Get Your Own Whistle

By Joe Spaulding 

  In his day job, Bellmont girls track coach Carl Risch teaches and is on the staff of the Zion Lutheran School and Church in Decatur.
    About six or seven years ago, Carl spotted a young elementary student on the playground that seemed to have an overabundance of speed and quickness so he asked this young lady if she had ever thought about running track once since got to middle school and high school.
    The girl said she’d never really thought about track because she was into soccer at that stage of her life. “Keep it in mind,” pleaded Carl.
    Fast forward to June 2, 2013, and there was that same young lady proudly wearing a Bellmont uniform in the IHSAA state finals at the Indiana University track and field complex in Bloomington. That young lady, Alexis Harvey, was preparing to graduate from high school the very next day but had some important business at hand first with the state track meet.
    Along with a group of four other teammates, Harvey and the Squaws finished a solid third in the team standings (out of 62 teams represented) and Harvey finished a strong second in both the 100 and 200 dashes. She also ran a leg of the 4x400 relay team that scored at state as well.
    During her four years as a runner at Bellmont, Harvey broke record after record. She leaves the Squaws with her name claiming the school best time in the 100, 200, and 400 dashes, and she joins Holly Hankenson, Bailee Hankenson, and Emily Gunsett, to hold the 4x400 standard. She’ll be joining a very strong Indiana Tech track team this fall.
    So just how does Harvey rank in school history according to Risch?
    “Certainly, there’s no one that’s ever been better in the sprints than Alexis. She has continually rewritten the record books here and has helped put Bellmont on the track map in Indiana,” Risch analyzed.
    Alexis added that “he (Risch) saw my running ability before I did. I have him to thank for bringing the talent that I have out.”
    Watching Harvey at the state finals was unique because as a writer, I usually don’t try to play fan or spectator so I can try to watch a game without bias. That just wasn’t possible to do when watching Alexis run. Both Carl and Alexis will tell you the only possible drawback to her running is getting a quick start out of the blocks. Okay, for the first couple of meters, another runner may have an advantage. For the final 196-198 meters of the 200 dash, it usually was Alexis on top.
    At the regional and state meets, it came down to Brionna Thomas of Wayne and Alexis. Brionna was the defending state champ in both the 100 and 200 and has tremendous running skills much like Alexis does. I sit here and try to think of what I could do in a tenth or two of a second (maybe blink an eye once or twice) because that was usually the margin of difference between the two. Alexis got her in the 200 dash at the regional but Brionna, a junior, got both events at the state by very, very narrow margins over second-place Alexis.
    Harvey then represented Bellmont at the Midwest Meet of Champions last Saturday at Northrop High School in a meet that has produced eventual Olympians in past years. This meet brings the best of Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan (West Virginia and Illinois use to participate as well) together and most of the winning times Saturday would have been winners at the state finals.
    Harvey blew past the 200 field with a personal best time of :24.39 (previous best :24.56 and her second place state time this year was :24.61). She had a wind-aided :11.91 time in the NHC meet earlier this year in the 100 dash and went :11.99 Saturday (that time would have tied her with Thomas for first at state). She also ran the opening leg of the 4x100 relay Saturday and her team shaved .03 seconds off the all-time Midwest Meet record of :46.22 by going :46.19.
    Her performance   Saturday earned Alexis the “Star of the Stars” award after the meet was over. Prior to the meet, Alexis was honored at Friday night’s banquet with the “2013 Miss Sprint/Hurdler” award which Risch equaled to being “Miss Basketball” in the state for track.
    Last fall, Carl nearly had a mini-stroke when he learned Alexis had injured a calf muscle in her leg playing in the Homestead powder puff football game. Alexis was told to stay off her leg initially and use crutches. “I didn’t want to but I did. I was very impatient and wanted to walk but tried to do what I was told to rehab my leg.”
    Carl said it really wasn’t until the outdoor part of track season that Alexis regained full use of her leg and it was soon evident, the speed he knew Alexis had was still there.
    The 20-year track coach credits Alexis with “exposing track to our community. She helped bring a lot of publicity to our program and put track on the same level as other major sports. I couldn’t have asked for better kids to coach this year. They all got along so well and Alexis was just so team-minded. At some schools, the so-called star athletes care only about themselves and their event. There’s no selfishness at all when it comes to Alexis.”
    Alexis said while she looks forward to her next journey in life at Indiana Tech, she’ll miss “having Risch as a coach and the overall environment that track had at Bellmont.  I felt like if I didn’t practice and take the time of work as hard as I did at practice that things wouldn’t have turned out as well as they did.”
    She said her advice to upcoming Bellmont track participants is to “go into practices and give it your all. Don’t slack off even when it gets tough. Give it your best effort and listen to the coaches critique you because you’ll regret it if you don’t.”
    Alexis and Sarah Garner were the only seniors on the team for Bellmont this year, both being four-year runners. “Having Sarah there all four years with me really helped. She would say the things that needed to be said and was a great leader,” Alexis noted.
    As for a favorite event, Alexis said “it would probably be the 200. The individual events were good becauseI only had to worry about me.  But the relay was fun too because of how we bonded together as a team. The only thing that would have been better would to have had a 5x400 team so Ally (Norby) could have joined us. She helped us all year and would have been a great addition had one of us not been able to go.”
    Carl obviously enjoys talking about one of his prize track pupils and concluded by noting “I can’t think of a single time where I was ever disappointed with Alexis. It was always positive. Sometimes she’d get down on herself thinking she could do better but we’d talk and work it out. I’m really going to miss her both as an athlete but as a person.”
    And lest anyone think Carl isn’t out there scouting, he does have his eyes on a couple of young track prospects he feels could contribute significantly to the BHS track program. He also has a boatload of talented runners, jumpers, and throwers next year. So come that first Saturday in June, it may be another repeat for the Squaws near the top of the leader board.