The unlikely combination of a global pandemic and an untimely injury joined in delaying Brooke Coffman’s postseason debut.
Coffman, a Franklin senior, made up for it by qualifying in two events at the 2022 state meet.
Being a high jumper, it would be beyond cliché to suggest she’s setting the bar higher this spring, particularly considering Coffman is expected to score points in no fewer than four events for the Grizzly Cubs.
Her specialty, the 300 hurdles, netted a 21st-place performance at state last spring.
Coffman also took part in Franklin’s 4×400 relay, running the third leg, as it took 24th. She returns alongside junior Lauren Klem and sophomore Ainsley Botkin in that event.
Coffman will also compete in the 100 hurdles and high jump.
“A lot of people say the 300s are the hardest event, but I like to catch the people in front of me,” Coffman said. “I would say I’m a stronger finisher than starter.”
Coffman, who took third at the Franklin Sectional in the 300s a year ago in 48.10 seconds, returned to the same facility a week later and won regional in a school-record time of 46.37. She narrowly missed out on making it to Indiana University for state in the high jump, her regional best of 5-foot-3 placing fourth (the top three advance).
Suffice it to say, Coffman doesn’t lack for things to do during her team’s after-school practices.
“It’s a matter of planning your practices,” she said. “High jump is more technique work and getting stronger, while I feel the running events I do are more about endurance.”
The fact that Coffman is making the most of her opportunities surprises no one.
The COVID-19 pandemic eliminated the entire spring sports season her freshman year. In the final regular-season meet in 2021, Coffman had just cleared the fifth hurdle in the 300s at Columbus North when she felt a pain on her left side.
Coffman sustained an iliac crest injury to her left pelvis, making it impossible for her to continue to compete at the sectional.
No surgery was required, though Coffman needed crutches for approximately a month.
“And there was a lot of physical therapy. But by January (2022), I felt like I was back to normal,” Coffman said. “I’m very proud of what I accomplished last season, especially coming off my injury.
“This season, I would like to PR more in the 300s, high jump and 4×400, and qualify for state in those events.”
In November, Coffman committed to attend Marian University, where she will run track for the Knights beginning in 2023-24.
Until then, the motivation is to produce the kind of track season that extends well into June.
“Brooke has high expectations for herself, so definitely a return to state in some of her events,” Franklin coach Ray Lane said. “Honestly, she has a pretty good shot at three of them.
“She’s cut from that same cloth the really great ones are cut from. Brooke’s expectation is to never not be great at whatever she’s working at.”
SCOUTING THE COUNTY
Center Grove Trojans
Coach: Wes Dodson
Key returnees: Emmie Brown, Kate Henselmeier, Ashley Lauffer, Molly Tapak and Shelby Wingler, seniors; Dee Biddings, Lilly Brunsman, Allison Cohen, Maddie Kramer, Liz Madden and Lara Phipps, juniors; Suhk Chahal, Diana Hodges, Hallie Mimbela, Marissa Pogue, Alana Riley, Hannah Smith, Emerson Vlcan and Khloie Walker, sophomores
Top newcomers: Luci Barile, Chloe Farmer, Channing Hazzard, Jessie Jasek, Annabelle Kemerling, Olivia O’Haver and Andra Veleta, freshmen
Outlook: After tying for eighth place in the team standings at the state meet in 2022, the Trojans are in a position to aim even higher this time around. Kramer, who was sixth in the 100 hurdles and eighth in the 200-meter dash, will be a factor if fully recovered from an offseason injury. Henselmeier took seventh at state in the 400, Wingler was runner-up in the shot put and nearly all the athletes from the three relays that qualified are back.
“We are really excited about the season. We have two national level competitors in Kate Henselmeier and Shelby Wingler,” Dodson said. “We have some really good freshmen who are going to be an immediate impact, and we return a bunch of girls who ran in last year’s state championship. We will hopefully compete to win the county, sectional and regional, and hopefully make a run at a very high place in the state finals.”
Coach: Amy Schilling
Key returnee: Alana Hobbs, junior
Top newcomers: Shyleigh Gobel, sophomore; Jaycee Burton, Addi Crawhorn and Kenna Streeval, freshmen
Outlook: “We’re excited to have more girls participating this year, and able to have more girls in events,” Schilling said. “They work hard and are learning different events, so we will look to improve as the season progresses.”
Franklin Grizzly Cubs
Coach: Ray Lane
Key returnees: Brooke Coffman and Morgan Sandrock, seniors; Emma Bertel and Lauren Klem, juniors; Ainsley Botkin and Aubrey Runyon, sophomores
Top newcomers: Addison Martin and Ava Ott, freshmen
Outlook: Sandrock returns after achieving a 10th-place finish at the state meet in the high jump, though she’ll take part in both hurdles events as well. Hurdlers Coffman and Runyon also have competed at the highest level, as have Klem and Botkin.
“We bring back most of the core from last season’s team that qualified for the state finals in four events, so we’re hopeful to be in position to compete well with the top teams in the area in May,” Lane said. “We feel like we’re pretty balanced across the board with solid point contributors returning in hurdles, field events and distance. We’ve got some young sprinters that could give us more depth in the 100- and 200-meter dashes than we’ve had in a few years.”
Coach: Blaine Williams
Key returnees: Lily Hommell, senior; Amy Luttrell, junior; Makena Cruse, Emma Gardner and Ryann Marker, sophomores
Top newcomers: Ava Rippetoe and Danielle Suiters, juniors; Olivia Ford, sophomore; Mya Gardner and Lily Rollings, freshmen.
Outlook: The loss of high jumper Ellie Irwin (now a junior at Homestead) stings after she tied for fourth in the state meet last season. The Woodmen still look to have the ingredients for a solid season, however, as Luttrell (12th in pole vault), Emma Gardner (13th in discus) and Cruse (20th in the 400) also gained state experience.
“Obviously, losing an All-State athlete like Ellie Irwin is a bitter pill to swallow,” Williams said. “However, we still return our next four top scorers from last year, none of whom are seniors. We are really going to lean on that group to lead this team, and I’m excited to see what our freshmen bring to the table. I love our attitude and our effort so far. We have great kids out there.”
Greenwood Christian Cougars
Coach: Andre Dobson
Key returnees: Evelynn Eldridge and Hannah Winn, seniors
Top newcomers: Kailey Helton and Danielle McLaughlin, sophomores; Keira Goins, Christina Munsell, Izzy Snell, Kaylynn Tremblett and Audrey Wall, freshmen
Outlook: Eldridge is back for the Cougars in the shot put and discus, while newcomers Helton (pole vault) and Goins (sprints, long jump) will be factors as well.
Indian Creek Braves
Coach: Brady Devine
Key returnees: Paige Iaria and Memoree Weekley, seniors; Phoebe Dowty, Molly Margison, Gracee Meredith, Hannah Seitzinger and Ella Taylor, juniors
Top newcomers: Abby Fleetwood, senior; Brooke Ulerick and Alivia White, sophomores; Libby Dowty and Haylie Knight, freshmen
Outlook: Three-quarters of the 4×800 relay that placed 22nd at the state meet return to lead the Braves. Meanwhile, the arrival of freshman Libby Dowty, who finished 15th at state in cross country this past fall, only makes the team that much stronger.
“We return three of the four girls from the state qualifying 4×800 relay, and also add Abby Fleetwood and Libby Dowty to the mix,” Devine said. “Ella Taylor and Molly Margison also will return as regional qualifiers from a year ago, and the 4×400 relay also returns three out of four. We are extremely deep on the distance side, and have gotten stronger on the sprint side. We hope for a podium finish at the state meet from the 4×800 relay. We also hope to sneak a few more out of the regional in individual running and throwing events.”
Coach: Brandon Bangel
Key returnees: Amelia Edens, Megan Lester, Melia Marlin and Brooklyn Taylor, seniors; Emma Gill, Tori Jackson, Emma Gill and Sydney Rodgers, juniors; Addison Emberton and Bella Fuentes, sophomores
Top newcomers: Sophia Dyer, Elnora Stevenson and Carly VonDielingen, freshmen
Outlook: Taylor, who placed 10th at state in the shot put, and Jackson, a state qualifier in cross country, are expected to lead the Warriors as they vie for conference supremacy once again. Meanwhile, Rodgers is coming off a 22nd-place effort at state in the 100 and will be expected to be among the area’s top sprinters.
“The team will be fairly well balanced this year with key returners in the throws, jumps, sprints and distance events,” Bangel said. “If some of our newcomers can compete at the varsity level this year, we believe this team will have a chance to repeat as Mid-State Conference champs. Individually, we have a few girls that have a chance to make it on the podium at the state meet in June.”