By LENNY C. LEPOLA News Assistant Managing Editor
January 1, 2014
Name a Big Walnut High School winter sports team that doesn’t get recognized in area newspaper winter sports tabs; a team that doesn’t have a traditional Senior’s Parent Night recognition ceremony; and always competes away from home with no local fans to cheer them on.
Many area high school sports fans probably would have a difficult time answering that question if they couldn’t glance down a few more lines for the answer and then convince themselves that they knew it all along.
But the Big Walnut High School Girl’s Indoor Track and Field Team, coached by girls outdoor track coach Joe Evener, is a relatively close-knit group of young ladies who run indoor track events through winter months for love of the sport, the challenge of competition and the camaraderie of training.
The girls certainly don’t compete for the glory other athletes gain from competing in front of a hometown crowd. Other than practice sessions at the high school, competitions are always held away from home.
Evener calls the high school basement hallways The Joe Evener Indoor Track Training Facility. He might be using the term in jest, but with the weather not suitable for outdoor training, and the main and auxiliary gymnasiums occupied by boys and girls basketball teams, that’s where you find Evener and his Girl’s Indoor Track Squad practicing after school lets out – in the basement hallways.
“We have 31 girls participating on the indoor team this winter,” Evener said. “We practice every Monday and Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The first half of each session is running, conditioning, stretching and working on fundamentals; the second half is in the weight room. Our jumps squad has practices in the auxiliary gym at different times.”
While the practice facilities and practice times are limited, and practice is laid back and not mandatory, Evener said Big Walnut’s girls take the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches (OATCCC) indoor track and field season seriously, with girls coming out to compete in the 60-meter hurdles, 60m dash, 200m dash, 400m dash, 800m run, 1,600m run and 3,200m run; and Big Walnut girls field relay teams in the 4 by 200, 4 by 400 and 4 by 800 relays.
Big Walnut girls also have the opportunity to compete in the shot put, pole vault, high jump, long jump and the triple jump.
To say that the Big Walnut girl’s indoor track team’s performance has been impressive over the years would be an understatement. Evener notes that they’ve won the Central District Division I Indoor title four years in a row. In March at the 2013 OATCCC Indoor State Track Championships held at Akron University the girls tied with Gahanna for fourth place in Division I.
While the team was at last year’s state indoor meet, Big Walnut’s Olivia Small won the long and triple jump titles, setting new school records. Small, a senior this year, went on to win the state outdoor long jump title at the 2013 Ohio High School Athletic Association State Track Meet held on June 8 at Jesse Owens Stadium on The Ohio State University Campus in Columbus.
“With the team we had last year and returners, this is going to be a very good season,” Evener said. “We have a state qualifier in Kristen Carty, a state placer in hurdler Jamie Annis, a state champion in Olivia Small. I haven’t had that kind of firepower since the 2000 season when we returned four state placers.”
Evener said with the team’s sheer numbers combined with the quality of team members returning from last year’s successful squad, he and jumps coach Mike Ryder are setting very high goals.
“Our jumps team is loaded with Small, who owns school records in her events, Anna Mackey in long and triple jump, and Avery Kerns in high jump,” Evener said. “Then we have Jamie (Annis) who’s super strong on the 60 hurdles, Hannah Griffith is stepping up in the weight throw, Olivia Daggett in the 400, and we have Catie Craig-Bowden running distance. What more can I say, except it’s going to be fun to sit back and watch these girls compete.”
The Big Walnut High School Girls Indoor Track and Field Team’s first meet is January 26 at the Ohio Wesleyan University High School Invitational. The Central District Indoor meet will be held March 1 at Otterbein University; and the 2014 OATCCC State Indoor Championships will be held on March 8 at Akron University.