Lenny C. Lepola
Name a Big Walnut High School winter sports team that doesn’t get recognized in area newspaper winter sports tabs; a team that doesn’t have a traditional Senior Parent’s Night recognition ceremony; and always competes away from home with no local fans to cheer it on.
Many area high school sports fans probably would have a difficult time answering that question if they couldn’t glance down a few more lines for the answer and then convince themselves that they knew it all along.
But the Big Walnut High School girls indoor track and field team, coached by girls outdoor track coach Joe Evener, is a relatively close-knit group of young ladies who run indoor track events through winter months for love of the sport, the challenge of competition, and the camaraderie of training.
The girls certainly don’t compete for the glory other athletes gain from competing in front of a hometown crowd. Other than practice sessions at the high school, competitions are always held away from home.
Evener calls the high school basement hallways The Joe Evener Indoor Track Training Facility. He might be using the term in jest, but with the weather not suitable for outdoor training and the main and auxiliary gymnasiums occupied by boys and girls basketball teams, the high school’s lower level hallways and stairways are where you find Evener and his squad practicing after school lets out.
“We have 30-plus girls signed up for indoor this year,” Evener said. “The indoor season is extremely important to the success we have had in the outdoor track and field program. It gives girls not doing a winter sport a chance to get in shape, newcomers get introduced to the system we have in place and meet some of the returners, and the girls get to learn many of the fundamentals necessary for proper nutrition and developing the skills to be successful.”
Evener said practices are light in terms of intensity, but that shouldn’t be confused with being easy.
“I believe that we can get a lot of hard work accomplished while still having fun,” Evener said.
Evener said this year’s indoor squad is diverse enough that it will cover most events at meets.
“We have student-athletes in just about every event,” Evener said. “We’ve got relay teams at all distances, hurdlers, sprinters, distance runners and jumpers all wrapped up in a nice combination of seniors and youngsters. That makes for great sense of camaraderie before the outdoor season begins in the spring, and it’s a great way to bring freshmen in and make track and field an overall positive experience for them.”
The Big Walnut High School indoor track and field program has won Central District titles in 1996, 2000, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014; and indoor district runners-up titles in 1997, 1999, 2008 and 2009.
The program has had six top-20 team state placings – 6th in 2009, 5th in 2010, 15th in 2011, 4th in 2012, tied for 4th in 2013 and tied for 9th in 2014.
As individuals, Big Walnut High School has had 89 indoor state qualifiers, 35 indoor state placers and five indoor state champions.
Assisting Evener this year are Red Edwards (hurdles), Mike Ryder (jumps), Dora Riggs (throws), Kevin Lewis (distance), and Chelsey Carothers (pole vault).
All Big Walnut indoor track and field coaches volunteer their time during the indoor season, as indoor track and field is not recognized as a sport by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA), but is sanctioned by the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches (OATCCC).
On Feb. 5 the girls compete at OSU, Feb. 14 at Otterbein University and Feb. 21 at Capital University. On Feb. 27 they will be at Otterbein University for the Central District Indoor Championship. March 5 is the OATCCC Indoor Track and Field State Championship at Akron University.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093