A dominant multi-event athlete who returned to the Indiana High School Athletic Association State Finals and coach known for his strong teams on the boys’ side took top honors on the 30th annual KPC Media Group Girls Track and Field All-Area Team.
Westview junior Aleka Ernsberger was named Prep of the Year, and Churubusco’s Zach Dock was named area Coach of the Year.
Ernsberger had another very strong season.
She was undefeated in the regular season in the 200- and 400-meter dashes and the long jump. She only lost once in the 100, and that was to a very good sprinter who was not in the Northeast Corner Conference.
The 400 and 200 were more of Ernsberger’s focus in the postseason. However, she was the runner-up in the NECC Meet in the 100.
Ernsberger also ran a split of 57.78 seconds as part of the Warriors 4-by-400 relay team to further help herself in her best event. She helped that relay qualify for the regional and finish third in both the Angola Sectional and in the NECC Meet.
Ernsberger won NECC and sectional championships in both the 400 and the 200. At the highest levels, her biggest focus was the 400 as she scratched out of the 200 at the Marion Regional.
Ernsberger advanced to state in the 400 with a third-place finish in the regional at Indiana Wesleyan University with a time of 58.7 seconds.
Ernsberger picked it up at the IHSAA State Finals roughly a week and a half later at Indiana University in Bloomington by finishing in 57.81 seconds on June 1. But the field was very strong and the Warriors placed 16th in the 400.
On the coaching side, Dock has consistently fielded strong teams for the Churubusco boys. Strong football and boys track programs have gone hand-in-hand in Turtle Town with Dock also being the defensive coordinator on the gridiron.
Dock’s passion for coaching and developing talent is really starting to show in girls track and field.
The Eagles do have a two-time state qualifier in pole vaulter in Maggie Burita, but they don’t have the girls’ version of multi-event standout Sam Wood. Churubusco’s girls were based on balance with the ability to be competitive in many different events, and they did so with a lot of underclassmen. That showed in the postseason against a lot of schools more than twice the size of Churubusco’s enrollment of 350 kids.
The Eagles were second in the NECC Meet on May 8 at Fairfield by a half-point over Angola, the season-long favorite.
Six days later, Churubusco did not fade away against Fort Wayne’s finest in the Northrop Sectional. The Eagles were pretty much in the thick of it with a fourth-place finish with 70.5 points.
Dock’s Eagles were 1.5 points behind Snider, a Fort Wayne school of 1,860 students. They finished ahead of three bigger schools with strong athletic reputations in parochial mainstays Bishop Dwenger (fifth with 67), Concordia (sixth with 54) and a rising school on the outskirts in Leo (seventh with 42).
What Dock has done has not been overlooked by his peers.
“Their program has come a long way over the last two years,” said Westview coach Ken Ernsberger, Aleka’s father.
Here is the rest of the KPC Media Group All-Area Girls Track and Field Team.
CHURUBUSCO Maggie Burita, Jr.
Burita returned to state in pole vault and finished ninth in a school record height of 11-6. She was also regional runner-up, Northrop Sectional champion and NECC Meet champion in that event.
Burita also ran the anchor leg on the Eagles’ 4-by-400 relay team that won the NECC title and qualified for the regional.
Kilah Smith, So.
Smith is the latest in a long line of strong Eagle throwers, regardless of gender. She was a regional qualifier in both the shot put and the discus.
In the discus, Smith won the Northrop Sectional with a throw of 126 feet that surpassed the state standard. Then she placed fourth in the regional at 119-7.
ANGOLA 4-by-100-meter relay team of Ashaunti Almond, So.; Michelle Luna, Sr., Laura Rodriguez Lugo, Sr.; and Anna-Bella Sawyer-Ewing, Sr.
This relay set a new record for the sectional that the Hornets and East Noble regularly take turns hosting at 50.50 seconds, besting the old mark of 50.58 seconds set by DeKalb in 2010. And this Angola quartet kept getting better, running 50.34 to place third in the Marion Regional and 50.22 in finishing 25th at state. That state time is the new school record.
Luna, Rodriguez Lugo and Sawyer-Ewing were also on Angola’s sectional-winning 4-by-400 relay and will be competing athletically in college. Sawyer-Ewing will run track at NCAA Division III Wisconsin-Stout, and Rodriguez will participate in track and field at NAIA Saint Francis, Illinois. Luna will play soccer at Wabash Valley College, a two-year school in Mount Carmel, Illinois.
Luna and Rodriguez Lugo each qualified for regional in four events, and Sawyer-Ewing made the regional in three events. Rodriguez Lugo won sectional and NECC titles in the 300 hurdles, and holds the school record in that event. Sawyer-Ewing scored in the regional with a seventh-place finish in the 200. Luna won the NECC title and finished fourth in the regional in the 100 dash.
Jessica Davis, Jr.
Davis really stood out in the shot put, winning sectional and NECC titles in that event. Her best postseason throw was 38 feet, 3 inches in the Angola Sectional, then she placed fifth in the Marion Regional at 37-10.25
Samantha Biernat, Jr.
Biernat starred in the 800 for the Hornets, winning sectional and NECC championships in the event. She finished seventh in the regional with her best postseason time of 2 minutes, 25.16 seconds.
EAST NOBLE Kylie Garton, So.
This youngster set a new standard for the Knights in the pole vault, holding the program record by clearing the bar at 10-7. She was the Angola Sectional champion, Northeast 8 Conference runner-up and tied for fifth at the Marion Regional at 9 feet.
Hannah Henning, Sr.
Henning was the Knights’ lone NE8 event champion as the team won the conference meet. That first came in the 300 hurdles.
Henning led East Noble in scoring and was part of the Knights’ sectional champion 4-by-800 relay team. She was also a sectional runner-up in the 300 hurdles, 4-by-100 relay and 4-by-400 relay. She helped the 4-by-100 relay record the second fastest time in program history.
Kayla McCulloch, Sr.
The Purdue-bound McCulloch was second on the Knights in scoring and helped the team win the Angola Sectional with firsts in the 1,600, 3,200 and the 4-by-800 relay.
In the history of East Noble girls track and field, McCulloch has the second fastest time in the 3,200 and the third fastest time in the 1,600.
CENTRAL NOBLE Meleah Leatherman, Sr.
Leatherman ended a tremendous high school athletic career with a ninth-place finish in the high jump at the IHSAA State Finals.
Leatherman also sprinted to a lot of success this past spring, but her main event was the high jump, where she went undefeated in the regular season and won regional, sectional and NECC titles. Her season-best effort was clearing the bar at 5-6.
Leatherman will play basketball at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne.
Katelyn Ayres, Jr.
It was a difficult spring for Ayres after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in one of her knees last fall. But she was still the NECC champion, Angola Sectional runner-up and regional qualifier in both the discus and the shot put.
In the discus, Ayres set a school record at 131-0.5 and finished fifth in the regional while the bad knee popped again. She threw a season-best 38-2 in the shot put.
WEST NOBLE Madison Schermerhorn, Sr.
Schermerhorn is now training at Purdue University in preparation for the upcoming volleyball season in the fall. Before she left for West Lafayette, she finished a stellar prep athletic career with an enjoyable track and field season that ended in a big way with three top-10 finishes in the Marion Regional. She was sixth in the 200, seventh in the 100 and 10th in the long jump.
Schermerhorn was sectional champion in the 100 and led the Chargers to a share of the NECC Western Division title with Prairie Heights. She was sectional runner-up in both the 200 and long jump. She was NECC runner-up in the long jump and the 100.
DEKALB Bethany Kelley, Sr.
Kelley was the sectional and Northeast 8 Conference champion in the long jump. She also scored in that event at regional, placing seventh at 15-10.5.
Kelley was a three-sport athlete for the Barons and will long jump and run the sprint events at NCAA Division I Purdue Fort Wayne, beginning this coming fall.
EASTSIDE Erika Brock, Jr.
Brock scored in the Marion Regional with eighth-place finishes in both the 100 hurdles and 400 dash.
Brock was the Angola Sectional and NECC champion in 100 hurdles. She set the Blazer girls’ program record in that event this past spring at 15.8 seconds.
All-Area honorable mentions in girls track and field were Dezirae Napier and Jaycee Malone from NECC Western Division co-champion Prairie Heights, Angola’s Taylor Clemens, West Noble’s Lilly Mast, Garrett’s Valencia Placencia, Lakeland’s Keirstin Roose and Fremont’s Samantha Kuhn.