Mix of experience, youth have Cougars feeling optimistic

Mix of know-how, youth have Greenfield-Central feeling optimistic

“We definitely have a younger program, and we don’t have as much depth as we did last year, but we have quite a bit of talent,” Greenfield-Central head coach Aaron Smith said. “If we can keep everybody healthy, we’ve got a good chance.”

Zach Bishop, a senior, has always been a contender since he joined the program four years ago, and his odds of being up front with the pack hasn’t waned. If anything, said Smith, he’s worked harder this offseason than in any other previously.

Narrowly missing a state berth as an individual with a 23rd overall placement at the Carmel Semistate and finishing 11th as an individual without an advancing team, Bishop set new personal best in the postseason as a junior.

At the New Palestine Sectional, he finished runner-up and at regional he was fourth overall. In the year prior, he was seventh and fifth, respectively.

Pushed by last year’s seniors (Syrus Fletcher, Jason LaFord and Taylor Wright), Bishop’s new training partner and motivator, said Smith, is sophomore Tyler Morris.

“Tyler Morris was hurt last year, so he didn’t run quite as fast as he did his freshman year. He’s going to be a lot faster this year. He ran really well in track, and he looks strong right now. I think that will carry over this season. He’s going to be pushing Zach for sure,” Smith said.

Unable to break into the top 25 at sectional or regional, Morris excelled in track, running the mile in four minutes, 35 seconds. As expected, Bishop held the edge in the two-mile at 9:55 but peaked at 4:40 in the mile behind Morris.

“Since his sophomore and junior years, (Bishop) has been No. 1 and nobody has beat him,” Smith said. “I think having Morris running up there with him and beating him in the mile will help both of them. That’s just something he hasn’t had before, so hopefully he responds, and I think he will. That competition will motivate both of them.”

Junior Jacob (Miguel) Hansen will be right there with them, said Bishop and Smith. A key contributor to the team’s third-place finishes at both sectional and regional (both improvements to last season’s fourth-place runs), Hansen also helped the Cougars take ninth in a loaded Carmel Semistate.

“We have three pretty solid guys and then we two sophomores who will probably be our four and five,” Smith said. “Our six should be pretty strong. I don’t know how we’ll compare to last year because we have a younger group, so we could be up and down, but we don’t know.”

The sophomore duo of Cooper Hanson and Nate Brand complete the Cougars’ top five with senior Tommy Hembree in the mix as well. The seventh spot remains an open position that could see various contributors as the season develops.

Greenfield-Central opens the season Aug. 22 at the Richmond Invitational.

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Rich Torres is sports editor at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at rtorres@greenfieldreporter.com or 317-477-3227.