What drives a champion to succeed? In the case of Wayne sprinter Brionna Thomas and the vaunted Northrop girls track program, it's clearly pride. Don't doubt either. If you do, there will be repercussions.
Thomas ran away from the competition Tuesday at the Northrop girls track regionals, winning the 200-meter dash in record time (24.23) and taking the 100 as well (11.99). The No. 2-ranked Bruins won the meet with 78 points, putting an exclamation mark on the victory by dominating the 1,600-meter relay, the meet's final event. Northrop won the race in state-best time of 3 minutes, 51.98 seconds.
Bellmont placed a surprising second (68 points) on the strength of sprinter Alexis Harvey and hurdler and long jump winner Holly Hankenson. Carroll was third with 66 points, led by victorious pole vaulter Sara McKeeman and 3,200-meter runner Melanie Ruich.
Thomas clearly doesn't have anything to prove. She is the defending state champion in both the 100 and 200. But after losing in the 200 to Harvey at last week's New Haven Regional, Thomas felt disrespected.
“I was running with something to prove,” Thomas said. “I got beat last week in the 200 and everybody was giving me an earful. They were saying, you are the defending state champion: how can you lose at sectionals?”
The result of a week of good-natured teasing by teammates? A commanding victory over Harvey and a regional record. Harvey placed second in 24.57.
“I ran really well,” Thomas said of her victories. “My start needs to be a little better (in the 100), but my 200 was good.”
Northrop shouldn't have felt the same level of disrespect as Thomas, but hosting regionals as a favorite brings out a little extra edge said Bruins head coach Harmony Ake.
“Makelle (Skelton) told me that when she ran in the 1,600 relay: I realize this will be the last race I run on this track,” Ake said. “She was really motivated to finish well. It was very important to her.”
Skelton qualified for the state meet in all four events in which she competed: 300 hurdles (fourth), long jump (eighth), 400 relay (first) and 1,600 relay (first). But it was in the long jump that she showed her team spirit.
“I didn't jump in the finals because I hit the (state) standard (in the preliminaries),” Skelton said. “I needed to save my legs for the 300 hurdles and the 1,600 relay.”
In the 300 hurdles Skelton also hit the state standard, so she moves on. And moving on to the state meet is what regionals is all about. And if you can run in the fast heats at the state meet, that is even better.
“I think we are in great shape,” Skelton said of the Bruins. “We got most of the people we planned on (advancing). There are always ways we could have done better.”
Northrop should be in the fast heat in all three relays (they placed third in the 3,200 relay) and Dejah Arnold ran a state-leading time (55.83) in winning the 400. Arnold also advanced in the 100 as did Amber McGee in the 200. Jaquell Taylor also advanced in the 100 hurdles.
“I think we have the right people going down there (in order) to win a state championship,” Skelton said.
Ake agrees: “We are peaking, running our fastest times of the year. This is right where we want to be at this point in the season.”
Also winning Tuesday was Concordia's Symone Black, who swept the hurdle events. Black won the 100 hurdles in a regional record time of 14.20; she won the 300 in 42.58.
Other area winners included Leo's Keanna Gary in the discus.
The girls state meet is at Indiana University on Saturday, June 1.