Times Sports Editor
Three Northview Knights will get to show their talents on the biggest high school stage for track and field athletes in the state of Indiana. For two of them, this will conclude a standout prep career at Northview and all three are hoping to end the season at the highest level.
Both Samantha Solomon and Conor Strain are seniors and are coming off their best efforts in the Evansville Central Regional last weekend. Solomon will take part in the IHSAA Girls' State Track and Field Finals held today at Indiana University's facilities in Bloomington. Strain will take part in the boys' meet, held Saturday afternoon at the same location.
Solomon is coming off a second-place finish at the regional level, throwing a career-best 117-0, which was just three inches from the Northview High School record held by Ashley Davis.
Ironically, Davis is one of the high school coaches this season and her record throw came in 2007 at the regional level, propelling her to the state finals. Davis eventually went on to place 22nd in the state finals with a throw of 112-5. Davis was also joined that year by Kylee Thacker, who raced to an 18th-place finish in the 3,200 meters in 11:29.98. She is now competing in both cross-country and track at Indiana State University.
This evening, the girls' state meet gets underway with the field events, including the discus, at 3 p.m.
Solomon is scheduled to throw in the first of three flights and is seeded in a tie for third in her flight with only Penn's M.J. Doan (117-6) and East Central's Jordan Roell (117-10 ½), having better seeded distances in the flight.
For the Northview boys' Conor Strain is hoping to end his senior season in style after racing to his best time in the 1,600 meters, which earned him second at the Evansville Central Regional behind Shakamak's Drew Gambill.
Strain is joined by junior sprinter, Joel Whittington, who broke his own school record in the 300-meter hurdles during a third-place regional effort. His time of 39.82 topped his previous record of 40.68, set at Greencastle High School in a dual meet earlier this season.
The Northview boys are the first to qualify for the IHSAA State Finals since 2003 when Bryce Smith placed second in the 1,600 meters at the regional before placing 22nd in the state finals in 4:28.75.
Whittington is seeded second in the first section of the 300 hurdles on Saturday, which includes nine runners. Only East Noble's Nathan Mueller ran a faster seeded time with a 39.76. The top seed in the event is Max Tuttle of Bloomington North with a 37.49.
In the 1,600 meters, Carmel's Chris Walden is the top-seed at 4:20.20.
A look at Northview's track and field history in the state finals
The Northview girls' track and field program has had a fairly successful history of advancing competitors to the state finals level this decade.
There have been six different girls that have reached the state finals with Thacker and Davis being the most recent in 2007. However, Davis also qualified in 2005 with a third-place finish at the regional before placing 22nd in the discus at the finals with a throw of 113-2.
Also in 2005, Emily Pugh, who later went on to compete for Indiana State's program, placed second in the regional in the 3,200 meters and was 25th in the state finals with a time of 11:48. Of special note that season was Pugh's extraordinary effort in the Evansville Harrison Regional where she cut 35 seconds off her seeded time of 12:10, to finish second in 11:35.99.
Going further back in time, Andrea Jones got the 2000's started off for Northview High School by qualifying for the finals in the 3,200 meters where she placed 20th in 11:34.63. Two years later, it was Sondra Truax, who finished second in the regional discus with a throw of 112-1. Unfortunately, she failed to record a qualifying throw in the state finals. In 2004, Shandra Kirby placed second in the regional 800 meters with a time of 2:23.95 before finishing 19th in the finals with a time of 2:22.60.
The boys' program has had a little bit less success in terms of volume of athletes reaching the state finals level. However, they also boast the best finish of any of the nine total Knights to reach the finals.
In 2002, Smith competed in the 3,200 meters at the regional where he finished second in 9:39.48 before placing 12th in the state finals with a time of 9:42.36. That same year, he was joined by Ellis Gebert, who won the regional in discus with a throw of 154-1 and topped that in the state finals with a 15th-place throw of 156-10.
The only other male Northview athlete to reach the state finals this decade was Aaron Crawn in 2000, when he took 15th in the 1,600 meters with a time of 4:27.