FORTVILLE — The season might have changed, but the result remains the same.
Christian Noble and Aaron Rush can’t be beat.
In the fall, Mt. Vernon’s dynamic duo lifted the Marauders cross-country team to victory after victory on the way to a state finals appearance. They’re at it again in the spring.
After having led the Mt. Vernon track and field team to its first Hancock County championship in four years last week, the pair led the Marauders to a Hoosier Heritage Conference championship Thursday in Fortville.
The Marauders posted a meet-winning 148 points, largely on the strength of Rush and Noble’s finishes in the distance events.
“One-two in the 1,600 and then one-two in the 3,200, that does some damage,” said Greenfield-Central coach Scott Burton, whose team came in second behind the Marauders for a second straight meeting of the two teams. “But we kind of knew that was coming.”
Most did, as the pair accomplished the same feat at the county meet last week, with Rush winning the 1,600 and Noble the 3,200.
The 36 combined points earned by the pair in those two events catapulted the Marauders past runner-up Greenfield-Central (129.5 points), as well as Pendleton Heights (85), Yorktown (71), Delta (56), New Palestine (54.50), defending champ Shelbyville (49) and New Castle (29).
Much of the remainder of Mt. Vernon’s points were scored in the field events. Wyatt Gutierrez racked up a pair of second-place finishes in the discus and shot put, and Lincoln Hine triumphed in the pole vault, just as he did at county.
“Link is just a robot,” Mt. Vernon coach Bruce Kendall said. “He’s probably the best pure vaulter I’ve had.”
The final Mt. Vernon winner of the evening was Mark Lough in the long jump. Also supporting the Marauders’ cause were the 4×800 relay team (Brisco Wood, Jimmy McDonald, Brian Bozymski, Jordan House), Donovan Bigelow (200), the 4×100 relay team (Brayton Shannon, Juwann Nelson, Caleb White, Dan Werner), which all finished second. Bigelow (100) and Corey McAllen (discus) also gave third-place efforts.
For Greenfield-Central, the second consecutive loss against Mt. Vernon was disappointing, but Burton said he doesn’t think there was much more his boys could do.
Zach Phillips (discus and shot put) Jason LaFord (800) and the 4×800 team (LaFord, Tommy Hembree, Zach Bishop, Syrus Fletcher) all pulled out victories for the Cougars.
The 4×400 (Michael Sosnowski, LaFord, Fletcher, Hembree) finished second and, Josh Woodward (110 hurdles), Sosnowski (400), Fletcher (800), Bishop (3,200), Braden Brown (long jump), Jacob Keener (pole vault) and Andy Kim (shot put) picked up third-place finishes.
“Top to bottom, they ran credible,” Burton said. “When you look back, of course you can say we could have done a little better here or there, but top to bottom, they left everything out there on the track.”
No one more so than LaFord.
In his last conference meet, the senior seemingly willed his way to victory in the 800-meter run.
The Cougar trailed Pendleton Heights’ Ashton Wilson for three-fourths of the race, and just when it looked like the Arabian’s lead would be too much for anyone to eclipse, LaFord found another gear.
With anguish draped across his face, LaFord lunged desperately toward Wilson, closing the gap inches at a time. With less than 50 meters to go, the pair were neck-and-neck, but it was no mystery who would prevail.
LaFord was a man possessed, and he passed Wilson with under 25 meters to go and held on for the win.
“He broke two (minutes) for the first time official in the open 800, and to come out as conference champ, he’s just an incredible kid,” Burton said. “He has come a long way in his career at Greenfield, and he has a bright future ahead of him.”
Another competitor at the evening’s meet who has a bright future ahead is New Palestine’s Chris Poturalski. The 2014 state qualifier in the 400 defended his HHC title in the event Thursday. He also anchored the Dragons’ 4×100-meter relay team (Adam Brickens, Reid Dye, Kyle Zehner, Poturalski), which finished third.
Other top finishers for the Dragons were Zehner, who came in third in the 300-meter hurdles and the 4×800 relay team (Zehner, Chase Crowder, Connor Dobbins, Riley Wilson), which also placed third.
The Marauders will host Sectional 21 on Thursday and will see some familiar faces, including HHC foes Pendleton Heights and New Castle, as well as Hancock County rival Eastern Hancock.
Greenfield-Central and New Palestine will be competing Thursday at the Warren Central-hosted Sectional 32. They will be joined by conference companion Shelbyville.
Notes: Mt. Vernon finished third in last year’s meet, followed by New Palestine in fourth and Greenfield-Central in fifth. … The last county team prior to Thursday to win the HHC meet was Greenfield-Central in 2012, when it scored 140.2 points. Mt. Vernon won in 2011 with 129 points. … Delta’s Mason Bechdolt was the only record-breaker of the evening. He posted a 14.64 in the 110-meter hurdles.
Hoosier Heritage Conference Boys Track and Field Championship team results, Thursday at Mt. Vernon.
Mt. Vernon 148, Greenfield-Central 129.50, Pendleton Heights 85, Yorktown 71, Delta 56, New Palestine 54.50, Shelbyville 49, New Castle 29.