One change that has been made is with the Northrop coaching staff as Hall of Famer Tom Knudson retired as head coach. First-year coach Harmony Ake has taken over but another Hall of Fame coach, Terry Milton is still coaching the sprinters.
“We are so versatile,” Ake said of the sprint, hurdle and long jump crew for the Bruins. “We can use them whenever and wherever we need them.”
Ake said her main job is to “enhance” the distance crew and with the transfer of Bishop Dwenger runner Victoria McQuiston, the Bruins will score in the 1,600.
The Bruins stable is led by senior Makelle Skelton, an all-state performer since her freshman year. Skelton is ranked among the state’s best in the 100 and 300 hurdles as well as the long jump. She also contributes on the state’s No. 1-ranked 400-meter relay team.
Also leading the way for Northrop is sprinter junior Dejah Arnold, who is ranked No.1 in the state in the 400 and very high both the 100 and 200. She also runs on the 400 relay and No. 1-ranked 1,600-meter relay team. Others for Northrop include Jaquell Taylor and Connor Kempf.
This great collection of talent could result in a state title, says Ake. But everything would have to go just right.
“On a perfect day, we like our chances,” Ake said of a state championship. “We are pretty confident about what we can do, but we just don’t know about the competition (at this point).”
Northrop’s sprinters, of course, will not enjoy free reign in the area. In fact, five of the state’s top 10 ranked 100-meter runners feed into the Northrop Sectional. Bellmont senior Alexis Harvey currently has the state’s top time: 12.23. Harvey is also ranked No. 1 in the 200 and 11th in the 400. Along with state-ranked hurdler Holly Hankenson (fifth in the 300) and her twin Bailee in the 800 (and other events); it gives Bellmont the ability to compete for sectional and regional titles if not conference titles.
The NHC favorites are still Carroll and Homestead. The Lady Chargers return a deep distance crew headlined by seniors Olivia Hippensteel, Madison Stenger and Melanie Ruich and freshman Madison Fruchey. The Chargers’ signature event, the 3,200-meter relay, is in fine hands with Hippensteel and Stenger. Carroll has some speed, too, with senior Amy Poynter anchoring a state-ranked 1,600-meter relay team. In the field events, pole vaulter Sara McKeeman is tied for third in the state rankings.
Homestead is led by senior sprinter Ari Nelson, one of the state’s best in the 100 and 200 and ranked No. 2 in the long jump. Also in the field events for the Spartans is senior thrower Nicole Schneider.
While Northrop is a runaway favorite in the SAC, look for the Bruins sprinters to be chasing Thomas, the 2012 News-Sentinel Girl’s Track Athlete of the Year. Last year Thomas won the IHSAA State Championships in the 100 and 200 and was on the Lady Generals’ state-placing 400 and 1,600 relay teams.
Also headlining in the SAC is Concordia’s Symone Black, currently with the state’s fast time in the 100 hurdles. Black is also ranked among the state’s best in the 200 and 400.