Four lucky rabbit’s feet– still attached to the rest of the rabbit– bounded across the Portage High School track Tuesday afternoon, moments before trials began for the IHSAA Girls Track Regionals meet.
Competitors from the 13 high schools represented at the event cooed and laughed, welcoming the good omen as they moved through their warm-up routines. Fighting against the strong winds and dark clouds that chilled the air, they renewed their focus with big smiles on their faces.
“It’s what the Midwest gives us,” said Tori Bliss, girls sprints coach for Portage High School. “It’s an exciting day. We’re happy to host and I’m excited to see what our girls can do.”
Reluctant to play favorites, Bliss admitted that she was particularly looking forward to rooting for the Portage 4x100 relay team.
“That’s one of our relays that we’ve been struggling with throughout the season,” Bliss said.
Getting four girls that are healthy and in a rhythm with each other had been a struggle, and she was thrilled to see them come this far.
For James Johnston Jr., pole vault coach for Hobart High School, the blustery weather was good news. An outdoor setting and strong wind are particularly favorable conditions for his event, he explained.
“You jump higher outside, when the weather is good because just like today we have a tail wind,” Johnston said. “So that means you can get on bigger poles, stiffer poles, and you can go higher.”
Hobart pole vaulter Elena Polizotto’s main goal for the day was to jump high enough to make it to the state competition. Two weeks ago, Polizotto had set a conference record and personal best with a vault of 11 feet 3 inches. But, she said, she didn’t do quite as well as she had hoped at the sectionals competition last week.
“I think the nerves got to me a little bit,” Polizotto said. “So this meet I’m just trying to relax and just stay focused on what I gotta do.”
To prepare for regionals, she spent the last week refining her pushout form and strengthening her bottom arm. It’s been a sticking point for her all season, especially when nerves set in, and she wanted to nail it this time.
“We’ve just been doing a bunch of short vaults,” she said. “So that way it stays muscle memory and I can do it whether I’m nervous or not.”
All that hard work paid off for Polizotto. She finished second in the event, earning another shot to beat her record at the state meet at Indiana University- Bloomington on June 1.