FORT WAYNE – Two of the areas top girls track athletes will not be able to defend their state titles, and surgery almost cost a third athlete her chance to repeat.
Carroll’s Sara McKeeman had an intense surgical procedure in the offseason, casting doubt on whether she would be able to compete in Friday’s state pole vault competition. That would have put her into frustrating company with Wayne’s Brionna Thomas, who won the 100- and 200-meter races last year, and Northrop’s Dejah Arnold, the defending 400 champion.
It was a blessing to win last year, McKeeman said. I wouldn’t consider myself the best vaulter in the state, I am just up there. I was blessed on that day. This whole season, I have been up and down. It has been iffy, and it hasn’t made me feel overly confident. I still know I have it in me.
McKeeman had hip surgery in the fall, and the recovery has been tough for the senior. She was on crutches for 2 1/2 months and returned to vaulting only in February.
It has kind of been a struggle to recover from, she said. I have been battling that this whole season and trying to get back where I was. My goal Friday is to do my best and vaulting for me rather than defending my title.
McKeeman comes into the state meet as the fifth seed with a vault of 12 feet at the regional. The top seed is Angola’s Kennedy Trine.
Realistically, my goals for state would be to vault 13 feet and place in the top three, although winning would be ideal, Trine said. I would say that being seeded No. 1 gives me confidence more than makes me feel under pressure. It gives me an understanding of where I stand and helps me figure out how I should withhold that standing.
Someone else could still win the state pole vault title, but at least McKeeman will be competing.
Thomas pulled a hamstring at the SAC meet in May, and Arnold suffered a leg injury in April. Although Arnold has returned, she will be only in relay events.
She has been training the past week or so, Northrop coach Terry Milton said of last week’s regional. With another week and a half and some light training, she will be ready for the (400 and 1,600 relays).
Thomas wasn’t able to run in the sectional and regional and couldn’t qualify for state. She might have been available for the 400 relay if the Generals would have made it out of the regional in that event.
Concordia senior hurdler Symone Black could be the area’s best chance to have an individual champion. She is the defending state champion in the 300 hurdles and would also like to add the 100 hurdles state title.
Black is the No. 1 seed in the 300 hurdles (42.51) and the third seed in the 100 hurdles (14.55).
The goal is to win both, Black said. I have to do that by just worrying about myself and the hurdle, not anything else because I know what I have to do, just execute.
Bellmont’s Holly Hankenson leads nine area athletes in the long jump as the No. 1 seed (18-8).