RUSHVILLE — Sitting together on the floor, nearly front and center, inside a crammed Rushville Middle School gymnasium Saturday, the Greenfield-Central cross-country team’s anticipation began to build.

As the public address announcer ran through the boys’ team placements and scores, introducing each group, in reverse order, smiles swept across the runners’ faces when it came down to the final two.

“In second place with a score of 50 points … Franklin Central,” the announcer broadcast over the loudspeakers.

The Cougars knew what was coming next, and even before their winning team score of 48 points at the Rushville Regional could pass through the microphone, the team hopped to their feet.

“We all stepped up as a team to do it, today,” Greenfield-Central head coach Aaron Smith said after his team was honored at mid-court. “We definitely had a chance last week, and we saw what Franklin Central had, so knew what we had to do this week. It was a team effort today.”

Led by senior Zach Bishop’s second-place run overall in 16 minutes, 3.2 seconds, the Cougars poured it on with four runners finishing in the top 11 to capture its first-ever team regional championship.

The week prior at the New Palestine Sectional, the Cougars narrowly lost to Franklin Central by four points, just missing the program’s first sectional title since 1992.

The result perpetuated an all too familiar trend for the Cougars and gave them the motivation they needed to breakthrough.

“We were five points away at county, at conference we didn’t really run very well at all, and then at sectional we were four points away,” Smith said. “To finally get on top .. I’m so happy for them. They put in a lot of hard work.”

Sophomore Cooper Hanson provided the surprise, shaving 20 seconds off his previous best to finish eighth in 16:43.5 for second-best among the Cougars’ top five. At sectional, he was 17th with a time of 17:34.39.

Juniors Tyler Morris and Jacob (Miguel) Hanson were 10th and 11th at 16:44.3 and 16:53.0, respectively. Freshman Parker Niemeier was 28th at 17:20.8.

“We have four guys under 17 (minutes) now, which has never been done before in school history, I believe,” Bishop said. “That’s amazing when you’re competing against some of the bigger schools.”

Behind Greenfield-Central and Franklin Central were Warren Central (94) in third, Hagerstown (142) in fourth and New Palestine (147) in fifth. The top-five teams all qualify for the Carmel Semistate.

New Palestine’s top runner was Chase Crowder in 14th at 16:56.2.

Eastern Hancock’s Gabe Blake will join the Cougars and Dragons in Carmel this weekend behind a 22nd-place run in 17:13.8. He was seventh best as an individual advancing without a team.

At semistate, the Cougars will contend with No. 1 Fishers and No. 2 Carmel, among others.

“This is something to be proud of and it’s a bench mark for the program,” Bishop said. “It’s a stepping stone. We want to compete for state championships in the future. …It’s going to be a fight at semistate, but I think we have what it takes to make it to state.”

County runners advance in girls race

Greenfield-Central sophomore Sydney Cook added to the Cougars’ red-ribbon day by becoming the second runner in program history to qualify for the semistate since the race went to 5K in 2007.

Cook placed fifth overall at the Rushville Regional with a time of 19:31.1. The week prior at sectional, she was 13th in 21:13.99.

“I had two really bad races before, so I was happy to come in here and pull another PR,” Cook said. “I didn’t make it to semistate last year, and I was a little disappointed, so this is an accomplishment. I just wanted to feel good again.”

Falling short at the Hoosier Heritage Conference Meet before the postseason where she was eighth at 20:27.9, Cook also won county this year in 21:03.

At regional, she was the second-best runner without a competing team.

“She’s made big strides. She’s found that spark this year,” Greenfield-Central head coach Scott Burton said. “To see her step up today and compete with those top runners in this regional is great to see and sets her up well for next week.”

County champion New Palestine was fourth as a team at regional to qualify for semistate. Senior Sarah Schwartz led the Dragons with a 16th-place run in 20:31.5.

Eastern Hancock freshman Taylor Stine, who was all-county and all-Mid-Hoosier Conference this year, pushed through to semistate with a 12th overall placement in 20:15.0. She was fifth best as an individual advancing without a team.

Scoreline

Rushville Regional

Boys Results

Team Scores (top five advance): Greenfield-Central 48, Franklin Central 50, Warren Central 94, Hagerstown 142, New Palestine 147, Roncalli 150, Northeastern 153, New Castle 156, Rushville 176, Union County 254.

Local Individual Semistate Qualifiers (Non-Advancing Team)

22nd – Gabe Blake, Eastern Hancock, 17:13.8

Top-10 Individual Finishers

1. Jacob Stamm, Seton Catholic, 16:00.7

2. Zach Bishop, Greenfield-Central, 16:03.2

3. Robby Lawson, Franklin Central, 16:18.8

4. Gabe Beatty, Northeastern, 16:23.3

5. Tyler Lowhorn, Warren Central, 16:32.6

6. Chance Thompson, Warren Central, 16:41.1

7. Kyle McCann, Franklin Central, 16:43.1

8. Cooper Hanson, Greenfield-Central, 16:43.5

9. Vilis Vuskalns, Beech Grove, 16:43.9

10. Tyler Morris, Greenfield-Central, 16:44.3

Girls Results

Team Scores (top five advance): Franklin Central 28, Warren Central 97, Roncalli 143, New Palestine 143, Rushville 144, Centerville 153, Eastern Hancock 154, Union County 154, Hagerstown 165, New Castle 187.

Local Individual Semistate Qualifiers (Non-Advancing Team)

5th – Sydney Cook, Greenfield-Central, 19:31.1

12th – Taylor Stine, Eastern Hancock, 20:15.0

Top-10 Individual Finishers

1. Jamie Wells, Warren Central, 18:48.9

2. Shayla Traas, Franklin Central, 19:01.8

3. Jenna Barker, Seton Catholic

4. Brooke Talhelm, Franklin Central, 19:24.8

5. Sydney Cook, Greenfield-Central, 19:31.1

6. Emily Welch, Franklin Central, 19:33.4

7. DeAndra Bigbee, Warren Central, 19:40.3

8. Ashley Toschlog, Centerville, 19:44.6

9. Katie Minton, Roncalli, 19:55.4

10. Dawn Tilley, Triton Central, 19:55.9

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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.