When asked about the county’s cross-country landscape during the preseason last month, Greenfield-Central boys cross country coach Aaron Smith had only two words to offer.

“Mt. Vernon,” he said. “They have two very good runners. They have a very good team and a lot of seniors, so this year it’s going to be tough to beat them.”

Nothing has changed the general consensus as the season heats up today with the 2015 Hancock County meet at New Palestine High School at 5 p.m.

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No. 22 Mt. Vernon, as ranked by hoosierxc.com, remains the team to beat with five key seniors anchoring the lineup.

Led by Christian Noble, who has been on a torrid pace since placing 16th at the Indiana High School Athletic Association state meet last year, the Marauders are seeking a second straight county team championship.

The program has captured 11 titles since 1990, winning at home during the 2014 meet and the individual crown in Aaron Rush’s run of 15 minutes, 57.10 seconds — just barely ahead of New Palestine’s Samuel Voelz.

Rush is back to defend his title, but the favorite is Noble, who hasn’t lost in a race he’s competed in this fall.

His best time so far was recorded at 15:19 during the Muncie Central Invitational. The duo combined to run a 29:05.5 in the Noblesville Hokum Karem for first place.

Noble ran a 16:11 at the Manchester Invitational and dominated the Pendleton Heights Arabian Roundup with a 15:38.18.

The team’s depth, however, is what steered the Marauders to the county crown in 2014 and three of their all-county runners are competing again in Rush, Nobles (third) and Brandt True (eighth).

Along with fellow seniors Brian Bozymski and Brendan O’Bryhim, Mt. Vernon is building toward not only county but a three-peat at sectional and perhaps a regional title next month.

“They won last year, and I’ll imagine they’ll win again this year, but we’re never going to say we can’t win,” Smith commented on the Marauders’ chances of another county victory. “If they have the top-two, and we can pack a bunch of people in there, we have a shot. We’ll see.”

The contenders

While Noble is going to be difficult to catch, the other county contenders will deploy a plethora of challengers to seize crucial team points to counterbalance the Marauders.For New Palestine, Voelz is the Dragons’ leading man. An All-American runner in the USATF Junior Olympic National Cross Country Championships last December, the junior has steadily recovered from a leg injury that robbed him of his track season last spring.Voelz ran a 16:31.1 5K at the Brebeuf Jesuit Harvey Invitational for fourth place, was fourth at Pendleton Heights with a 16:47.79, dropped his time to 16:15.2 at the Marion Invitational and won the Whiteland Invitational.

Eastern Hancock will turn to Gabe Blake, a junior, who is a two-time regional qualifier in his career. The Royals are coming off an eighth-place team finish at the Mid-Hoosier Conference meet this past weekend where Blake was fifth and all-conference in 17:34.

For the Greenfield-Central Cougars, the trio of senior Zach Bishop, sophomore Tyler Morris and junior Jacob “Miguel” Hansen are looking to keep the Marauders close after watching the program’s string of three straight team titles come to a close in 2014.

“That would have been the fourth year in a row we would have won, but they did more than just edge us out for the title. The top-two blew us out of the water,” Bishop remarked earlier this season. “We’re hoping to go out and compete against them … If we’re going to beat them, it’s going to take everything we got. All seven of us are going to have to push it and do something amazing.”

The Cougars recently placed second at the Muncie Central Invitational with Bishop 11th overall at 17:44. Hansen ran a 17:49 and Morris posted a 17:58.

Bishop ran a 16:06 as the Cougars took third in the Ben Davis Invitational and he posted a 16:14 at the CougarPalooza to help his team win at home.

The race is on

As dominant as the boys are, the Marauders’ girls aren’t too far behind.Back-to-back county champions, the team will rely on junior Erin Lyday to lead the pack after finishing runner-up at county as a sophomore.But Lyday won’t be alone up front with several young and other experienced runners from Eastern Hancock, Greenfield-Central and New Palestine surging at the right time.

Eastern Hancock won their fourth straight conference team title Saturday with all seven runners placing in the top 21.

Freshman Taylor Stine ran to a third-place finish at 21:23 and senior Cara Johnson registered a personal-best 21:42.7 for fifth.

Annie Floyd, a sophomore, was fifth at county last year, and senior Hope Spaulding was seventh. Both earned all-conference distinction in 22:59.2 and 22:33.6, respectively.

Stine posted a career-best 21:09 in the Blackford Invitational. Her previous PR was 21:42 in the Rushville Invitational.

Lyday’s recent run was clocked at 21:44.0 for third at the Muncie Central. Chelsea Foster ran a 21:45.0 for Mt. Vernon at the event as the Marauders won behind four top-15 runners.

Finishing just ahead of the duo was Greenfield-Central’s Sydney Cook at 20:46.0, who was third at county last fall — 28 seconds behind Lyday.

Cook’s teammate, freshman Sarah Muckerheide ran a 22:15.0 in Muncie and junior Rebekah Gottwald and freshman Brenna Ditto were both near the 23-minute mark. The team took third with four in the top 15.

The Cougars have never won a county team title, since 1990. The Marauders have 11 to their credit, trailing New Palestine by two.

The Dragons won seven consecutive team titles before the Marauders took over, and a big part of that success came from Sarah Schwartz’s repeat individual titles in 2012-13.

Unable to participate last fall due to a season-ending injury, Schwartz returns for her senior year.

At the Marion Invitational, the former champion ran a 20:57.5 for 13th. When she won her first county title, Schwartz crossed the finish line in 19:33.53. Her second was completed in 20:08.39.

Freshman Grace Voelz has been up front with Schwartz most of the season, placing fifth at Marion in 20:33.4. She finished in 20:44.1 at the FlashRock Invitational while Schwartz came in at 21:38.6.

Along with senior Mattie Waggoner, who posted a 22:19.4 at FlashRock, the Dragons are in the hunt.

All-Time Race Winners

HANCOCK COUNTY GIRLS WINNERS

YEAR, TEAM WINNER, INDIVIDUAL WINNER, SCHOOL, TIME

2014 Mt. Vernon, Morgan Hayse, MV, 20:27.40

2013 Mt. Vernon, Sarah Schwartz, NP, 20:08.39

2012 New Palestine, Sarah Schwartz, NP, 19:33.53

2011 New Palestine, Mandy Bode, MV, 21:37

2010 New Palestine, Courtney Edon, NP, 20:18

2009 New Palestine, Breanna Lawyer, EH, 19:48

2008 New Palestine, Breanna Lawyer, EH, 19:31

2007 New Palestine, Breanna Lawyer, EH, 20:31

2006 New Palestine, Kinzie Alter, NP, 16:11

2005 Mt. Vernon, Amye Adcock, MV, 15:58

2004 Mt. Vernon, Amye Adcock, MV, 16:39

2003 New Palestine, Amye Adcock, MV, 16:27

2004 New Palestine, Amye Adcock, MV, 17:15

2001 Mt. Vernon, Stephanie Holman, MV, 17:00

2000 Mt. Vernon, Stephanie Holman, MV, 15:55

1999 Mt. Vernon, Becky Obrecht, MV, 16:17

1998 Mt. Vernon, Megan Bronnenberg, NP, 16:57

1997 Mt. Vernon, Shana Wyatt, EH, 16:40

1996 Mt. Vernon, Shana Wyatt, EH, 15:55

1995 Mt. Vernon, Shana Wyatt, EH, 16:41

1994 New Palestine, Jamie Parish, NP, 17:38

1993 New Palestine, Amy Parish, NP, 15:46

1992 New Palestine, Amy Parish, NP, 16:33

1991 New Palestine, Jessica Jones, EH, 15:52

1990 Mt. Vernon, Emily Husted, NP, 17:00

HANCOCK COUNTY BOYS WINNERS

YEAR, TEAM WINNER, INDIVIDUAL WINNER, SCHOOL, TIME

2014 Mt. Vernon, Aaron Rush, MV, 15:57.10

2013 Greenfield-Central, Seth Eagleson, NP, 15:51.49

2012 Greenfield-Central, Seth Eagleson, NP, 16:23.11

2011 Greenfield-Central, Seth Eagleson, NP, 17:19

2010 Mt. Vernon, Luke Davis, MV, 17:46

2009 Mt. Vernon, Chris Hanson, MV, 17:24

2008 Mt. Vernon, Mike Mead, MV, 16:56

2007 Mt. Vernon, Jordan Scocozza, NP, 17:51

2006 New Palestine, Mike Mead, MV, 17:57

2005 Greenfield-Central, Brian Brown, GC, 18:05

2004 Greenfield-Central, Brad Untrauer, MV, 16:26

2003 New Palestine, Brad Untrauer, MV, 16:40

2002 New Palestine, Brad Untrauer, MV, 17:32

2001 Mt. Vernon, Aaron Swain, NP, 17:38

2000 Greenfield-Central, John Metelko, MV, 17:10

1999 Mt. Vernon, Greg Cain, NP, 17:38

1998 Mt. Vernon, Sean Branch, NP, 18:01

1997 New Palestine, Brandon Plavka, GC, 17:07

1996 Mt. Vernon, Brandon Plavka, GC, 17:36

1995 Mt. Vernon, Jeff Schubert, NP, 17:04

1994 New Palestine, Lincoln McKinley, NP, 18:19

1993 Mt. Vernon, Nathan Warnecke, MV, 16:48

1992 Greenfield-Central, Jeff Silcox, GC, 17:39

1991 Greenfield-Central, Kevin Lewelynn, NP, 17:26

1990 Greenfield-Central, Bill Fletcher, EH, 18:02

*Stats go back to 1990

Team History

Girls History

Team titles: NP 13, MV 12, GC 0, EH, 0

Individual titles: MV 10, NP 8, EH 7, GC 0

Mt. Vernon is the two-time defending champion after winning the meet at home last season behind Morgan Hayse’s first-place finish at 20:27.40. The Marauders had four runners earn all-county honors and return junior Erin Lyday (runner-up last year).

The Marauders’ Amye Adcock remains the only four-time winner of the race — 2002-05 – including boys runners. A new individual champion will be crowned this season with the graduation of Hayse.

Three of the five top runners from last year are back in the field today. Lyday was runner-up in 2014, Greenfield-Central’s Sydney Cook, a sophomore, was third (21:33.40) and Eastern Hancock’s Annie Floyd, a sophomore, was fifth (21:49.00). 

Eastern Hancock three-time winner Breanna Lawyer (2007-09) owns the meet’s record time — 19:31 in 2008 — since the girls race was extended from 4,000 meters to 5,000 in 2007.

New Palestine’s Sarah Schwartz, a senior, won the race in both 2012 and 2013, but she didn’t compete in 2014 due to an injury. If she wins, Schwartz will become the fifth three-time winner since 1990.

Boys History

Team titles: MV 11, GC 9, NP 5, EH 0

Individual titles: NP 10, MV 10, GC 4, EH 1

Mt. Vernon reclaimed the title last years, wrestling away the crown from Greenfield-Central, which had held the title for three consecutive seasons.

A repeat by Mt. Vernon will give the school its fourth back-to-back run at the team title. The Marauders own the meet’s only four-peat (2007-2010) since 1990.

All four of the race’s top-four finishers will compete today, including the defending individual champion senior Aaron Rush (15:57.10) of Mt. Vernon. Rush narrowly edged New Palestine’s Sam Voelz in a photo finish to win the crown in 2014.

The team of the race’s individual winner has only won the meet eight times out of 25.

New Palestine three-time winner Seth Eagleson (2011-13) owns the meet’s record time, 15:11.49, which he set in 2013.

*Stats go back to 1990

If you go

What: Hancock County Cross Country Championship

Who: Eastern Hancock, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon, New Palestine

When: Today

Where: New Palestine High School

Schedule of events:

4:55 p.m. — National Anthem

5 p.m. — High school varsity boys race

5:30 p.m. — High school varsity girls race

6 p.m. — Middle school boys race

6:30 p.m. — Middle school girls race

7:05 p.m. — Awards Ceremony

Admission: $3 for the entire event

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