Coach: Clayton Shultz (fourth season)

2014 team finishes: 4th at Hancock County meet, 1st at Mid-Hoosier Conference meet, 5th at Mt. Vernon Sectional.

Leading the way: Reece Burkhart claimed fifth-place in the discus at last year’s Mt. Vernon Sectional, the highest finish of any returning Royal. That’s impressive, Eastern Hancock coach Clayton Shultz said, considering he was just a freshman. With the departure of many top talents from the Royals’ Mid-Hoosier Conference-winning team, Shultz said Burkhart will be counted on heavily.

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Outlook: Winning a third straight MHC title will be tough, following the graduation of three-time high-jumping regional qualifier Justin Cool-Luke; hurdler Cody Spicer; runners Isaiah McCormick, Sam Carlton and Jacob Mueller; and throwers Brenden Box and Josh Ramage, among others. Also missing are seniors Cooper Henderson and Derrik Noel, who elected not to return to the track. Henderson was a regional qualifier in the long jump, and Noel has been a high-jumping and sprinting stalwart. Shultz said Noel will be using the time off to recuperate his knee in hopes of playing basketball in college, while Henderson, he said, just wanted to take some time off after being a three-sport athlete the majority of his Eastern Hancock career. … Ultimately, Shultz said, he sees the season as a sort of test of the program he has built during the past four seasons. “We’re not going to cry when we have to fill those spots. It’s next man up. I’m actually itching to get going. I’m excited to see someone else step up. For so many years, it’s been Justin or Derrik. Now there will have to be new guys who step up into uncomfortable roles and become leaders. If we succeed in that, it will be a testament to our program.” Shultz could not heap enough praise on junior Clayton Brumfield, whom he called an “athletic freak.” Brumfield, who quit basketball this year to focus on track, will compete in the maximum four events in all of the Royals’ big meets. His specialty is distance, and he will be assisted there by Parker West, whom Shultz called the Royals “glue guy.” West will run the 3,200 and the distance relays. He finished 15th in the 3,200 at sectionals last season. … Austin Smith had hip surgery recently, but Shultz expects big things from the junior when he returns around mid-April. Smith is the only returner from the regional-qualifying 4X100-meter relay team. … Depth will be a strength, Shultz said of his near 30-man roster. The Royals will contend in many meets, because they will have two athletes register points in most events. … Caleb Beyers is the top returning high-jumper in the MHC, as he finished second at the conference meet behind Cool-Luke last season.

Starting blocks: The Royals opened the season last week with a 71-52 win at Knightstown. Pacing Eastern Hancock were winners Brumfield (800 and 1,600) Cole Cochard (110 hurdles), Jayson Bowers (300 hurdles), Beyers (high Jump), Braden Dickey (long jump), Aaron Riley (shot put), the 1,600 relay team (Ethan Hayse, Brumfield, Gabe Blake, Devyn Brinson) and the 3,200 relay team (West, Clayton Cochard, Blake, Brumfield). The Royals are off until April 9 when they visit Mid-Hoosier Conference foe North Decatur.


Coach: Scott Burton, 4th season

2014 team finishes: 1st at Hancock County Meet, 2nd at Hoosier Heritage Conference Meet, 4th at Warren Central Sectional

Leading the way: Last season Zach Bishop made the most of an opportunity he was not supposed to have. Finishing fifth in the 3,200-meter race at the Warren Central Sectional, he did not qualify on his own for the Connersville Regional. However, when the fourth-place competitor scratched and Bishop was awarded his place, he made the made most of the opportunity. The then-sophomore shaved more than 10 seconds off his sectional time to claim sixth at the regional. Of the five competitors who finished ahead of him, four, including New Palestine’s Seth Eagleson, have graduated. Their departures and Bishop’s development should give the now-junior a “strong shot” at clinching a state finals bid, Greenfield-Central coach Scott Burton said.

Outlook: Greenfield-Central jumped out to a win, scoring 86 points against Mt. Vernon (75 points) and Frankton (eight) on March 17 in Fortville. … Look for the group of Bishop, Syrus Fletcher, Tyler Morris and Jason LaFord to flirt with the school 4×800-meter relay record and a State Finals appearance. Fletcher, a senior who will compete in track and baseball this spring, has made a strong impression on the Cougars in his first year on the team. “He and those guys already broke two school indoor records,” Burton said. “That group is looking pretty strong already this season. They are closing in on that outdoor record, too.” The team, which included Tommy Hembree instead of Bishop, won its first outdoor race of the year at the meet at Mt. Vernon. … Replacing state-qualifying discus and shot-put thrower Tyler Beeson will not be easy, but Burton said he thinks senior Zach Phillips is up to the task. Bishop finished third at the HHC meet last season, fourth at the sectional and 12th at regionals, where he threw 13 feet shorter than he had at Warren Central. Despite the disappointment, Burton thinks Phillips learned a lot last year and said he’s already thrown 140 feet, in his blue-ribbon performance vs. the Marauders. … Sophomore Michael Sosnowski and junior Austyn Tift are back to lead the sprinters. The pair helped the Cougars’ 4×400 relay team earn a regional berth, where it secured a team-best finish (fifth). Sosnowski was the only underclassmen at sectionals to place in the top 11 in the 400-meter dash, while Tift is the defending county champ in the 100 and 200. … Burton said he also expects Nick Kiser, who missed last season, to add quality depth to the sprinting ranks. He won the 200 against Mt. Vernon.

Starting blocks: The Cougars will return to action April 9 at New Palestine in a three-way meet that will also include Shelbyville.


Coach: Bruce Kendall, 37th season

2014 team finishes: 3rd at Hancock County Meet, 3rd at Hoosier Heritage Conference Meet, 1st at Mt. Vernon Sectional

Leading the way: After missing track season last year with an injury, junior Christian Noble put state distance runners on notice with his 16th-place at the cross-country state finals in November. Noble looks to challenge for the track county and conference 3,200 titles. He will be a competitor at the Mt. Vernon Sectional, too, Marauders coach Bruce Kendall said, but with Lawrence North added to the group and an IHSAA rule change, Noble will have a tough time earning a trip to the North Central Regional. Beginning this season, only the top three sectional runners advance to regionals, instead of four. The remaining four regional spots will go to the runners with the fastest times who did not finish in the sectional top three. Kendall said those competitors will likely come out of the loaded North Central Sectional. Of the addition of Lawrence North, Kendall said, “They are stronger in everything, especially the distance. They are just better than we are there. Last year, it was all we could do to hold off Pendleton Heights. Now you’re talking about Noble and (fellow top distance runner Aaron) Rush facing elimination in the sectional. It’s just awful.”

Outlook: The defending sectional champ Marauders have depth. With more than 60 athletes, they should be able to score points with quality competitors in nearly every event. They flashed some of it with a second-place finish in a three-way meet with Greenfield-Central and Frankton. … Other than a deep pool of distance runners that features Noble, Rush and senior Jake Russell, who finished fourth at sectional in the 3,200, throwers, will be a strength. Sectional shot put champion Wyatt Gutierrez returns, and he displayed with a blue-ribbon effort in the season-opening meet. Gutierrez will be complemented by fellow throwers Brayton Shannon (second at sectional in shot put), Ben Thompson, Corey McAllen and track newcomer/football standout Dan Werner. “Dan is going to have an impact on this team,” Kendall said. “He’s an athlete. The thing about him is he can do everything. We just have to figure out what he does best and what’s best for the team.” … Another strength will be the pole vaulters. Lincoln Hine and Kyle Forsythe finished one-two in the sectional last year, and Hine already cleared 12 feet in his win in Fortville this season, along with setting the Marauders’ indoor school record in the event. … As far as sprinters go, Kendall said he expects his boys, many of whom are returners from last year (Caleb White, Donovan Bigelow and Jordan House), to round into form as the weather warms. … Where this team will struggle the most, Kendall said, is in the hurdles, after the graduation of Andrew Payne, the 110- and 300-meter sectional champion. Braxton Ratekin, a convert to the hurdles, will be asked to the lead the way. … Kendall said a solid group of freshmen runners could make an impact this year, but he prefers “not to mention them by name before we get them into the fight.”

Starting blocks: Mt. Vernon will return to the track at Fishers on Wednesday.


Coach: Dan Weimer (eighth season)

2014 team finishes: 2nd at Hancock County meet, 4th at Hoosier Heritage Conference meet, 5th at Warren Central Sectional.

Leading the way: New Palestine senior Chris Potularski returns to the track as the only remaining Hancock County competitor to have qualified for the state finals last year. He finished seventh in the 400-meter dash. “What Chris did last year was a very big deal,” New Palestine coach Dan Weimer said. “Just making it to state is a huge challenge. But for him to be able to make noise there, that was great. This year, his goal will just be to continue to work hard and do his best. Last year was a great experience that he should be able to learn from.”

Outlook: Perhaps no HHC team lost more impact talent than did the Dragons. They have just seven returning varsity competitors, including regional qualifiers Seth Eagleson (3,200) and Josh McKean (shot put) and Zach Chester (long jump). “They were all great leaders,” Weimer said. “It was exciting to watch that senior class grow from freshman year. They had a few guys make into the newspaper a lot, but it was always a collective and team effort with that class. They set a great tone for us, and we expect our seniors to continue that trend. … Among the top returners is sophomore Chase Crowder, who finished seventh in sectional in the 1,600, and Matt Young, who finished sixth at sectional in the discus. … Weimer said he expects big things from the 4X400 relay team, headlined by Potularski and filled out by varsity returners Kyle Zehner, Adam Brickens and Riley Wilson. … Early bad news for the Dragons: 3,200 standout sophomore Sam Voelz (sixth at sectional), is out indefinitely with a foot injury. … Twelve freshmen have joined the Dragons’ roster this season, highlighted by high-jumper James Hoffman and distance runner Connor Dobbins. Weimer said Dragons fans should expect the pair to make an impact early and often.

Starting blocks: The Dragons will visit Greenwood to open the season April 7.