Kate Connell of Seymour and Caleb Cummings of Brownstown Central are the type of athletes that track and field coaches like to have on their teams because they both compete in four events nearly every meet to score as many points as they can for their teams.
Connell does three field events — high jump, long jump and pole vault — and runs in the 100 high hurdles.
Cummings is the opposite with three running events — 100- and 200-meter dashes and 4×100 relay — and one field event — high jump.
When asked about favorite events, Connell said, “My favorite individual event would be the high jump. It’s the event that I’ve have been doing the longest, and I like to think that it’s the one that I’m best at.
“I like the 100 hurdles because, even though it is a sprint, it doesn’t feel like one to me,” she said. “I’ve gotten my steps for hurdles to a pretty consistent place. But every now and then, I still clip my knees on the top of them when I go over them. I always go over with my right leg first, and then I alternate right and left the rest of the hurdles.”
Cummings said his favorite event is the 200.
“I started sprinting at the end of my fifth grade year because I quit baseball. I love the 200,” he said. “I like the curve. I like running in lanes five or six. My best time is 22.9 that I did indoors at IU (Bloomington).”
Connell said it takes a lot of practice to execute a successful high jump.
“High jump is definitely one of the most technically challenging events in track and field. There are so many components all coming together so quickly, and if you come up short in any one of them, then the entire jump can fall apart really fast,” she said. “You have to make sure you follow a good path to the bar so that when you get to your takeoff spot, you have enough speed and power to make it over while also putting your body in a good position to flip over the bar.”
“Whenever you take off, you have to throw your arm and knee up simultaneously, and that’s what gives you the height to get over the bar,” Connell continued. “Once you are in the air, you have to drop your shoulders and push your hips up while arching your back so that your body forms a kind of arch over the bar to keep you from hitting it. The last step is to throw your legs up and over so that they don’t clip the bar on your way down onto the mat.”
She takes off from the right side, which means she always ends up jumping off of her left leg.
“The key to a good long jump is taking off from the board with maximum speed and explosiveness,” Connell said. “To do that, you need a solid, consistent and fast approach. Even though brute force and power is a big part of it, you also need to be precise.”
Cummings said he began running track in sixth grade, while Connell started her track career in seventh grade. They were not able to compete in track their freshman year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cummings scored points in the 100 and 200 and as a member of the 4×100 relay team in the Mid-Southern Conference meet last year.
He said he prefers to run in lanes two or three in the 100 and said his best time is 11.2. He runs the lead leg in the 4×100 relay.
“Last year, we had Lane Zike (running second), and this year, we have freshman Jack Pace. He’s one of our fastest runners behind Hudson Fritz and me,” Cummings said. “He has to do his left hand (on the handoff), and I have to do right hand.”
He said he enjoys the high jump. He starts at 5-4 and has cleared 6 feet indoors, and he jumps off of his left leg.
“I love jumping,” he said. “Getting the turn in the 200, you get the feel of that. Then you do high jump and it just carries on from there.”
Both athletes said practice is very important.
“Even though it seems like the easy part, getting my steps down for the high jump, long jump and even the pole vault has definitely been a challenge over the years,” Connell said. “Factors like the weather, the track you’re running on and how tired your legs are can change them so much, it makes it difficult to be consistent with them at times.”
Cummings said most of his practices are 90 minutes.
“Coach tries to get us to run 400s, and we run them when we can. We’ll work a lot on lactic acid,” he said.
At SHS, Connell also played soccer and was a member of the girls swimming and diving team for four years.
“One of the things I like the most about sports at Seymour is the real sense of community that you get. Over the years, you make such strong bonds with your coaches and teammates, past and present,” she said. “No matter what sport it is, the stands and bleachers are always full of supportive parents, teachers and other staff, community members and fellow students.”
Connell said the thing she’ll miss most about sports and SHS is the friendships and memories that she has been able to make with her teammates.
“Sports are always a great way to get out of your comfort zone and make new friends, but I know that the memories that I’ve formed through soccer, diving and track will always be with me and the extraordinary friendships will follow me through life, no matter how far away from Seymour I might travel,” she said.
Cummings said through sports, he has learned the family feel is key.
“If you don’t have a good relationship with your teammates, you won’t succeed as much,” he said.
Both athletes said they want to qualify for regional in more than one event this spring.
“I’m looking to place first in conference. I’m looking to make a run for regional and hopefully go on to state in all of them. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, dedication and practice,” Cummings said.
“In the hurdles this year, I’d like to get a time under 17 seconds,” Connell said. “In the high jump, I’d like to match my 5-foot PR from last year. I don’t have a specific goal for long jump, but I’d like to see myself be consistent with my jumps and steps throughout the season. In pole vault, I’d like to hit 8 feet and make it to regional for a second year.”