There is no realistic expectation that anyone will catch Lynna Irby in this girls track and field season. At least two teams, Warren Central and Carmel, will try to catch defending state champion Pike.
Warren Central last won a state team championship in 2008 and Carmel in 1999.
Previewing the season:
Five teams to watch
• No. 1-ranked Warren Central won the unofficial state indoor championship, the Hoosier State Relays, and set a state record in the 800-meter relay. The Warriors have a strong sprint corps, plus hurdler Kayland Jackson. Coach Le’gretta Smith said the Warriors are looking for “any point we can get.” Pike edged them 50-48 at state last year. “Now, we just come back, regroup and try to add to what we have,” she said.
• No. 2 Pike has won two of the past four state titles. With Irby, who has won two sprint triples, the Red Devils just need a few relay points to repeat. They have the state’s top pole vaulter, Sandra Brown.
• No. 3 Carmel has won a record six consecutive state titles in cross-country, so strength in distance races is a given. Sarah Leinheiser, Christina Geisler and Stacy Morozov went 2-3-4 in the 3,200 meters at Hoosier State Relays. “With the Irby factor, we’ve got to get points elsewhere,” coach Aaron McRill said. The Greyhounds can, too, from hurdler Jessica Cowen, quarter-miler Rachel Dixon, long jumper Cailyn Etgen and sophomore vaulter Kara Deady.
• No. 5 Ben Davis, another sprint power, won last year’s state 400-meter relay in 46.24 — fastest in the nation outside Florida, Texas and California. Among those back from that foursome are junior Kyara Simmons and long jumper Ra’Von Woodson. High jumper Erynn Young was sixth at state, and Woodson won the indoor long jump.
• No. 7 Noblesville, after scoring seven points for 39th at state a year ago, is poised for a huge climb. The Millers finished sixth at Hoosier State Relays, placing second in the 3,200 relay. Noblesville features cross-country all-stater Abigail Little; high jumper Shelby Tyler, who ranked No. 1 in the nation indoors among freshmen (5-7); and long jumper Maria Anderson, No. 8 among the nation’s freshmen (17-4).
Individuals to watch
• Sandra Brown, Pike, senior: After finishing fourth at state last year, the vaulter was eighth at indoor nationals. At 13-1 indoors, only four Indiana girls have ever gone higher.
• Breanna Byrdsong, Warren Central, senior: She is anchor not only for the Warriors’ sprint relay, but for their team. She was third in the indoor 60 in 7.61.
• Victoria Farley, Portage, junior: She followed last year’s state victory (46-1¾) by winning indoors.
• Katherine Free, Cathedral, senior: After finishing third in the 1,600 at state, she was second in cross-country and beat Leinheiser to win the 3,200 indoors in 10:37.7. Free is headed to Indiana University.
• Megan Grabowski, Bloomington South, senior: If not for Irby, she would be the state’s top sprinter. The IU recruit was second to Irby in the 100/200 last year (11.70/24.50), and second again in the indoor 60 in 7.52.
• Lynna Irby, Pike, junior: The state meet is a step along the way for Irby, who will try to qualify for the World Junior Championships after winning a 400-meter silver medal in last year’s youth worlds. She has qualified for the Olympic Trials with her 51.79, breaking Maicel Malone’s state record from 1986. She concentrated on 60 meters indoors, lowering her state record to 7.40 and finishing sixth at nationals. Malone was 11-for-12 in state titles, and Irby is halfway to 12-for-12.
• Katie Isenbarger, Zionsville, sophomore: The volleyball/basketball player high-jumped 5-10 last year, best in the nation by a freshman. She finished third at state and second indoors last week.
• Kayland Jackson, Warren Central, junior: She was state runner-up in the 100 hurdles in 14.46 and won 60 hurdles indoors.
• Semira Killebrew, Brebeuf Jesuit, freshman: The former age-group national champ is making her high school debut. She won the small-school 60 in 7.58, third in Indiana behind Irby and Grabowski. Among the nation’s freshmen, Killebrew was No. 4 in the 60 and No. 7 in the 200 (25.21).
• Sarah Leinheiser, Carmel, junior: The cross-country state champion went on to finish seventh and eighth in two national races last fall. She was second to Free indoors in the 3,200 in 10:43.2.
• Taylor Nicholson, Avon, junior: She won the state 1,600 as a freshman and was second to Mishawaka’s record-breaking Anna Rohrer last year. Nicholson was ninth in state cross-country last fall and seventh in the 3,200 indoors.
• Kyara Simmons, Ben Davis, junior: She was fourth in the 100 and third in the 200 at state, and has bests of 11.85/24.26.
Call IndyStar reporter David Woods at (317) 444-6195. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidWoods007.