NEW PALESTINE — Hancock County did everything in its power to keep the Mt. Vernon girls’ cross country team from three-peating Tuesday at the county meet.
With the help of Greenfield-Central sophomore Sydney Cook, who took first in 21:03.27, New Palestine placed three runners in the top six to dethrone the defending two-time champion Marauders.
It is the Dragons’ first Hancock County win since 2012. New Palestine won the seven previous meets, as well.
Cook, however, shot out from the starting line like a bullet and never surrendered the lead en route to her first county championship, 15 seconds in front of New Palestine freshman Grace Voelz (21:18.48).
The sophomore built a 15-yard lead by the one-mile mark and extended that to nearly 25 yards with just more than a mile left of the 3.1-mile (5-kilometer) course.
“I lost the last race (I ran), because I was going to pace myself, and that didn’t work out for me,” Cook said. “So this race I just decided to get out from the start and get a fast first mile.”
Cook noted the importance of the race for bragging rights in the county. And after watching Dragons senior Sarah Schwartz, who finished third overall Tuesday, battle injuries last season after winning the race in 2012-13, Cook knows how precious a win is.
“I finished third last year so it feels good,” she said. “I knew the two New Palestine girls would be really good. And this might be the only year I can win it.”
Senior Madeline Waggoner finished sixth overall for New Palestine in 22:07.43 while junior Natalie Shanahan was 11th in 23:16.34. Freshman Julie Strange rounded out the team’s scoring with a 15th-place finish in 23:46.53, giving the Dragons five runners on the All-Hancock County team (top 15).
Dragons’ head coach Chuck Myers said everyone did their job Tuesday, which led to the win.
“The girls went out and competed hard,” he said. “They did a very good job today and did what they wanted to do. It was a great day.”
Myers also said he was happy to see Voelz get out and run well. She has been splitting time with the soccer team and only practices once a week.
“It’s exciting to see Grace get out and run,” he said. “When she comes out, she races very well.”
Schwartz will end her career with two county titles and a third-place finish after missing her junior season.
“It’s good to have her back running well,” Myers added. “It was a very strong showing after not being able to compete last year.”
Mt. Vernon finished second overall (48) and was led by junior Erin Lyday’s fourth-place finish in 21:45.92. Senior teammate Chelsea Foster was on her heels the entire race and finished fifth in 21:57.40. Marauders senior Elena Rohrwasser was ninth, freshman Addison Cullom finished 14th and senior Leah Chaves came in 16th to round out Mt. Vernon’s scoring.
Greenfield-Central, who has battled injuries most of its season, finished third with 65 points. Freshman Sarah Muckerheide was 10th overall to finish second for the Cougars while junior Rebekah Gottwald was 12th.
Freshmen Brenna Ditto and Ava Hibbard finished 17th and 25th, respectively.
Nevertheless, Greenfield-Central coach Scott Burton was pleased with how Cook executed her game plan going into the meet.
“She wanted to come out fast,” he said. “She was right where she wanted to be (at the one mile) and continued that through the rest of the race. It paid off for her.
“It’s one of those races you have to take advantage of. It’s a challenging course, and Sidney steps up to challenges.”
Eastern Hancock, who won the Mid-Hoosier Conference meet Saturday, finished fourth overall with 68 points. The Royals were led by freshman Taylor Stine’s seventh place finish in 22:27.63. Senior teammate Cara Johnson was eighth in 22:36.88 while senior Hope Spaulding was 13th in 23:38.86.
Senior Karlee Gray (18th) and sophomore Liberty Durham (22nd) rounded out Eastern Hancock’s scoring.
1. New Palestine – 37
2. Mt. Vernon – 48
3. Greenfield-Central – 65
4. Eastern Hancock – 68
1. Sydney Cook, GC – 21:03
2. Grace Voelz, NP – 21:18
3. Sarah Schwartz, NP – 21:31
4. Erin Lyday, MV – 21:45
5. Chelsea Foster, MV – 21:57
6. Madeline Waggoner, NP – 22:07
7. Taylor Stine, EH – 2:27
8. Cara Johnson, EH – 22:36
9. Elena Rohrwasser, MV – 22:55
10. Sarah Muckerheide, GC – 23:03
11. Natalie Shanahan, NP – 23:16
12. Rebekah Gottwald, GC – 23:30
13. Hope Spaulding, EH – 23:38
14. Addison Collum, MV – 23:42
15. Julie Strange, NP – 23:46