Rough going for area athletes
The Indiana state track finals always brings out the best of the best, but as usual things go well for some and not so well for others. It was that way again this year, with some high expectations being shattered to pieces.
The biggest expectations came with Corydon Central’s Meghan Bussabarger, who was competing in her third straight state finals in the high jump and the 100-meter hurdles. Bussabarger was seeded 11th at 5 feet, 4 inches but had cleared 5-6 during the regular season. This time, however, the Corydon junior arrived somewhat later to the track than she wanted and had to rush to get prepared while other jumpers were already getting their practice jumps in.
Bussabarger’s first, and only, practice jump was smooth and clean at 5-2, and her first competition jump also went smoothly at the same height. The bar was then moved to 5-4 and that’s when things changed with Bussabarger missing badly on her first attempt.
The second attempt was better, but there was enough touch that the bar found air once again. Bussabarger then went to talk to boys’ coach Kerry Zimmerman before her final try. Bussabarger had the speed, but the bar fell to the mat and the Corydon junior’s competition in the event came to a sudden and unexpected end.
‘Today just wasn’t my day I guess, but it sucks,’ Bussabarger said with tears in her eyes. ‘I don’t know. I wish I knew what it was. It was just one of those things that happens. God has blessed me with being (here) three years in a row.’
At the other end of the jumping spectrum was Orleans jumper Jessica Smith. Smith missed her first attempt at 5-2, but came back immediately to jump cleanly. The senior’s first jump at 5-4 was also clean. The next height was 5-5, and Smith again missed on her first attempt but jumped clean on the second.
‘That might have just been nerves,’ Smith said. ‘Something was a little off, but then I came back and cleared and I felt a little better.’
With five jumpers left and a guaranteed spot on the podium, the bar moved to 5-6. Smith again missed on her first attempt but smoothly cleared on the second. The bar then moved to 5-7 for the same five jumpers. Batesville’s Billie Tidman was the only one to jump cleanly and went on to win at 5-9.5. After everything was tallied up, Smith finished fourth.
Bussabarger came back to try to redeem herself in the 100-meter hurdles trials. The Corydon junior got off to a good start, but then fell behind at the fourth hurdle. Bussabarger’s time of 15.93 seconds was good enough for 18th place. New Albany’s Hali Alexander also failed to get into the finals with a time of 15.69 seconds, good for 14th. She came back later to medal in the 300 hurdles by finishing ninth.
‘At least I finished, that’s how I feel,’ Bussabarger said of the run. ‘That fourth hurdle scared me. I got worried.’
Eight of the nine finalists ran under 15 seconds.
‘I’m displeased with high jump, very displeased because I know if I would have jumped 5-4 or 5-5, I would have placed, but it happens,’ she said. ‘It’s going to make me drive harder my senior year. I’m looking at it right now. I’m ready for it. I want it back.’
In the long jump Paoli’s Kiaya Kameda was more than a foot short of her regional best, jumping just 16 feet, 1-1/4 inches for 21st place in the event. Floyd Central’s Becky Kennedy had the same kind of day in the 100-meter dash, finishing 26th with a time of 13.11 seconds. Brownstown’s Kassie Kovert didn’t have her best day in the 1600-meter run, finishing 17th, seven seconds slower than her regional time, while New Albany’s Carissa Martin finished 11th.
Kennedy came back to her best event of the 400 meters. The Floyd junior bounced back to finish 10th in the field in a time of 59.92 seconds.
‘I didn’t run as good as I was supposed to,’ she said. ‘My legs kind of gave out. I was thinking about breaking the school record. I was less than a second (off of it). I feel better than last year. I feel good. I’m going to look at this, try harder and practice more and try to get here and do what I can.’
‘She’s run under 60 four or five times this season and next year her goal will hopefully be to go under 59 several times,’ Kennedy’s coach Sara Harkema said. ‘This year, I thought she competed and she went out there and tried to win it and ran as fast as she could.’
Paoli’s Audrey Thill was seeded 26th of the 27 runners in the 3200-meter run. Thill, running in her second state finals, used a little more strategy this time around, running more with the middle pack. The Paoli sophomore finished 19th in a time of 11:33.9. Alexandra Banfich ran away with the event in a time of 10:46.55.
Thill said last year’s experience helped her be more prepared mentally.
‘Last year, I had no clue,’ she said. ‘I was just happy to be here … Like last year, I just ran my race. I didn’t pay attention to the others as much this year. I went in knowing I wanted to try to stay with the pack. I didn’t want to stay in the back.’
The boys’ state finals on Saturday proved to be the same for most of the local runners.
Both of Floyd Central’s relay teams finished well out of the scoring. The Highlanders’ 3,200-meter relay team finished 27th in a time of 8:29.64. The school’s 1600-meter relay team also was well back at 25th in a time of 3:27.87.
North Harrison’s Alan Austin suffered a disappointing setback in the discus. After throwing more than 159 feet in the regional, Austin managed just 129-10 at the state finals, good for 25th. Teammate Tyler Byrne also had a disappointing day finishing 23rd in the 1600-meter run in a time of 4:36.41, 12 seconds behind his regional time.
Paoli’s Tyler Dillard finished 26th in the 100 meters with a time of 11.65 seconds. In the 200-meter dash, Dillard did slightly better, finishing 24th in 23.34 seconds.
On the upswing, Northeast Dubois senior Dustin Betz had a good day, finishing seventh in the 1600 in a time of 4:24.36. Perry Central’s Nick Huber had the best day of area runners with a third-place finish in the 300-meter hurdles in 38.62 seconds.