By Josh Sigler
As the old adage goes, it’s harder stay on top than it is to reach the top.
Eastern’s girls track and field team entered the 2012 postseason hoping to put in a strong enough effort to claim the program’s first sectional title.
Having done so, the Comets entered Tuesday’s postseason opener — the Madison-Grant Sectional — with a much larger bull’s-eye on their backs than in previous years.
Eastern proved up to the challenge, scoring a landslide victory to repeat as sectional champions with 125 points.
“We did what we came to do,” Eastern coach Michael Goodspeed said. “I often say ‘Just go take care of your event,’ and everybody did that [Tuesday] night.”
Did they ever.
The No. 6-ranked Comets won seven of 16 events, placing two in the top eight of four events to win going away by 40 points. Kokomo and Northwestern tied as runners-up with 85 points each.
Eastern boasted four of the meet’s six multiple-championship-winning athletes, including the only three who won three or more events in the meet.
Sarah Wagner took top honors in the high jump at 5 feet, 3 inches and the 3,200-meter run in 11:36.10.
Wagner teamed with Bethany Neeley, Brittany Neeley and Jessie Sprinkles to win the 4x800 relay in a meet-record time of 9:32.6, giving the Comets a top showing in the day’s first event.
The Neeley sisters were the meet’s only four-event winners, giving Eastern’s senior class a night to remember.
“This was really exciting,” Wagner said. “I didn’t realize there were only three of us [to win three or more events]. But that’s really cool that we are all on the same team and I’m excited to be with them for this journey. I’m excited for more things to come. It’s a good start for the whole state tournament.”
Bethany Neeley won the 300 hurdles in :44.40, and then took top honors in the 1,600 run, an event in which she is the defending state champion, in 5:20.
She teamed with Brittany Neeley, Sprinkles and Avery Ewing to win the 4x400 relay in meet-record fashion at 4:03.10.
“We wanted to break [the four-minute mark], but nothing compares to the postseason 4x400 relay,” Bethany said. “It’s going to get better as the weeks go on. I was really proud of our handoffs in the 4x400 and 4x800 relay. It was just a good team performance. We sent the top six cross country girls on to the regional. That was really good to hear.”
Brittany took top honors in the 800 in 2:13.50 to set a meet record. She also topped the field in the 400 in :59.90.
Eastern found itself in third place through five events, but took command over the next five to built a 17-point lead over second-place Kokomo (74-57). The Comets never looked back.
“Through five events we were behind, but we weren’t scared at all,” Brittany Neeley said. “We had a lot of confidence with our pull in the distance events. Through the meet, we got points in the sprints and our teammates picked us up some points in the field events. Last year, it was almost all distance events [that carried the team], but the points we earned from other areas [Tuesday] added up, too.”
Northwestern and Kokomo both boasted double winners.
Purple Tiger sophomore Kaitlyn Daanen motored to victories in the 100 dash (:12.70) and the 200 dash (:25.60), setting a meet record in the latter.
Amber Miller finished second in the long jump for Northwestern at 16-6.5 behind champion Josie Murphy of Peru, who cleared 16-10. Miller also took second in the pole vault (9-6) behind Kokomo’s Anh Pham, who set a meet record by clearing 10-8. The pole vault was held Monday at Eastern.
Taryn Thor added runner-up finishes for Northwestern in the 1,600 in 5:29.80 and 3,200 in 11:39.10, while teammate Tearsten Munson took second in the 200 in :25.90.
“This was outstanding,” Northwestern coach Mary Clem said. “I almost don’t have words to say how hard the girls have worked. They really wanted this and went out and showed it. Any time you can wait until this time of the season and are still PR-ing, I have to tip my hat to them.”
Kokomo’s Summer Blackamore was the meet’s final double winner, sweeping the shot put (43-0.25) and discus (124-6). The Wildkats’ 4x100 relay team of Brianna Lancaster, Ma-Ryssa Martin, Raven Pugh and Iesha Wallace motored to a sectional title in :50.00.
Maconaquah’s Keeana Walton repeated as sectional champion in the 100 hurdles in :15.5, and Western 4x400 relay team of Emily Mullins, Amanda Seaman, Emma Nixon and Erin Knepley set a school record in 4:16.50 to finish as runners-up in the event.
“Our 4x400 and 4x800 team members are the exact same, girls and they’re made up of one junior, two sophomores and one freshman,” Western coach Joni McCracken said. “That along with everyone else who qualified on to regional are all underclassmen, so we’re really excited just to have a group of kids who have that fire in their eyes.”