The pattern hardly ever faltered, and it’s ready for deployment once again this fall as the county’s most dominant duo and program has only grown stronger and deeper this offseason.
With the school’s former “pay to play” policy now abolished, first-time runners have literally raced for a chance to be part of head coach Bruce Kendall’s prolific group. Seeing an increase of more than 50 percent in participation, the veteran coach has a roster of 32 boys runners at his disposal. Of those, 17 are seniors and 11 are freshman.
The Marauders are set for the present and the future, Kendall says, but there won’t be much changeover at the top.
Winning the program’s first county team title since 2010, Mt. Vernon returns five of its seven state-meet runners (in seniors: Noble, Rush, Brendan O’Bryhim, Brandt True, Brian Bozymski), which placed 17th overall in Terre Haute — the first to finish in the top 20 since the 1984 team.
The team won a second straight sectional and regional while finishing second in New Haven to advance to the state meet. Carroll (Fort Wayne) won the semistate for a third consecutive season.
Individually, Christian Noble was the team’s top runner at every postseason step.
He took first at the Pendleton Heights Sectional and the Delta Regional. At semistate, he was sixth. At state, he was 16th overall at 15 minutes, 42.1 seconds, a personal best — and a substantial leap from his 112th placement at state the year prior.
Rush was third at sectional, runner-up at regional and 21st at semistate before placing 55th at state. Before the postseason opened, he was first at county (with a personal best 15:57) and at the Hoosier Heritage Conference Meet, which the team claimed over Pendleton Heights.
He was 116th at state as a junior.
What’s left to accomplish? Plenty, says Kendall.
“We would really like to end Fort Wayne Carroll’s streak in the semistate,” the coach said. “Almost a greater goal to do that then to medal at state. Almost.”
Ranked 13th in the state, the Marauders have never won state as a team and haven’t had an individual state champion since Jeff Wheeler in 1983-84. He was runner-up in 1984-85.
Noble was all-state at seventh in the 3,200-meter run (9:14) during the Indiana High School Athletic Association track and field state meet this past spring. Entering the 2015 fall season, he is a cross country state contender with 11 of the runners ahead of him from a year ago now graduated.
As his seniors go, so will the team, Kendall remarked. The key, however, will be finding a balance when setting goals — and achieving them.
“Realistically, we are reaching for top 10 at state. I don’t know if we can do that. There is a point you push them too hard to get to the podium and destroy them in the process,” he said. “Then again this team has been to state, so they are going to want more.
“There’s a lot of talent competing for the top seven spots (on our team), a trip back to state still means getting through the county, HHC, sectional, regional, and semistate. A lot of things can happen, and we want to present our best, be our best and continue to be outstanding students academically.”
MT. VERNON MARAUDERS
Coach: Bruce Kendall, 37th season
2014: 1st at county, 1st at Hoosier Heritage Conference, 1st at Pendleton Heights Sectional, 1st at Delta Regional, 2nd at New Haven Semistate, 17th at IHSAA State Meet.
Top projected runners (grade)
Christian Noble (12)
Aaron Rush (12)
Brandt True (12)
Brian Bozymski (12)
Brendan O’Bryhim (12)
Other projected contributors: Ayden Millspaugh (12), Drew Bluethmann (10), Brisco Wood (12), Timmy Broaders (10).
Outlook: Where there was Christian Noble, there was Aaron Rush. Where there was Rush and Noble (or vice versa), there was usually another team title for the Mt. Vernon boys cross country team last season.