GREENTOWN — With a little more than 200 meters left in the anchor leg of the 4x400 relay Tuesday night, Northwestern’s Makala Pfefferkorn took a look over her left shoulder to see if the nearest competition was gaining ground.
At that point, Pfefferkorn turned on the jets.
It was the last running event of the night at the Eastern Girls Track and Field Sectional, and Pfefferkorn made no doubt of Northwestern’s victory.
That’s exactly what Northwestern did as a team — left no doubt.
The Purple Tigers racked up 152 points to win the 13-team sectional by exactly double their nearest competition. Western was a surprise in second at 76, followed by Kokomo (73), Maconaquah (67) and Cass (58) in fifth. Taylor was eighth (33), Tri-Central 10th (19), Eastern 11th (18.5), Tipton 12th (18) and Peru 13th (1).
“They all came out for one reason and that was to win sectional, and they did awesome,” NW coach Mary Clem said of her athletes. “We got out [advanced to regional] I think in every event but one. And they’re still eager to keep going on and seeing how far they can go.”
The regional is next Tuesday at Warsaw and Northwestern will have entries in 15 events, led by sectional quadruple winner Pfefferkorn. The sophomore won the 100 hurdles in :16.35, finishing a full hurdle ahead of the rest of the runners. She followed with a victory in the 300 hurdles in :49.6, and was long jump champ with an effort of 15 feet, 10.75 inches.
Pfefferkorn’s night finished with that 4x4 relay, where she teamed with Rachel Mast, JoHannah Hetzner and Sasha Jocius to win in 4:18.03.
“Makala Pfefferkorn taking four firsts, that really helps,” Clem said.
“I can’t be more proud. It’s such a fun team too. They enjoy each other, they enjoy the sport. They’re true runners.”
Northwestern scored three more victories. Joan Easter won the 100 (:12.96), outdueling Tri-Central’s Lillian Stogdill for first. Caitlin Smith won pole vault (10-2) and the team of Easter, Mast, Hetzner and Carmella Kurtz won the 4x100 in :51.54, holding off Kokomo in a close race over the final leg.
Northwestern’s two relay wins showed a point of emphasis.
“Our girls have a good last kick, and we work on that a lot in practice,” Clem said. “From the sprinters to the distance girls we work on that last 100, 120 kick because that’s when everybody else is tired. This is when they need to turn it on. It’s really paid off these last few weeks. they get tired of me saying ‘dig in’ but they’re doing it.”
Northwestern repeated as sectional champion.
“It’s wonderful, you can’t get any better,” Clem said. “Smile from ear to ear.”
Western opened the action with a victory in the 4x800 relay as Madison Parr, Sarah Manuel, Emma Marley and Natalie Nicholson won in 10.16.56. Nicholson won the 400 in 1:02.41, just ahead of Mac’s Bailey Hayes in another good duel. And Manuel gave the Panthers a third victory when she won the 800 in 2:29.52.
“I’m excited,” Western coach Brandon Shawhan said. “We beat a lot of good teams [Tuesday] that we faced earlier in the season that got the better of us early on.
“I can’t even tell you how many personal bests there are. I took probably one relay team and probably one individual last year [to regionals]. I’m looking at possibly needing to take pretty much a school bus. I think a mini-bus is too small.”
Shawhan said the Panthers grew over the course of the season and peaked when it counted most.
“We scored only eighth at conference,” he said. “We had 28.5 points at conference. We scored near the bottom at Big Orange [meet at Hamilton Heights]. We’re a young team, but everything came together [Tuesday] and girls did what we knew they could do.
“Congratulations to Northwestern, they’re a heck of a team all across the board. To be right behind them we feel really good about it.”
Western improved from seventh last season to second this season. Kokomo moved up a spot to third and freshman distance runner Julynne Spidell made her presence felt. She won the 1,600 in 5:34.18 and the 3,200 in 12:01.99, finishing with a final lap of less than 87 seconds to secure first place. Priscila Franco notched another victory for the Kats when she won the 200 in :27.28.
Cass’ Averi Parker won the discus with an effort of 125-6.5. Taylor’s Alison Pemberton had a big night in the field. She won the high jump with a height of 5-1, and was second in long jump, tying Pfefferkorn’s top jump and taking second on the next-longest-jump tiebreaker.