Six Lady Vikes ready to compete on state's biggest stage

Six Lady Vikes ready to compete on state's biggest stage
Posted on 06/04/2021
Huntington North will be represented by six runners at the 2021 IHSAA Girls Track and Field State FinalsSix members of the Huntington North girls track and field team will be representing the Lady Vikes at Saturday’s 2021 IHSAA Girls Track and Field State Finals in Indianapolis, as freshmen Johanna Bragg, Ella Colclesser and Gracie Fields, juniors Regan Slagel and Addy Wiley and senior Hanna Whitney will all toe the line in various events on the state’s largest stage.

Wiley is the lone runner with State Finals experience, winning the 1600 meter run as a freshman in 2019 with a time of 4:46.93. Wiley also earned All-State honors in the 800 meter run at the 2019 State Finals, clocking in at 2:13.26, good for seventh place. Wiley also has two IHSAA Girls Cross Country State Finals under her belt, finishing 10th in 2019 and sixth in 2020.

Wiley returns to the state meet in 2021 competing in both events again, with her sights set on not only repeating as the state champion in the 1600 meter run, but also doing something no runner has ever done in the history of high school girls track in Indiana: Winning both the 800 meter run and 1600 meter run in the same State Finals. Despite expecting fierce competition in both events, Wiley is positioned well to accomplish the feat, entering the 800 meter run as the No. 1 seed and the 1600 meter run as the No. 7 seed, though many expect Wiley to contend for the title in the event.

Wiley enters the State Finals fresh off first-place finishes in both the 800 meter run and 1600 meter run at the Marion Regional on May 25, posting victorious times of 2:10.80 and 5:00.58, respectively.

Bragg, Colclesser, Fields and Whitney comprise Huntington North’s 4x800 meter relay entry. The Lady Vikes posted a time of 9:40.58 at the Marion Regional, good for second place at the meet and was the second-fastest time recorded in program history. The mark gives Huntington North the No. 17 seed in the State Finals. The Lady Vikes will race in the first of two heats and are slotted as the third seed in the heat.

Colclesser, Fields, Slagel and Wiley compose the Huntington North 4x400 meter relay team. The quartet placed second at the Marion Regional, clocking in at 4:03.90, good for the third-best time in program history. Like the 4x800 meter relay team, the Lady Vikes’ regional performance in the 4x400 meter relay also finds them holding the No. 17 seed. Huntington North will race in the second of three heats and is slotted as the eighth seed in the heat.

This year’s State Finals provide an opportunity for redemption for Slagel specifically, as she was part of the Lady Vikes’ 4x400 meter relay team in 2019 that missed out on qualifying for the state meet after she rolled her ankle on the rail around the inside of lane 1 in the regional meet, which effectively took Huntington North out of the race after being on track to advance to the State Finals.

Also traveling with the team’s contingent are freshman Elle McDonald and sophomore Adrianna Nightenhelser, who are serving as alternates for the 4x800 meter relay and 4x400 meter relay, respectively. McDonald was part of the 4x800 meter relay team that qualified at the Marion Regional.

The State Finals, held at Ben Davis High School, begin at 3 p.m. on Saturday. The 4x800 meter relay will be the first event Huntington North competes in, beginning at 4:15 p.m. Wiley will then race in the 1600 meter run at 6:35 p.m. before toeing the line in the 800 meter run at 7:45 p.m. The 4x400 meter relay caps the meet with an 8:30 p.m. start time.

Tickets for the State Finals can be purchased for $12 through gofan.co. All competition for the State Finals can be viewed via livestream at IHSAAtv.org via pay-per-view for $10. HCCSC will provide live coverage of the State Finals on social media and will share additional coverage and photos from the meet next week.

Quotables

Wiley on using her previous experiences at large meets to be at her best at the State Finals

“I’m really excited because it is a different experience than a lot of our other meets are with the crowd and the fans, and, especially because of COVID, we haven’t had that a lot this year. But, I actually think being able to go to similar meets before the season, like the one I went to out in Myrtle Beach, it really helps me feel more calm going into this type of a meet because I’ve been exposed to that atmosphere more, so I’m just really excited to race tough competition again.”

Wiley on being able to experience the State Finals with teammates
“It’s been something I’ve really been looking forward to all season. I really wanted to do it in cross country, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. It’s been fun to help strategize with my teammates and hear their nerves and be like, ‘Oh, that’s what I was as a freshman or my first time going,’ and trying to help them calm some of those nerves. And then, it just makes before and after the race more fun because you have teammates there to pick you up, cheer you on the whole time, so I’m really looking forward to it. These girls, I’ve gotten really close with this year, so I know it’s going to be a fun time with them no matter what the outcome.”

Whitney on getting the opportunity to compete at the State Finals as a senior
“Getting this opportunity as my last chance before I go to college, it means a lot. Taking that loss in cross country in the fall by two points, I feel like it just fueled us more for this season. I felt like we came together a lot, and now I’m really excited to have one more final chance and see what we can do on Saturday.”

Whitney on being able to share the State Finals experience alongside teammates
“I’m really excited because as a team, we’ve become really close this season. I would consider them my best friends, so it’s awesome to share this moment and something that I’ve been wanting personally with people that I know want it too, and I’m really excited to share that experience with them.”

Slagel on being able to compete in the State Finals in light of the 4x400 meter relay team’s narrow miss in 2019
“It means a lot to me because it is that redemption story. I really wanted to go to state as a freshman. I was so excited. We were right there. So, now I’m like, ‘Yeah, we’re here, we get to do it.’ Everything happens for a reason. It’s on God’s time, so he didn’t want it to happen freshman year, and that’s fine, and we have it now, so I’m really thankful to have that opportunity and to run with such amazing girls. I’m really excited for this opportunity. It means a lot to me.”

Slagel on what she is most excited for at the State Finals
“I’m not as competitive as some of these other girls are. It’s a lot more of the social aspect for me; I love building those relationships with people, and I love that feeling of ‘Wow, we just did this together as a team,’ and that is something that means the world to me because, on a track team especially, you’re building these great relationships because running is not that fun. It hurts a lot to push through that, so when you’re pushing through it with other people, that really bonds you together. It’s a great experience for me to build these relationships with these girls and I’m going to have them for the rest of my life.”

Colclesser on if the State Finals was a goal for her freshman season
“No; it was really cool to experience all the sectionals and regionals, and I didn’t really expect coming into it that we would even be able to go to state. Being able to is really cool and I’m excited to see what it’s like and be able to use that for future years.”

Colclesser on her expectations for the Lady Vikes at the State Finals
“I think we can do really well. I feel like we can really impress ourselves, and we will all run really well. I’m excited to see what we can do together.”

Fields on ending her freshman season on the state’s biggest stage
“I didn’t even plan on running in high school, and then I was convinced to run cross country and track, so I think this is a great opportunity considering the fact that I didn’t really run in middle school; I only ran in sixth grade. I think it’s a really cool opportunity, and I didn’t realize that we had the potential to go to state.”

Fields on the relay teams’ biggest strength
“I think that we are really good at working together. If one person has an off race, I think that another person can pull their weight and pull even more, so I think that everyone is equally balanced.”

Bragg on what it means personally to compete at the State Finals
“I’m really excited and it’s a really great opportunity, especially to get this experience because I’ve never done this before and it’s my first year, so I’m really excited to go and get the experience of it for future years to be able to hopefully do this again. Getting this opportunity with my teammates is really exciting to bond with them.”

Bragg on the opportunity to bond as a team throughout the weekend
“We’re going to stay in a hotel the night after, so I’m really excited to bond with them during that. Before the race, I know I always get really nervous, and they always help me calm my nerves, and that always makes me feel really loved and special.”

Head Coach Brian Milton on having six girls qualify for the State Finals
“At the beginning of the year, we were really excited about the possibility of sending some more girls with Addy to the state meet. I thought we did a great job of stepping up, and we’re sending six with two alternates, so a total of eight. This is my first year being the head coach of the girls track team, so this will be my first six athletes I take to the state meet. It’s really exciting to see that the girls have stepped up to the challenge, and I’ve got some amazing coaches that have done a really great job of preparing the girls. We all have our special skill sets, and I’ve just been blessed to have the coaches step up and really help the girls get to where they need to be at this level. It’s really exciting to see that. These are young girls. We’ve got a lot of the core group coming back next year, so it’s going to be really exciting to see if they’re making it now as freshmen, what the next three years are going to have in store for us, too.”

Milton on getting to experience the State Finals for the first time
“Growing up, I ran for Norwell, and we got to the regional, but we were never able to get to the state meet, so for me, it’s almost like taking my kids to Disney World for the first time. I never went to Disney World as a kid, so I was experiencing Disney World for the first time through my kids, and now I’m going to be able to experience state for the first time through my kids. I’m really excited to take these freshmen, who have never been there before, to the big dance, and then also experience that excitement and enjoyment with them. It just highlights everything as a head coach that you get to take some kids that are going to the big show their very first year of being a high school student and a high school athlete, and I’m really excited to actually experience that with them. I’ve got butterflies in my stomach a little bit, just like they do, so I’m kind of a kid in a candy store going to the big show for the first time.”

Milton on the expectations for the relay teams at the State Finals
“For the relay teams, it’s all about doing the best that they can. I think a really good accomplishment for the relay teams would be to win their heat. Top nine are All-State; it would be really nice to get All-State, but in reality, for them to come away finishing top two or top three in their heat, or even finishing No. 1 overall in their heat, that’s going to be an accomplishment for them. And, I look at that as a stepping stone, because like I said, we’ve got a lot of this core group coming back, so what we do this year at state, we can build on for next year and hopefully let that continue. So for me, I just want them to run their best. That’s what we’ve been working on all year. I don’t carry a stopwatch with me very much because I want to watch them and I can see how they’re performing through their performance, not through their time. If they give us their best, that’s what it’s all about. If their best is fourth, their best is fifth, if they can walk away saying, ‘Milton, I gave it all I had,’ then that’s what it’s all about and the results will speak for themselves after that.”

Assistant Coach Matt Ditzler on having six girls qualify for the State Finals
“It’s been a lot of fun this year. Obviously two years ago, we just had an individual at the state meet. You really focus in on one person and there’s a lot of emphasis on just one performance, or, we were lucky enough to have somebody that was doubling last time. This time, having four different events that we’re in is a little bit different of a dynamic, and I think it’s been a lot of fun for Addy, who was by herself last time, to have seven other people here at practice with her. I think it’s been good because we have a lot of freshmen, too, and they’ve been learning the ropes from her and from the upperclassmen. And then, Regan coming back from the 4x400 that unfortunately didn’t make it two years ago and kind of the redemption of that, so that’s been really cool. And then, to have our senior, Hanna Whitney, who’s been training with us really since she was in middle school, to make it to the State Finals was pretty special, too. Having been her last shot, she was able to partner with three freshmen and get to the State Finals. It’s been really cool all around for me as a coach. For the girls that I coach, to have them all run at the State Finals is pretty cool to be part of that.”

Ditzler on managing the workload for runners competing in multiple events
“With Addy, it was really trying to pick which event to do. She could have won the 400 at the regional, and with her best time this year, she’s very highly ranked in the 800, 1600, 3200 and could have helped us out in the 4x800 and obviously helps us out in the 4x400, so really just having to pick which events were best, and to run in three of them in the State Finals is pretty cool. Not a lot of people get to run in three at the State Finals, so as a junior, that’s really neat. And then for these other girls, Ella Colclesser and Gracie Fields will be running in two of the relays as well, so they’ll be doubling as freshmen at the state meet. A lot of times, they tripled for us at conference and at sectional and at regional; Ella ran three races at regional and just narrowly missed running in the 800 at the State Finals. All these kids have worked really hard. This last week or so, I’ve learned over the years that rest is really important and making sure that everybody is happy and healthy and ready to go for Saturday.”

Ditzler on the group’s preparation for the State Finals
“We’ve done some things this week to get ready and freshen them up a little bit, and they’ve done some things on their own to have some fun and build team chemistry over the last week or so. Everybody is feeling pretty good going into it, so we’re excited and our expectations are high, but we know that all the hard work has been put in now and now it’s time to cash in. All of the girls have had their best workouts of the year this past week and Addy is running workouts significantly faster than a similar workout schedule in 2019. These girls are mentally and physically ready to perform at their best on Saturday.”
Huntington North will be represented by six runners at the 2021 IHSAA Girls Track and Field State Finals
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