Aurora girls track team has standouts but overall lacks depth
After a year layoff due to the COVID-19 pandemic, track and field athletes are gearing up for a full season this spring.
For someone like Aurora's Lauren Tincher, the pause in activities halted the momentum derived from a fine freshman campaign that saw the all-around athlete qualify for the state tournament in the long jump.
Tincher's path to Columbus was paved by a second-place finish in the Suburban League, a district championship and a fourth-place regional showing.
Tincher also made her mark on the track as she posted a fifth-place effort in the 100 meters at the regional level. That was preceded by a third-place finish at the district meet and a runner-up effort at the league meet.
And there's more.
Tincher ran Aurora's anchor leg on the American Division's gold-medal 4x100 relay team that eventually advanced to the regional. She also was the anchor on the 4x400.
Now a junior, Tincher's versatility will provide the Greenmen with ample point opportunities in the sprints, sprint relays and of course the long jump as the 2021 season looms just around the corner.
Aurora third-year coach Kory Rorabaugh will have the pleasant task of placing Tincher wherever she can help the team the most on a given day.
"She had a tremendous freshman season," said Rorabaugh. "She will run many different races depending on the meets. I look for her to have a tremendous season with all the time she has put into her offseason training."
Talented senior Mya Neal also figures to be one of the program's top performers this season, which will also be her first for the Greenmen. Her repertoire includes the high jump, hurdles and sprints.
"She is one of the most naturally-gifted athletes on our team and extremely versatile, could be one of the top jumpers in the [Suburban] League this season," said Rorabaugh. "She came to Aurora last year from Belgium, so we did not have much of a view of what she could do last season — except for watching her high jump and hurdle. I coached her in basketball this past season ... and she can run. I look for her to run the 200 meters."
Tincher's classmate, hurdler Caitlyn Hensley, also had a fine debut in 2019, according to Rorabaugh, and will look to build off the success two years later.
"She had a great freshman season; we are looking at her to be our top hurdler in both the 110- and 300-meter hurdles," said Rorabaugh.
The same could be said for yet another of this year's skilled junior class, Carolina Cardaman.
"A great hurdler that has worked so hard to expand her events," said Rorabaugh. "We are looking for great things in the 300 hurdles, the 400 meters and the 4x400."
Senior Victoria Blechschmid will also be among the team's top hurdlers, according to Rorabaugh.
Juniors Kayla and Kenzie Gavin, senior Maggie Keiper and sophomores Grace Barto, Breana Pollard and Hannah Rogge will provide depth in the sprint events.
Another area that figures to benefit the Greenmen would be the distance crew, led by senior Mikaya Jones, whose goal according to her coach is to break the school's 3,200-meter record and to be the squad's best 1,600 competitor.
Junior Morgan Schmitt is a key performer in the 800 and 1,600. Juniors Stephanie Lubin and Melanie Keller, sophomore Kayla Kane and freshman Eva Logan will be poised to make an impact in the 1- and 2-mile races and the 4x800.
Blechschmid will be among the four Greenmen pole vault participants but will be the lone athlete with any high school experience. The others — Maggie Keys, Hannah Salgado and Kassidy Fry — are all freshmen.
Kitana Slomovitz, Bella Hsia and Mariam Harden — all juniors — are experienced throwers who will look to make an impact among the league's discus and shot put competitors.
"We are a young team; we are strong as always in our distance [talent] and we will have a competitive sprint and hurdle crew," said Rorabaugh. "Tincher will lead us in the long jump, Neal in the high jump.
"It has been difficult with missing an entire season. Our numbers are at an all-time low, but I feel we have the girls to be able to compete at a high level in the league and also in the postseason."
Rorabaugh, who led the Revere program for five years before arriving at Aurora, believes her team's lack of depth could differentiate itself from others in the Suburban's American Division, but isn't ruling out being a potential contender either.
"The league is always tough," she said. " We compete with amazing programs — Tallmadge, Copley, Highland and Revere will be bringing some amazing athletes for us to compete against and will have more depth. But we are all in the same boat as far as playing 'catch-up' so this season will certainly be one of surprises."