and Seymour’s Josh Pennington (110-meter hurdles)

Girls Track and Field State Finals

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex at Indiana University in Bloomington

Admission: $10

Local qualifiers: Brownstown Central’s Brooklyn Snodgrass (100-meter dash) and Seymour’s Ashton Chase (1,600- and 3,200-meter runs)