Whitko sophomore Gwen Howard releases her throw during the shot put competition at the IHSAA Girls Track and Field Regional at?Goshen High School Tuesday night.
Whitko sophomore Gwen Howard releases her throw during the shot put competition at the IHSAA Girls Track and Field Regional at?Goshen High School Tuesday night.
GOSHEN – The Times-Union area female track and field programs are usually comprised of strong middle- to long-distance runners, a handful of successful sprinters, and a few individuals who are strong in field events.

Perhaps now and then there are less than a handful of dominant throwers, and the end results in their postseason journeys are somewhat predictable.

Tuesday night’s IHSAA regional track and field meet at Goshen’s Foreman Field showcased some dominant performances in the shot put and discus, and – specifically – a big finish for a local shot-putter coming down to the final throws between Whitko’s Gwen Howard and her toughest opponent, Concord’s Macie Swineheart.

Howard won her preliminary round convincingly setting the regional meet record with a 43’6” throw, but the competition around her stepped up in the event’s finals, an additional three throws among the top eight qualifiers.

Howard went into the third and final leading the field by 14 inches with her 43’1” throw when Swineheart, second to last to approach the circle, heaved the shot put 43’5 ½” to take the lead.

Howard approached the circle with one chance to move back into first place.

The sophomore, who also qualified for state in the discus throw Tuesday night (121-07, third place), was strictly business on her final approach.

“I gave it all I had and didn’t let (Swineheart’s throw) get in my head,” she said, cancelling out the rumble of crowd noise reacting to Swineheart’s surprise heave.

Howard did not spend a lot of time setting up the throw, and proceeded into the circle, setting her back foot almost the entire length of the circle, spinning and heaving the shot 45’1” to crush her previous record-setting throw to capture the blue ribbon.

The Whitko sophomore was also busy on the oval, running the 400-meter dash. Although she didn’t qualify, seeing Howard switch gears to run an event that is atypical among most throwers was like watching an actor transform into a different character within the same play.

“I’ve prepared for that kind of (activity) in my training all year, so I don’t let moving back and forth bother me,” Howard said.

Wawasee sophomore Emma Yoder entered the regional meet with a top throw nearly 23 feet longer than her next-highest seeded opponent. The crowd watching the discus competition didn’t have as suspenseful an air as the showdown between Swineheart and Howard, but enough of the audience was already aware of Yoder’s record-breaking potential.

Yoder’s final preliminary round toss of 156’1” drew an audible reaction from the crowd, and those athletes headed to the final were talking among themselves whether Yoder would crush the regional record of 156’9” and perhaps eclipse 160 feet in the finals.

Yoder made things interesting in the discus finals, however, but not in a manner she preferred.

“My first two throws in the finals weren’t ideal,” Yoder said. “I wanted one more good throw for the day.”

The third-place finisher in the 2022 state track and field meet (in her freshman year), tossed the discus twice in the final round with distances that were closer to the rest of the field’s throwing range than her usual rarified air performance.

Yoder needed to throw at least 126 feet for the win.

Yoder, the final thrower in the event, visibly improved her focus and technique and the discus sailed 148’11” to clinch the win and a return to the Indiana Bloomington campus’s track and field stadium to hopefully improve her finish from the final year.

“I’m excited to be back down there. I’m excited to see how much better I can throw,” Yoder said. “I’ll stick to what I know, and practice without changing anything.”

Triton’s Addy Viers finished fourth in the shot put (39-11.25), and she will wait for a call from the IHSAA in case of scratches or other reasons for field vacancies.

Other area athletes scoring points in throwing events included Wawasee’s Brooklyn Gibson (sixth place, shot put, 35-09), and Warsaw’s Abbi Kohler (eighth place, discus 109-11).

Kohler received a call from the IHSAA although she did not finish in the top three at sectionals and moved ahead of the 16-athlete field to score at regionals.