Southwestern’s Mitchell Cline flies down the track during a meet in 2019. (Courier file photo by Mark Campbell)
Southwestern’s Mitchell Cline flies down the track during a meet in 2019. (Courier file photo by Mark Campbell)
In a perfect world, Mitchell Cline would have been at the starting line today with a chance to make history as the first Southwestern High School athlete to place at the IHSAA Track & Field State Finals. But like all high school athletes across the state, that chance was taken away in early April when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the IHSAA to cancel all spring sporting events, including the state tournament.

Two months ago, Cline may have been upset at missing his chance at history. But the recent Southwestern graduate has already moved on and is looking forward to his upcoming track career at Indiana State University.

“My college coach just sent us our 12-week workout so I started doing that,” Cline said on Wednesday. “I really don’t think about (the state finals) too much anymore. I’m just so excited about college and getting with my roommate.”

Cline is just one of several Courierarea athletes that had their dreams of reaching the track & field state finals dashed because of the coronavirus. But considering how well he did a year ago, Cline’s situation is particularly noteworthy.

Cline has gotten faster every year. After placing 20th in the 400-meter dash as a sophomore, Cline placed 10th last year in 49.80, just two spots away from the podium. With four of the nine athletes ahead of him graduating — including Madison’s Daunte O’Banion — Cline was in a terrific position to finish in the top eight.

“I tried not to get to upset about it when I heard about (the cancellation),” Cline said. “I had a real good chance of placing at the state finals but I try not to think about it.”

While Cline at least got to compete in the state finals, Madison’s Bryce Foy graduated last week without ever getting a shot. Foy, who signed to run track at the University of Indianapolis last week, finished second at the sectional in the 100-meter dash and third in the 200 dash but an injury kept him out of the regional. Like Cline, his senior season got wiped out because of the COVID disease.

“It’s been rough not having my senior year but this is great,” Foy said of signing with Indianapolis. “I just know that I have four more years of getting to run so, that’s good to know.”

Along with the two sprints, Foy had an excellent chance of reaching the state finals in the 1600 relay along with returners Jack Kelsey, Nick Center, Xavier Cosby and Carter Schutte. Cline also had a chance in the same event along with Brandon Smith, Colton Cloud and Gavyn Mundt.

Switzerland County senior Aleiah Thomas placed fifth in the high jump at the regional last year and was looking at a state appearance this year. Her teammates Ally Furnish, Raylinn Kappes, Abby Niswander and Matty Anderson were hoping for a shot in the 1600 relay.

Madison’s Lundun Perry, Harper Watson and Brett Cahall, Switzerland County’s Furnish and Kierstan Oeffinger, and Southwestern’s Kylie Eccles each reached the regional last year and were aiming for a state finals appearance this year.

Across the Ohio River, Trimble County junior Ryan Long won the Class 1A state title in the 100 dash and was second in the 200 dash and was hoping for a repeat this year, but will get a final chance next year. The Trimble junior Eliza Weston was seventh in the state in the 1600 run last year and like Long, will get a final shot next year. A total of 10 Raiders that reached the state finals last season — Makayla Abbott, Danielle Craig, Matthew Craig, Emma Horn, Jace Ogburn, Tate Ogburn, Alex Seward and Tanner Smith — will be back next year for another shot.

While Cline may have turned his attention to college, he can’t help but be reminded of the state finals every day. His future roommate at Indiana State is Oak Hill’s Tahj Johnson, who placed second in the 400 as a sophomore but slipped to sixth last season. He was hoping to win a state title this year.

Cline and Johnson hooked up this spring when each was looking for a roommate and have become fast friends.

“I know that I’ll be going to bed early and waking up early and was worried that I would have a roommate on a totally different schedule,” Cline said. “But Tahj and I have the same things in common and we have the same idea on how we want our dorm room to look. We’re workout partners and we egg each other on all the time. I’m just so excited. I can’t wait to get to school.”