Times Sports Editor
When Northview senior, Joel Whittington, steps into the starting blocks at today's IHSAA State Track and Field Finals at Indiana University, he has just one goal. A state championship.
And why not, Whittington has pretty much accomplished everything else that he can while competing for the Knights during his high school career. Whittington has broken records, won conference, sectional and regional titles, so a state championship remains as the lone goal to accomplish during his prep career.
Northview boys' head coach Chad Smith has watched Whittington emerge as one of the top track athletes in this area and believes that the senior's work ethic is second-to-none.
"In my opinion, Joel is the most well rounded track athlete that Northview has ever had," Smith said. "You could put him any event and he would excel. The great thing about Joel is that he would never complain about running events that he is not used to running."
Whittington is qualified for today's state finals in two events, the 110-meter high hurdles and the 300-meter hurdles. He won the 300 event in 38.68, which broke the school record, at the Evansville Central Regional and placed third in the 110 hurdles last week to reach the state finals in both events.
He will graduate this weekend with school records in the 110 hurdles (14.52), 300 hurdles (38.68) and 400-meters (49.89). He'll attend Wabash College in Crawfordsville this fall where he'll continue his track career and major in Psychology.
Whittington's versatility is what helps make him such a talented track athlete as he regularly ran, and won, the 100 and 200 meters during the season as well as competing on the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams.
He also ran the 400 meters once this season and broke the school record in a time of 49.89, which would have seeded him eighth in this year's finals if he had chosen to compete in that event during the postseason.
However, the hurdles has been his focus throughout his high school career as he's won sectional titles in both the 110 and 300 hurdles the last two years. Whittington qualified for the state finals last year and came home ninth in the 300 hurdles in 39.22.
Smith feels last year's experience has fueled Whittington's bid for a title this year as he comes into the meet seeded second to Warren Central senior, Arq'eil Shaw by just eight-hundredths of a second (38.69 to 38.61).
"We have focused this week's practice on the 300 hurdles," Smith said. "We have broken down the event into three different races, the start, the turn and the finish. He will be running the 110 hurdles at the state meet as well and we will use that as a tune up for the 300 hurdles. I feel that his mindset is to win the event. He has been there before and he knows what to expect."
Whittington is seeking the first track and field state championship for Northview since 1995 graduate Carri Long won two titles in the high jump.
"Winning the IHSAA State Championships would be incredible, but I am looking for him to run his best time of the season and if that is good enough to win then so be it," he said.
The state finals begin at 3 p.m., with the pole vault, long jump and discus with the trials for the 110 hurdles scheduled for 5:15 p.m. and the finals of the event slated for 6:15 p.m. The 300-meter hurdle finals are scheduled for 7:20 p.m.