Times Staff Reporter
After a seven-year lull, the Northview boys' track and field program and two for the girls program, the Knights will have three competitors taking part in the IHSAA State Finals in Bloomington, beginning today.
Joel Whittington (300 M. Hurdles) and Conor Strain (1600 M. run) will represent the Knights on the boys' side, while Samantha Solomon (discus) will make the jaunt for the girls' squad.
The trip marks a significant milestone for Solomon, who said she's been dreaming of being a state qualifier throughout her high school career. An "extremely excited" Solomon, who came just three inches short of setting the school discus record (117'3) at last week's regional competition, said she hopes to reach 120 feet.
One obstacle, which could stand in Solomon's way is a minor knee injury, which she sustained during a practice session Tuesday. Though she will be forced to compete in a brace, Solomon said she isn't planning on letting the injury affect her performance.
"I'm not going to let (my injury) bother me," said Solomon, who will continue her track and field pursuits collegiately with Indiana Tech of Fort Wayne. "This is one of my dreams, and I'm too excited to let an injury bother me."
For Whittington, a junior, the state competition caps a remarkable post-season run. Following a sectional performance in which he placed first in three events, Whittington said a personal record, running a 39.82 in the regional event, which was good enough for third-place, was a highlight.
Despite his high caliber performance thus far, Whittington acknowledged he was facing a much higher level of competition on Friday. Aside from his goal of topping his regional time, he says he hopes to prove he belongs in a race against the state's best high school runners.
"I guess I'd say I'm both nervous and excited," Whittington said. "I've never gone against a field of this caliber in the regular season. I just want to beat as many people as possible."
Of the three competitors, Strain, who says he has "verbally committed" to running at Indiana State next year, is the only one with previous state experience, qualifying for the highest level of high school competition as a junior cross country runner.
Despite his experience, Strain says he feels the great differences between the two sports doesn't give him an advantage. Despite this, he seemed confident in his ability to compete and said he was eager to participate.
"I'm excited," Strain said. "I'm not very nervous about (running at state), and I think I can do pretty well."
The success of the Northview program also reflects strongly on coaches Chad Smith (boys) and Ryand Tucker (girls). Smith seemed very proud when discussing the team, and said he was eager to see how they fare against some of the state's best young athletes. While stressing the importance of track as a team sport, Smith said at this stage it's crucial to acknowledge each competitors accomplishments on their own.
"At this stage, it's an individual thing," Smith said. "These kids have done great things all year and I hope they have their best day of the year."
Smith said he thought all three Knight participants had a realistic chance of achieving all-state honors, which are given to top-10 finishers. Regardless of the results, Smith said the accomplishments marked a banner moment for the track program, the momentum of which he hoped would carry over into future years.
"It's just been a terrific year for Northview track and field," Smith said. "I'm just very excited for our track program."