This was disappointing, without question.
That was true for every Indiana high school spring sport in 2020, and it held true for a Cathedral High School girls track team poised for another season of growth and success.
Those traits have defined Irish girls track in recent seasons.
That the program didn’t get to experience them in ’20 hurt, but coach John O’Hara said he doesn’t believe that will keep the program from continuing on a successful course.
“We really had a nice base from the sprints all the way to the distances,” O’Hara said of early practices and indoor meets in ‘20. “On the track, we were doing some pretty nice things.”
Irish girls track, like all Indiana high school spring sports, had its 2020 season canceled by regulations addressing Covid-19. Unlike many spring sports, Irish track competed in some early-season events – the LC Invite No. 1 and the Roncalli Invite – before events were postponed in mid-March.
All high school Indiana spring sports were canceled in early April.
“I felt really bad for these kids, because a lot of these kids were improving their times with a chance to get some college recognition,” O’Hara said. “They handled it with style and grace. I have a lot of kids reaching out to me for workout programs and stuff they can still do in the neighborhood or on a patch of straight ground or grass.
“There is still a big motivation for kids. They’ve done a great job. I’m proud of them.”
O’Hara said Irish girls track had a solid, balanced team in ’20 – one capable of qualifying multiple events and athletes for not only the indoor state meet early in the season but the season-ending Indiana High School Athletic Association outdoor state meet in Bloomington in early June.
“We had a few seniors that we lost [from 2019], but in all reality we held strong to most of our core,” O’Hara said. “We were probably going to qualify all the relays for indoor state. I think a couple of them were probably going to medal for sure.
“It was one of those years. The girls had struggled to kind of put together all the pieces in all of the events, and it seemed like a year we were going to be able to make a strong run at the city title against [rival] Bishop Chatard, who we typically always battle with.”
Seniors for Irish girls track in ’20 were:
*My’Jah Mintze, a state medalist in 2019 in the 4x200 and 4x100. She won the 60-meter dash at the Roncalli Invite in 7.88 seconds in 2020. “She had an outstanding offseason and indoor season and was well on her way to being a state finalist in the 60,” O’Hara said. “She definitely put in a lot of the work.”
*The 4x200 relay, which medaled with a school record in 2019 in the indoor state meet and which was ranked sixth in the state when sports were canceled. The team won the Roncalli Invite in 1:47.44. Team members included: Kayla Pitts, Mintze, Alexis Parchman, Reese Sanders, Amani Barnes. “They were looking to do some big things,” O’Hara said. Parchman, a junior, won the long jump in 16-08 at the Roncalli Invite.
*The 4x400 relay, which won the Roncalli Invite in 4:18.44.
*Gracie Carr, who was coming off an injury – and who was a state finalist in the 1,600 as a junior and in cross country. “She was starting to come into her own,” O’Hara said.
*McKinney, a state finalist in the 3,200 and the 4x800 in 2019. “She was doing really well and setting some nice marks early in the season,” O’Hara said.
*Katie Rushka, distance runner. “They’ve been the ultimate team girls,” O’Hara said of Carr, McKinney and Rushka. “They’ve taken care of that distant team, which has grown in the last year – which I’m really proud of.”
*Imani Barnes, relays.
*Nyah Conway, hurdles and high jump – and a sectional champion in the high jump as a sophomore.
*Bella Leous, hurdles.
*Alise Chavis, shot put and discus.
*Danielle Levingston, shot put and discus.
“There’s going to be a lot of things that are hard to replace next year, because we’ve had this top group of girls for the last three or four years,” O’Hara said. “They weren’t running jayvee events as freshmen. They’ve been running varsity events for their entire careers.”
O’Hara said it’s a group of seniors whose legacy will be having built the core of what appears to be a strong program moving forward.
“The battle we’ve always had is numbers – forever,” O’Hara said. “It’s not a new problem. There are so many spring sport options for the whole school. We have more spring sports athletes than any other season because of the amount of club sports. We have incredible programs. Our numbers were up for the girls this past season which I was excited about.
“The majority of the athletes are freshmen through juniors, which I was excited that they’ll all be returning for next season. As long as we keep trending toward the number want and keep putting track and field on the map in the school, promoting the sport. These are kids who run through the hallways in November and March and come June, after they put in eight months of work, they’re standing on podiums doing big things and they’re going to colleges to run.
“I’m starting to see that change in the girls program that it’s starting to click that they have some special things going on.”