The home stretch

The upcoming 2015 track and field season may go down as one of the most exciting in Indiana prep history, especially for distance runners. We will witness some interesting matchups, not only at the State Meet, but at the Hancock County Meet as well.

As a veteran Eastern Hancock High School cross country and track and field two-miler, my knowledge of boys track and field is mostly distance-based. And, the Daily Reporter will offer a full boys and girls track and field preview as we get closer to season-opening meets in mid-March.

So, in this first of a regular series of columns on boys distance running, I’m going to provide information from all around the beautiful — and competitive — running state of Indiana. I’m going to fire the gun and get started with some previews of the Hancock County, Hoosier Heritage Conference, Mid-Hoosier Conference and state tournaments.

Noble Cause

Hancock County Meet (May 6)

Mt. Vernon junior Christian Noble surprised the entire state this past fall as he ran his way to a 16th place finish at the Cross Country State Finals. Noble was plagued with an injury last year, so he could not participate in track. However, with his cross-country effort, he made it clear that he is the top dog in the county. Noble looks to be a clear favorite to win the 3,200 meter race, but he will have some company.

Greenfield-Central junior Zach Bishop had an incredible 2014 track season, owning a 3,200 personal record (PR) of nine minutes, 39 seconds. However, he was always just a few seconds behind former New Palestine standout Seth Eagleson. Now that Eagleson has graduated, the future looks bright for Bishop. But, a county title will not come easy. Bishop had a less impressive cross-country season, but some people are just better on the track than they are on the grass.

New Palestine also has a new standout runner in sophomore Sam Voelz. Voelz finished runner-up at the county cross-country meet, defeated by Mt. Vernon’s Aaron Rush by less than one hundredth of a second. What is really impressive about Voelz is that he is just a sophomore and has a 15:57 5K PR. There are a handful of runners that could win the 3,200, but I don’t see anybody except one of those three pulling off the win.

On to the 1,600, where Mt. Vernon’s Aaron Rush seems to have it on lock. Rush almost broke 4:30 last year and gave Eagleson a run for his money at the county meet.

Other runners that appear to be in contention are Voelz, Eastern Hancock’s Clayton Brumfield, and Greenfield-Central’s Jake Hansen, who may make some noise if he can stay healthy.

Still roy

al?

Mid-Hoosier Conference (May 12)

This will be Eastern Hancock’s third year in the MHC, and we are looking for our third championship. In our first conference meet in 2013, the team race came all the way down to the final event, the 1,600-meter relay. Eastern Hancock won the race, but Indian Creek placed just high enough to tie the team score.

A year later, we were vengeful, so we blew away the meet and went home Mid-Hoosier Conference Champions, not co-champions. This year will not come as easily. We have lost a score of seniors who were major contributors.

Brumfield was a surprise to everyone last year, as he ran the 1,600 at county to “just see what he could do.” He ended up breaking the 5-minute barrier with a 4:59. Brumfield decided to quit playing basketball his junior year so he could train for track, and it has been very promising. Brumfield ran a new PR of 4:48 in the full mile Saturday at the Indiana Runner Distance Showcase.

Brumfield will have to go up against Nick Yeend and Hayden Veach, however. The Southwestern runners went 1-2 in the 1,600 at conference last year, and 1-3 at the 2014 cross-country MHC meet, with their teammate, Andrew Tucker, in between them in second. Tucker looks to be one of the favorites in the 3,200, after having a rather impressive cross-country season.

Joining Tucker as favorites to win the 3,200 are his teammate, Hayden Veach; Justyn Clark from South Decatur; Brandon Briggs of Indian Creek; and myself. This past fall in the conference cross-country meet, Tucker placed second, Veach placed third, Clark took fourth, Briggs was fifth, and I placed sixth.

You can’t base predictions off of cross-country alone, though. I have beaten Tucker and Briggs, but I’m 0-3 against Clark. It should prove to be a great battle for the conference title.

In the 800, it’s anyone’s game. Eastern Hancock’s Derrik Noel is the top returner, but Noel suffered a leg injury this past football season, and he is questionable for track. However, Veach, Brumfield and Clark are all big names for that race, as well. This is a good thing for Tucker, Briggs and myself, because the 800 is right before the 3,200. So, if Veach and Clark run this race again, then they are surely going to be a little tired for the 3,200.

Who’s in the mix?

Hoosier Heritage Conference Meet (May 14)

Now, this is probably going to be a short preview considering the Hoosier Heritage Conference is going to be a rematch of county, except you take out Eastern Hancock and add Pendleton Heights.

Pendleton Heights has two very dangerous distance runners in Eli Young and Parker Jones. Jones, just a sophomore, made it to the Cross Country State Finals, where he beat Rush by a nose. He owns a 4:38 mile PR and a 10:15 3200 PR. He qualified for the regional track meet in both events last year as a freshman.

Mt. Vernon’s Rush and Noble may be a dangerous duo in Cross Country, but Jones and Young are dangerous on the track. Since Noble primarily does the 3,200, and Rush mainly the 1,600, they are a little less of a threat than these two Arabians.

Jones and Young both run the 1,600 and 3,200. Young was last year’s sectional champ in both events and has hopes of qualifying for the State Finals in the 1,600, which he plans on making his primary event.

Anything can happen

IHSAA State Tournament (May 21-June 5)

Bishop is the second returner for this year’s Connersville Regional. The top three advance to the State Meet.

There is only one problem: Columbus North returns Seth Williams, a FootLocker Nationals qualifier, fourth at the State Cross Country Meet and a Purdue University commit, and Chase Ballard, who was not on Columbus North’s top 3 last year. Ballard was seventh at the State Finals in Cross Country, and is a Bellmont University commit.

These two seem to be locks for the State Finals. That leaves Bishop with one spot to work with, and he has to battle Voelz, Curtis Eckstein (Oldenburg sophomore, ninth at Cross Country State Finals,) and Tyler Lowhorn (Warren Central senior, state qualifier in cross-country).

In the North Central Regional, Noble has to battle Zack Snider (Brebeuf Senior, second at Cross Country State Finals, Nike Cross Nationals and FootLocker Nationals qualifier. 14:58 5K PR.) He will also go up against Jones and Young. Noble’s chances look a little better than Bishop’s, but when it comes to the Track and Field State Tournament, anything can happen.