EVANSVILLE — Each a force to be reckoned with, Bosse’s Alexia Smith and Forest Park’s Rachel Mehringer have ruled the track over the past few springs.
The seniors are two of the best athletes in Southwestern Indiana. They’ve combined for three individual state championships, consistently winning multiple events every meet and often breaking records — sometimes one-upping their own.
And, of course, they were record-breakers again in their final area meet Tuesday during the IHSAA girls regional at Central High School.
Smith broke a 5-year-old meet record in the 100-meter dash, finishing in 12.03 seconds. She followed with wins in the 400 and long jump while also placing third in the 200 to qualify for the state finals in all four events. She didn’t mind that her Bosse teammate, Gerilon Kelly, bested her in the 200.
Meanwhile, Mehringer, who broke the state record last season in the 100-meter hurdles, shattered the regional record with a time of 13.75 seconds. She won the 300-meter hurdles convincingly as well, finishing with a time of 44.42 seconds.
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“It means a lot,” Mehringer said of breaking the record. “That was my goal last year, but it just didn’t quite happen. But this year, it worked out.”
Both are headed back to Bloomington, but there’s been no magic formula for their continued dominance.
“It’s just about trying your best every time you step on the track,” Smith said. “I want to win. I don’t ever step on the track like I already lost.”
“I put in a lot of time outside of just track season,” Mehringer added. “I work out and train all year round, through the summer and winter. I think that really benefits (me).”
Mehringer has a chance to go for a three-peat at state while Smith has the chance to defend her crown in long jump. Still, the job isn’t finished. They’re going to keep pushing the limits as they embark on the final days of their high school careers.
“I think it’s good just representing Southern Indiana,” Smith said. “We don’t get that much love over here. It’s good to see her do what she does and that I do what I do, making our marks.”
It was a celebratory night for many of the area’s top girls track athletes. Here are a few takeaways from the regional, and all of the state qualifiers are listed at the end of this story.
Castle’s Gretchen Hurt sweeps throwing multiple events, leading Knights to team crown
What a difference a year makes.
While Castle junior Gretchen Hurt was a state qualifier last season in the shot put, she fell just short of doing the same in the discus. That made Tuesday night even sweeter as she swept both events to claim a pair of individual regional titles.
Those wins lifted the Knights to the team regional championship, their first since 2009. Amaya Royal, another Castle junior, also qualified for state in the 100 and 200 after finishing second to Smith in each.
Hurt’s goal this time around was to fine-tune her technique to help her throw farther. Her discus throw of 126 feet, 10 1/2 inches was over 16 feet longer than her throw last year when she placed fourth. All that extra time in the weight room certainly has paid off.
She referred to her discus throw championship as a “huge win.” Then her adrenaline kicked in during the shot put finals when her 37-foot, 6-inch heave was nearly two feet further than the runner-up.
“It was a nail-biter,” Hurt said. “I was stressing, but then the last throw, I just relaxed, trusted my techniques and then I just let it go.”
Evansville Christian makes school history with first state qualifiers
Abrielle Richard’s nickname has been “Breezy” ever since she was a baby.
It symbolizes a yellow butterfly the junior wears as a necklace, encouraging her to be strong and go with the wind. She believes that whatever circumstances she’s in or what race she runs, God is always with her and will help her push through every race.
Tuesday, she became her school’s first state qualifier by finishing third in the 800 shortly before sophomore Ann-Elise Sloan joined her with a regional championship in the pole vault at a height of 11 feet.
Richard was more than excited to make history, plus enjoy another opportunity to compete with her teammates Sloan and Ava Hall. She’s excited to lead ECS into uncharted territory as they continue the program’s first IHSAA postseason.
“I’ve taken six seconds off of my personal record the past two weeks,” Richard said. “I ran a 2:19 at sectionals and then ran a 2:17 at regionals. I’m hoping to run even faster for state.”
Princeton’s Meade twins, Reitz’s Taylor Johnson also will finish careers at state
Heidi Meade was diagnosed with anemia the week before last year’s regionals.
Her Princeton coaches strongly advised her not to compete, but she wanted to help the 4×800-meter team get to state. She still ran, but they fell short. So, she took a couple of weeks off to identify the problem with a sports nutritionist in Indianapolis.
She took iron supplements and monitored her nutrition, which has helped. Her twin sister Haley also has battled various illnesses and injuries throughout high school. That’s why advancing to state in the 3,200-meter run together means so much.
Haley was the event’s champion and Heidi was the runner-up, and they’re headed back to state after previously competing in the 4×800 relay as sophomores. This is their first time qualifying as individuals, albeit in the same event.
“We work together in races,” Haley said. “We just try to not battle each other but mainly just take the competition and run together to do the best we can do.”
Heidi added: “We were praying and hoping that we could try our best. Being able to finish together as both making it this far without either of us having anemia or an injury was exciting. I just want to thank God for that opportunity.”
In the 400, Reitz senior Taylor Johnson became a three-time state qualifier after finishing third. It was one of the most highly-anticipated events in the regional because of a competitive field. Joshson ended in 59.52 seconds, just a hair faster than fourth place.
“I’ve just had to trust my training, and I’m really glad I got to experience it my last year,” she said. “I’ve put in the work this year. I’m super glad that I put in that last push to get there.”
Johnson is capping a prolific high school career before she continues playing soccer and running track at the University of Evansville. She hopes to end with a new personal record at state.
“It’s just an honor. I’ve put in the work since I was little and really focused on those two,” Johnson said. “They kind of go hand in hand. With track, it really helps me on the soccer field.”
Courier & Press sports reporter Treasure Washington can be reached via her email, firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter @Twashington490.
RESULTS FROM THE CENTRAL GIRLS TRACK REGIONAL
Tuesday at Central Stadium
Team scores: Castle 55, Bosse 50.5, Jasper 48, North 46, Floyd Central 42, New Albany 38, Forest Park 37, Signature School 31, Princeton 28, Corydon Central 27
Advancing to state
100: Alexia Smith (Bosse) 12.03*, Amaya Royal (Castle) 12.33, Iana Tecson (North) 12.52
200: Gerilon Kelly (Bosse) 25.52, Amaya Royal (Castle) 25.59, Alexia Smith (Bosse) 25.70
400: Alexia Smith (Bosse) 57.37, Ava Olomajeye (Signature School) 58.95, Taylor Johnson (Reitz) 59.52
800: Kaden Leverenz (Signature School) 2:17.36, Aubrey Nowaskie (South Knox) 2:18.04, Abrielle Richard (Evansville Christian) 2:18.06
1,600: Emma Gresham (Boonville) 5:05.99, Kaden Leverenz (Signature School) 5:13.24, Maci Hoskins (Providence) 5:14.32
3,200: Haley Meade (Princeton) 11:09.97, Heidi Meade (Princeton) 11:10.09, Kaitlyn Stewart (Floyd Central) 11:19.82
100 hurdles: Rachel Mehringer (Forest Park) 13.67*, Journey Howard (New Albany) 14.99, Elle Knepp (Barr-Reeve) 15.11
300 hurdles: Rachel Mehringer (Forest Park) 44.42, Madelyn Knies (Jasper) 45.93, Landyn Rasche (Northeast Dubois) 46.32
4×100 relay: North (Vanessa Nankwenya, De’Janay Layne, Ahmera Harris, Iana Tecson) 49.15, New Albany 49.87, Corydon Central 50.14
4×400 relay: Jasper (Allie Werner, Niya Zazzetti, Madelyn Knies, Michelle Ondiek) 4:04.89, North 4:07.45, New Albany 4:07.76
4×800 relay: Floyd Central 9:37.26, Princeton 9:42.91, Corydon Central 9:44.52
High jump: Josie Page (Wood Memorial) 5-08, Riley Rarick (Borden) 5-05, Ava Englert (Jasper) 5-03
Pole vault: Ann Elise Sloan (Evansville Christian) 11-0, Riley Hinson (Forest Park) 10-06, Hannah Ludwig (Borden) 10-06
Long jump: Alexia Smith (Bosse) 18-11.5, Grace Tincher (North Harrison) 17-06.5, Ava Kissel (Tecumseh) 17-05.5
Shot put: Gretchen Hurt (Castle) 37-06, Natalie Stroud (Crawford County) 35-09, Angelica Sierra (Southridge) 35-02
Discus: Gretchen Hurt (Castle) 126-10.5, Ava Weisheit (Gibson Southern) 126-03, Charlotte Cordts (North) 115-10.5
*-new meet record