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GIRLS TRACK: Western edges Northwestern to win sectional

May 15—Western's girls track and field team needed a strong finish to win the Kokomo Sectional on a rainy Tuesday night at Walter Cross Field.

Ellyse Walden and Caitlin Sylvester provided it.

Western was in third place in the team standings, seven points back of the lead, with only shot put remaining. Walden took first in the event with a put of 38 feet, 11.5 inches, and Sylvester took third place with a put of 32-0.5. They totaled 16 points, which gave the Panthers 101 points — two more than runner-up Northwestern. Maconaquah was third with 90.5 and Pioneer was fourth with 84.

Walden finished as a double winner. Earlier in the meet, she won discus with a heave of 120-7. Sylvester was fourth at 103-0.

"Our throwers really carried the day for us," Western coach Gary Jewell said. "We got first and fourth in the disc and first and third in the shot — that's a lot of points from just two events."

The Panthers set the stage for their throwers to finish the job by winning the final running event, the 4x400-meter relay. Lauren Bradley, Joy Marley, Lacy Rathbun and Ashlyn Pownall won in a time of 4:21.25, just edging runner-up Maconaquah (4:21.40). That brought Western and Maconaquah even in the team standings at 85, with Northwestern at 76, with high jump and shot put remaining.

"We got an enormous effort in that 4x4," Jewell said. "We made a change in that lineup right after conference, putting Lauren Bradley in there. That's the fastest time we've run in that relay in two years."

Rathbun ran the third leg and charged to the front.

"Lacy ran a really good leg last week in the county meet. I was like, 'That's what we want to see,'" Jewell said. "I had her [Tuesday] at like 61 seconds. That was amazing — that's usually what you see in an anchor leg. She gave us the lead and Ashlyn was able to bring us home in first place. I never thought we'd get first place in that relay. That was huge."

Northwestern dominated the high jump to move in front in the team standings. Lexi Hale took first place with a leap of 5-0 and Tiger teammate Ayla Jackson was third, also at 5-0. Their combined 16 points gave the Tigers 92 points and the lead, with Maconaquah in second at 86.5, Western in third at 85 and Pioneer in fourth at 84.

Western's Walden and Sylvester followed with their 1-3 finish in shot put to lift the Panthers to their second sectional title in three years and third all-time.

Earlier in the meet, Rathbun took first place in the 100 hurdles and second in the 300 hurdles. She ran the 100 hurdles in :16.22, winning the event for the second straight year.

Jewell noted the Panthers had contributions throughout their lineup.

"When we got into conference two weeks ago, I really started looking at what we had here and I was thinking we could pull it off," Jewell said. "We can score well in a lot of different places. ... We didn't score in the high jump or the 4x1. I expected to score well in that relay, but we didn't score at all. But we made it up in other areas.

"I'm very pleased with how we did. This was a good one for the kids and another trophy for the school."

Top-three finishers in each event advance to the Kokomo Regional next week.

Northwestern fell just shy in its bid for a repeat sectional title. Hannah Moore was brilliant for the Tigers. The Butler-bound runner won the 1,600 and 800 runs, giving her a four-year sweep of the events. She won the 1,600 in 5:34.55 and the 800 in 2:21.39. Teammate Courtney Adams was runner-up in the 1,600.

The Tigers' distance dominance carried over to the 3,200 where Adams was first in 11:48.99 and Moore was runner-up in 12:00.37.

Maconaquah's lone win came in the 4x800 relay to open the meet. Lucy Loshnowsky, Delight Pier, Chloe Jordan and Zoie Laber won in 10:09.72. Western was second and Northwestern was third as the three teams began their battle for the team title.

Kokomo finished fifth in the 12-team field with 55 points. Lewis Cass was sixth with 49, Eastern was seventh with 42.5; Peru and Tipton tied for ninth with 21 apiece and Tri-Central was 11th with 19.

Kokomo freshman Jhazlyn McKay was a double winner. Individually, she won the 300 hurdles in :48.70 and was second in the 100 hurdles. She teamed with Abrashia Moore, Tia Williams and Ma'kaela Young-Drake to win the 4x100 in :51.67.

Lewis Cass' Aftin Griffin won the 400 dash (1:01.43) and was runner-up in the 800 run.

Makenna Brooks led Eastern's showing with a win in the long jump (17-0) and runner-up finishes in the 100 and 200 dashes.

TC's Lilly Stewart was second in shot put and third in discus. Tipton's Amelia Servies was second in pole vault.

Bryan Gaskins is the Tribune's sports editor. He may be reached at bryan.gaskins@kokomotribune.com or 765-454-8567.