The sisters played an integral role in four straight cross country sectional titles, their careers culminating in leading the Comets to a seventh-place finish in this year’s state finals.
They beat the likes of Fishers, Westfield, Avon, Bloomington South and Valparaiso that day, but only the top five teams make the medal stand, leaving the squad disappointed as they walked off the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute.
Falling short of a goal after countless hours of hard work and countless miles of running put in to prepare for that moment was hard to swallow for the Neeleys.
But, as the two lead Eastern into the Class 2A basketball state finals Saturday against defending state champion Evansville Mater Dei, they are starting to understand that maybe God has a plan for them that differs from their own.
In reality, they’ve known that all along.
“In the middle of the [basketball] season when we were losing some games, we asked, ‘Why aren’t we winning? We’re devoted. We’re always staying after.’ We weren’t getting answers to our questions,” Brittany said. “Now that we’ve gotten to the postseason, everything is starting to come together. I was telling Coach that we were heartbroken when we didn’t medal in cross country. That’s all I wanted in high school was to medal in cross country. We didn’t really have the answers as to why. Now that we’ve gotten to the postseason in basketball, I told Coach I honestly believe the reason we didn’t medal in cross was because something better was coming in basketball.”
Before the tipoff of Saturday’s contest, Brittany will tell her sister she loves her, just like she would before the start in any other game or race. She will then give it everything she has physically so that she can fulfill the message in her favorite passage of scripture: II Timothy 4:7.
“‘I have fought a good fight. I finished the race. I have kept the faith,’” Brittany recalled from memory. “It translates a little better to running, but you can obviously relate it to the game of basketball, too.”