Southsider Voice web editor
Seniors on the Center Grove girls track and field squad waited four years to experience a sectional championship as a team, which they achieved last week at Columbus North. Now the Trojans are hoping for more.
One of those hopefuls is senior high jumper Taylor Pennington, a favorite to win state. “I’ve already improved my season tremendously from last year,” she said. “So I feel like I have a lot better chance. If I don’t stress out, I’ll be fine.”
Pennington, second as a sophomore and fourth last season, said she feels more at peace going into the biggest meets of the year. “I think my junior year there was a little more pressure just because I got second and I felt that I needed to get first to better myself.”
Handling the pressure in a positive way is something Pennington says is critical in her event. “High jump is 50 percent skill and 50 percent mentality. If you come in thinking, ‘I’m going to miss it,’ you’re going to miss it. I think you can get inside your own head a lot.”
Now that Pennington has let go of her fears, she owns the school record with a leap of 5 feet, 10 inches, which she set April 18. She also won the state indoor title earlier this year. These accolades have helped Pennington land a track scholarship to Indiana University, where she has spent time practicing in the offseason.
“There were a lot of other schools that wanted a visit, but once I visited IU I was set,” she said.
Looking back, high jump was not the event Pennington dreamed of doing. It was in middle school when coaches talked her into switching her aspirations as a sprinter to a high jumper. Now she says she’s glad she started training as a high jumper in the sixth grade.
“I had never done it before. Had no idea what it was. I did it, and I was decent. As the time went on I had more training and improved a lot.”
Pennington is not the only Trojan who received a scholarship. Victoria “Tori” Long will run for Davidson College in North Carolina. Long is a member of the 4-by-400 meter relay team and has run the 300 meter hurdles and the 400-meter dash.
“This has been my favorite year; I’m proud of everything we have accomplished. I know what we will accomplish,” Long said. “It’s been a great senior year, and I can’t wait for what is to come.”
The relay team cruised to first place in the Franklin Sectional, and Long credits the squad’s chemistry to its success. Junior Lauren Rau and sophomore Olivia Rassel join Long as returning members. Freshman Haley Goines earned a spot on relay for the sectional. The team finished fourth in the state meet last year.
“I actually think it’s better than last year because the chemistry of the team is strong,” Long said. “In practice we push each more because of what we achieved last year; it gives us that motivation to be even better this year.”
Results of Tuesday’s regional at Shelbyville were unavailable at press time. The state finals will be June 6 at Indiana University Bloomington.