Times Sports Editor
The quest for the state finals begins this week for boys' and girls' track teams around the state.
Clay County teams compete at Terre Haute North High School this week with the girls competing today beginning at 5:30 p.m. and the boys on Thursday evening.
Northview girls' coach Ryand Tucker believes his team has the ability to advance its team finish this year following a third place last season.
"Team-wise I think we can finish second," said Tucker. "I'll be disappointed if we're not. Terre Haute North is stacked and has someone who can win every event."
The Patriots should be the prohibitive favorite to repeat as team champion after winning by more than 70 points last year.
Northview and Clay City each have athletes who have the talent to advance to the regional, but the ultimate goal is to qualify for the state finals.
One of Northview's top hopes is Samantha Solomon who has come on as the season progressed and holds down a top seed in the discus, an event the Knights have excelled in the past several years.
"Samantha is seeded first in the discus by 14 feet," said Tucker. "If she throws like she's capable of, she should walk away with it."
Solomon's top throw this season was a 114-3 effort that is on par with last year's title-winning throw from Clay City graduate Kasey Waite (116-3). Solomon is seeded fourth in the shot put and with a top effort, could advance to the regional in that event as well.
Clay City's top throwers include both Lydia Farmer and Kalyn Biel, who have each improved greatly towards the end of the season.
Shandi Travis is the defending champion in the high jump, besting Clay City's Rachael Narlock. Both athletes are looking for a repeat and are seeded second after clearing 5-0 this season.
"I'm expecting Shandi to jump well," commented Tucker. "She's been jumping high, but some form and technique things have given her some problems."
Sara Niehaus has a top jump of 14-8 in the long jump this year, which puts her in the thick of a qualifying battle for the regional if she can have a great effort today.
"Sara won the long jump in the WIC, which was a pleasant surprise especially in the weather," said Tucker. "She has the potential to get out in that event."
Niehaus is also a member of the Knights' 4x100 relay team along with Carlee Bell, Elle Kleiber and Annie Smiley. That team has a seeded time of 52.10 and has the potential to challenge top-seeded Terre Haute North if they can rip off a season-best time.
Smiley and Bell should also score points for the Knights in other sprinting events.
In the 300 hurdles, Smiley is seeded third in the event with a time of 50.70 and has cleared 8-0 in the pole vault for a second seed.
"Annie was a little timid at first in the hurdles, but once she saw that she could do it she's done well," said Tucker. "She'll only be running the 300 hurdles because she's doing the pole vault."
Bell will have some tough competition in the 200 meters along with Kleiber. North Central sophomore Shelby Higginbottom has achieved the qualifying standard in both the 100 and 200 meters and is the top seed.
Bell also is seeded fifth in the 400 meters with Clay City freshman Ashley Seymour also competing in the event.
Clay City senior Andrea Ladd could also prove to be a big factor in the sprinting events. She'll compete for the Eels 4x100 relay team along with Narlock, Hanna Moore and Brittany Richard, that is running in the fastest heat.
Ladd is also one of the top seeded runners at 100 and 200 meters.
In the distance events, Northview's CJ Barnett, Shelby Sands and Allie True have come through with important points this season. Kylee Thacker has battled injuries this season so her schedule has been trimmed back for the postseason.
"I think the girls have realized that they could be point scorers," said Tucker of his athletes. "CJ (Barnett), Shelby (Sands) and Allie True have stepped."
True and Thacker each are competing in the 3,200 meters with Terre Haute North's Amy Hamilton the top-seed.
In the 1,600 meters, Sands and Barnett will battle for a regional spot for the Knights.
After placing seventh in the sectional last year, Clay City's Megan Vansickle will compete for the Eels 4x800 relay team with Moore, Chantel Narlock and Lindsay Vencel.
The Knights relay team of Thacker, Truc, Barnett and Sands is seeded second.
The Clay City 4x.400 relay team also has its eyes set on a qualifying spot for the regional with Ladd, Moore, Narlock and Seymour scheduled to compete for the fourth-seeded team.
"We hoping to qualify (athletes) in 13 or 14 events," said Tucker of his team's goals.