FORTVILLE — It had to end eventually. At least that’s what Bruce Kendall thought Thursday night.
A roller coaster season filled with rainouts, lost events due to the slippery conditions, mishaps and inconsistency in places, one word came to mind above the rest.
“Frustrating,” Kendall laughed. “It’s been driving me crazy. This has been a frustrating season.”
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Satisfying was the mood overall, however, as the Marauders and coaches finally watched the pieces fall into place on their home track during the Hoosier Heritage Conference Meet.
Led by two first-place finishes from Christian Noble in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs, the Marauders placed third or better in 12 events to repeat as HHC champs.
“It was great to put it all together,” Noble said. “Coach has been telling us to keep doing what we’ve been doing and it will happen. We had a good meet all-around. I felt we did the best we could on a day like this.”
The Marauders scored 123 team points for the win despite consistent drizzling rain and drenched field pits. New Palestine, which defeated Mt. Vernon 81.5 to 61 for the Hancock County title last week, placed second with 105.5 points.
Delta was third at 84.5, and Greenfield-Central was fifth with 73.5 points.
Prior to the HHC meet, Mt. Vernon struggled to find a rhythm, Kendall said. Losing in Terre Haute during the regular season, the team was without Noble and fellow senior cross-country state-place winner Aaron Rush, with both competing in the Miracle Mile at Franklin Central.
During a meet at Pendleton Heights, the pole-vault competition was canceled due to rain, which cost the Marauders valuable points in their loss. Highly competitive meets in Noblesville and Kokomo were canceled because of the weather.
Frustration mounted at county when mental errors killed their chances at a team victory.
“Everything that could go wrong has,” Kendall said. “I can still think of about 20 things that didn’t go right tonight, but we found a way. Sometimes you back your way in.”
Modesty aside, the Marauders faced an immediate challenge after an hour delay to the meet due to lightning.
Needing little time to warm up, New Palestine’s 4×800-meter relay team struck first to take the lead.
Falling behind on the lead leg as Mt. Vernon’s Brisco Wood supplied the Marauders with a brief cushion, New Palestine’s Caleb Eagleson closed the gap quickly.
Eagleson took the baton from Samuel Voelz and made his move on the second leg and passed Brandt True. From there Riley Wilson and Spencer Corey finished the race for first place in 8:16.01. The Marauders were second at 8:36.66.
New Palestine relay team won the Hancock County title last week in 8:15.66 and held a seed time of 8:07.00.
From there, the lead flipped in Mt. Vernon’s favor, and Noble shifted the momentum in record-setting fashion.
Two days prior, Noble stood along the track as a spectator and watched as Pendleton Heights’ Alex Buck set a new HHC record in the 1,600-meter run.
Shortly after Buck crossed the finish line, Noble said he wanted the same thing.
Taking the lead from the start in the 1,600 on Thursday, Noble finished first with a record time of 4:19.30. Pendleton Heights’ Brock Hagerman held the previous mark at 4:20.00, set in 2006.
Pendleton Heights’ Parker Jones tried to keep Noble within arms’ reach through the first lap or the race, but the lead increased to nearly 50-plus yards entering the second circuit.
Noble carried a seed time of 4:15.20. At county the week before, he pitched the equivalent of track’s no-hitter, shattering the 1,600 record by approximately 11 seconds at 4:10.891. He also won the 3,200 in 9:42.03.
In the 3,200 at HHC, Noble was first at 9:40.75. Rush was third in the 1,600 at HHC with a time of 4:31.87.
“I knew going in I would run a fast time in one of them,” Noble said. “It was more about getting the points at this meet. It wasn’t really about running another PR or by winning by a lot. It was about the team.”
The team followed suit with a runner-up run by Brisco Wood (50.93) in the 400-meter dash, a second-place high jump performance by Nathan Casler (5 feet, 10 inches) and a runner-up throw by Garrett Mauk (123-11) in the discus.
Mauk was second in the shot put (45-09.00), and Ashton Jordan and Blake Miller were third and fourth in the pole vault.
“It’s hard to win conference meets, let alone two,” Kendall said. “We lost so much leadership from last year, but the pole vaulters went three and four. They didn’t get to finish at Pendleton, and today they were at home.”
Greenfield-Central had one champion in Cooper Hanson. The sophomore fired out fast and didn’t fade, kicking to a first-place time of 1:58.51 in the 800 meter. He improved on his seed time by approximately seven seconds. He was third at county last week in 2:01.93.
The Cougars had a trio of three-place finishers in Thomas Hembee (400-meter in 51.38) and Eli Diehr (300-meter hurdles in 43.61). Zach Bishop was also third in the 3,200 at 9:56.01.
Jacob Keener was second in the pole vault at 11 feet.
New Palestine’s Brady Walden was runner-up in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes in times of 11.20 and 23.32, respectively.
He teamed with the 400-meter relay team for a first-place run in 44.17. Walden added another first-place ribbon in the long jump, reaching 20-10.25.
Yorktown’s Dawson Allen set a new HHC record in the 200 at 23.01. Delta’s 1,600-meter relay team took first in 3:34.04, which broke Yorktown’s mark of 4:02.07 set in 2015.