These are strong times for Cathedral High School track and field.
The Irish not only won the Indiana High School Athletic Association girls state title for the first time in program history in 2021, they continue to build strong – and contending – teams in both the boys’ and girls’ programs.
Numbers are strong, and front-line talent is, too – and that has Irish track and field coach John O’Hara feeling good about the short- and long-term prospects for the program.
“We feel really good,” O’Hara said. “I would argue the last six or seven years has been our best in program history.”
The 2021 state girls title not only was the first state title in program history, the Irish became the first private school state girls track champion in Indiana high school history. The girls in 2022 return a solid team led by senior Reese Sanders, and were ranked No. 13 in the Indiana Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches in late March.
The boys program finished fourth in the sectional in 2021 – and O’Hara said numbers are high in 2022 for both programs, with 70-to-80 boys and 60 girls.
“The first battle is always getting athletes out,” O’Hara said. “Spring sports are huge here at the school and we have a lot of other spring sports other schools don’t have – [girls and boys] lacrosse, rugby and boys volleyball.
“If we can consistently have numbers at 100-to-120 athletes, boys and girls combined, we feel good. That lends itself to kids not having to overwhelm themselves at meets. Instead of four events, they can do two and hone in on the growth process of being a track and field athlete – and a good person as well.”
Key athletes on the girls team include Sanders, one of the state’s top hurdlers and all-around track athletes. She has committed to attend Notre Dame, having finished second in the indoor national meet in the pentathlon.
“Reese is being Reese,” O’Hara said of Sanders, who is Cathedral’s senior class president. “Only Reese and her family know how much time and energy she puts into it – and how much she sacrifices.”
Sanders – who also visited North Carolina, Duke and other Atlantic Coast Conference schools last fall – won the 300-meter hurdles at the 2021 state meet, finishing third in the 100-meter hurdles and helping the 4-x400-meter relay to the state title.
“She’s an amazing athlete and track coaches love athletes,” O’Hara said. “If you’re athletic and can do a lot of the stuff other people can’t, then typically they can find an event for you in track – and there’s no better event than the heptathlon and pentathlon for a good athlete. She will be in the mix in a fierce state for the 100 hurdles and the 300 is definitely going to be her top event.”
The Irish girls also feature indoor state pole vault champion junior Kailee Swart – “She’s skyrocketed over the last 18 months and has put in a ton of work; she’s really set herself up for making a long run,” O’Hara said – as well as strong group of sprinters that include senior Milani Kimble, junior Sidney Sanders and freshman Kate Kubacki. Kimble and Sidney Sanders were key members of the 4x400 state titlists in 2021.
“We have a lot of young sprinters,” O’Hara said. “We have a batch of about seven young sprinters who are battling. We’re trying to figure it all out in April and once early May rolls around, hopefully the recipe’s done and we put it in the pot and let it boil and see what comes out.”
Key for the Irish boys: senior Michael Page – who placed eighth in the state in the 400 in 2021 – and senior Qujuan Cannon, who was an indoor state finalist in the long jump. Junior Liam Eifert, a state finalist in cross-country, is competing in the 3,200.
The Irish boys also feature two front-line pole vaulters – senior Charlie Schenck and junior Dylan Keller – senior hurdler Cole Brewer and a strong group of freshman and sophomore sprinters including sophomore Jonathan Phillips.
“We’re just kind of seeing how it all plays out,” O’Hara said. “We could do some damage there as well. We’re very impressed so far with our senior leadership and all of our returners, and a huge batch of freshman.
“Our sectional and regional are difficult. No class system in Indiana, so it doesn’t matter if it’s a big school or small school – you have to face what’s in your area. We’re set again for an exciting postseason.”