IHSAA Tournament: 10 Girls Storylines to Watch For
The postseason is here and on Tuesday, the IHSAA State Tournament will get underway with the girls sectional meets.
Teams and individuals will start in 32 Sectionals, try to advance into 8 regionals, and then from there try to qualify for the 1 big state meet we have in Indiana where all competitors compete in a one class meet.
Indiana girls have had incredible success thus far in the 2023 season. As we head into the tournament there are a lot of names and stories to keep an eye on as the whole state turns to tournament time.
Who can win a state title or two? What teams stack up with the rest? What records might be broken?
We try to answer some of those questions and more below in our "10 Girls Storylines to watch for heading into the IHSAA Tournament"
10 Girls Storylines To Watch For
1. Distance Events- Who will be competing for the win in the 800/1600/3200?
The distance group has been one of the strongest groups in Indiana all year long. The "Big 3" of Delta's Nicki Southerland, and the Park Tudor duo of Sophia Kennedy and Gretchen Farley look to be the top contenders across the 3 distance events. But who will be in which events?
According to sectional heat sheets, we know Farley is listed in the 800 and the 3200, Kennedy in the 1600 and 3200, and Southerland listed in all 3 events. So, Southerland may have to fight off a Panther in two events to win one, or two, state titles.
It seems clear Farley will go after the win in the 800 after its been known she split 2:06 in a 4x800 relay earlier this month. Kennedy appears to be the best 3200 runner in the state, but can she also defeat Southerland in the 1600 first before taking her chance at the 3200?
Solution: Everyone agrees to run one event and win their own state titles. 1600- Southerland, 800- Farley, 3200- Kennedy. Who says no? OR Who else in the state will have something to say about it?
2. Triple Double Watch - Hadley Lucas of Bloomington North
The Cougar junior should find herself right at home again when she "gets back to Bloomington" and the state meet in June. Lucas, the defending state champion in both throws events, holds onto the state lead in both the shot-put and the discus throw as well this season.
This is Indiana after all, and basketball fans will know more than anyone the term triple-double. So, how does it relate to Hadley Lucas quests for more blue ribboned medals?
Only a junior, Lucas has already won one throwing double. If an athlete wins 3 years worth of doubles, one could say they've recorded a triple double of events (More to come on this in the future). Something Lucas can get that much closer to with another double win on June 3rd.
Hadley Lucas is officially on Triple-Double watch.
3. Will we get a repeat of last year's "Unreal" Girls 4x800 relay?
One of the premier events to look forward to during this year's tournament, the 4x800 relay is always an exciting event and could look similar to the 2022 version from last year.
The Valparaiso Vikings are the defending state champions in the event and have showed that continued depth this year with the current #2 performance in the state at 9:19 but have gone under 9:25 three times and are an extremely consistent group.
The top time in the state belongs to Bloomington South who went from a season best of 9:50 to 9:15 all in one go as they put together their best lineup for the first time at the Bloomington North Invite last week. Looking at the 800 leaderboard it makes sense how the Panthers ended up here as they have two of the top 8 individual performances from the likes of senior Lily Myers (2:15.43) and freshmen Ellie Barada (2:14.02).
The fun comes from the depth of teams that could possibly compete for top spots in this relay event. 9 teams have gone under 9:30 already and many of those will certain be faster throughout the postseason.
Do not be surprised to see 7 possibly 8 teams competing for the win and runner-up spots in what should be another exciting 3200 meter relay at the State meet.
4. Rachel Mehringer looks for three-peat in the 100 meter hurdles
The best hurdler in the state has been the best hurdler in the state for about 3 years now. Rachel Mehringer of Forest Park has not really been challenged in the 100 hurdles for the better part of her high school career coming away with victories in 2021 and 2022 at the State finals.
The hurdle three-peat is very much in play for Mehringer. If completed she would become the 2nd girl to three-peat in the 100 hurdles. The last and only being Kiersten Doyle of Benton Central in the mid-90s.
5. Who can attain title of "Fastest Girl in State?"
There are three girls that have gone under the 12 second mark so far this season.
Last year's highest returner from the state meet is one of those girls. Angel Thomas of South Bend Adams has gone 11.97 good for the 2nd best time in the state this season.
The best performance belongs to a rookie in freshmen Ahniyah Bennett of Connersville with her 11.92 at the Greenfield Central invite in early May.
The third sub-12 performance was from a veteran in Westfield's Princess Campbell as she went 11.99 winning the Hamilton County meet.
Can someone outside of these three compete for the title of "Fastest Girl in the State"? There are many other veterans lurking outside the 12 second mark like Jila Vaden from Warren Central, Maya Taylor from Fishers, and Zaria Truvillion from Michigan City all looking to put themselves in medal position or better, and competing for the win and title.
6. State Meet Record Watch
What State meet records are at stake as we look at the landscape of the state?
A few athletes we already mentioned could go after some of these state records. Lucas (throws), Mehringer (100 hurdles), Kennedy (3200) and Farley (800) all could be in prime positions to break the record in their event.
One athlete that has already eclipsed the state meet record in their event during competition this year is our next storyline.
7. Kailee Swart's Redemption in the Pole Vault
A year ago, Kailee Swart of Cathedral was the top seed heading into the state meet with her vault of 12'6" at the regional. That 12'6" number was reached by nobody that day. In fact only 3 girls were 12 feet or above, but Swart was not one of them finishing 4th overall.
Swart has been on a new level this year, achieving new heights and consistent performances since way back in December! The state meet record stands at 13'6.25" and Swart has gone a half inch higher than that this season.
The meet record is certainly in the cards, but what would be even sweeter for Swart is redemption from last year and this season ending in a state title.
8. Team Title Watch
It becomes difficult to predict team contenders when some events are a question of who will even be competing. What we do know is that there are a few teams that have a plethora of athletes scattered on the leaderboards at the top of their events.
Warren Central may be a team in prime position as they rank high in multiple relays and have two stars in the aforementioned Jila Vaden and state leader in the 300 hurdles Laila Smith.
Other teams that have many athletes highly ranked and can rack up points could be Noblesville, Center Grove, and Bloomington North.
We will find out much more about the team title watch when see who has officially made the State finals.
9. Potential Impressive Doubles? Triples? Even Quadruples?
We talked about a few of the doubles that could take place throughout the tournament. But is there anyone that could complete an impressive triple or even quadruple during the next 3 weeks?
Kya Crooke of Heritage Christian and Paige Kirtz of Brownsburg are two of 4 athletes ranked in the top 25 in 4 different events. (Southerland and Mehringer being the other two). Crooke along with Kirtz are both listed in at least 3 of those events in their respective sectional entries.
Can they continue to advance throughout the tournament in multiple events, or what specific event may they focus on to give them their best shots at glory? Or could we see someone compete well in 3 or 4 events at the state meet.
10. Survive and Advance
The theme of any postseason, who can survive the current round and advance to the next one.
With the competitive balance of the state always a topic of conversation, it is possible that some athletes may have to race harder at certain rounds to qualify than others. Who can race their way into each round but still have enough left in the tank to compete by the end?
In other words, what will it take for certain athletes to qualify in their area of the state and how much effort will it take out of them. As there always is, there will be many great athletes that do not make the state meet because of very difficult qualifying rounds and standards.
Therein lies the beauty of a one class, round-by-round tournament, and the importance of Survive and Advance.
The tournament is finally here and it all begins on Tuesday!