INDIANAPOLIS — Exhausted and out of breath, Christian Noble sat along the outside of the track at North Central High School with his legs outstretched.
Just minutes after finishing the 3,200-meter run in 9 minutes, 18.20 seconds for runner-up at the North Central Track & Field Regional, the Mt. Vernon senior admitted later, he pushed himself a little too hard and way too early.
With a second straight IHSAA state finals berth at stake, the lanky distance runner led the two-mile test of endurance for seven and half laps around the track Thursday night.
And then, Cardinal Ritter’s Max Wehrle accelerated his pursuit. Noble’s nearly 50-yard cushion shortened to singular footsteps the final 400 meters before he passed Noble 40 yards from the finish.
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Understandably, Noble needed a moment of reflective solitude to recover. But he wasn’t really alone as his teammates congratulated him shortly afterward.
And he won’t be next weekend at the state meet in Bloomington either.
With runner-up performances by Brisco Wood in the 800-meter and Aaron Rush in the 1,600-meter, the Marauders collected three automatic qualifiers. It marks the first time in program history the team has had qualifiers in all three distance events in the same year.
“Coming here, we’ve got milers out before and we’ve had two-milers out before,” Mt. Vernon head coach Bruce Kendall said. “But we’ve never gotten all three out at the same time. It’s so cool to do this against Marion County.”
As expected, top-ranked Ben Davis won the regional team title with 99 points. Third-ranked Pike was second with 75 points. Fourth-ranked Lawrence North was third at 69. Mt. Vernon was 10th with 24 points.
“At this thing, the clock never loses,” Kendall said. “You’re not racing the clock. You’re racing the people on the track. We set (personal bests) in the 800 and 1,600 this season. Noble’s was his second best this year.”
Rush made a strong push at the 1,600-meter regional title, taking the lead early on the race’s first lap before facing, yet another, position battle with Pendleton Heights’ Parker Jones.
Jones, who bested Rush at sectional a week ago, pulled ahead on the second lap as Rush faded back momentarily.
On the third lap Rush reclaimed the lead by a few steps until Jones initiated his final kick. With Rush and Jones both neck-and-neck heading into the final lap, Jones made his move on the second turn and built a comfortable 30-yard cushion to win in 4:20.54.
Rush was second at 4:23.34 to earn an automatic state berth, fending off Perry Meridian’s John Liam Tansy (4:23.88) down the final stretch as the Falcon attempted to pass.
Rush’s time improved from his runner-up finish at the Mt. Vernon Sectional (4:24.40) where Jones also was first in 4:17.64, which set a new event record.
“It was a mutual understanding, I think, of us both wanting to qualify,” Rush remarked on his dual with Jones. “He just took the better kick this time, so kudos to him.”
Rush qualified and placed ninth at the state meet in the 1,600 last year at 4:16.63 with hopes of seeing his times along with his teammates continue to peak.
“I don’t know how many schools do that, get all three through, unless you’re Carmel,” Rush said. “To get everyone across the board at second, I’m really proud of my team. Brisco’s goal was to finally get to state, and he did it.”
Wood, who won the 800-meter Mt. Vernon Sectional title in 1:57.19 embarked on a dual of his own against Pike’s Deven Ramsey.
Maneuvering through the pack the first 200 meters, Wood rode Ramsey’s heels by the end of the first lap. He drafted behind until the final turn of the second lap, overtaking Ramsey before falling back into second only 40 yards from the finish line.
“I was just going for the, and I knew if I did, I would end up in the top three,” Wood said. “That’s all I was focused on, staying up in the front and not getting trapped in the pack. Last year, I got stuck in the pack, I learned from my mistake.”
Noble set a sectional record last week with a 9:08.67, a personal best and school record. While disappointed with losing the lead late, he knows he has one more week before heading to Lee University.
“That was my first full 3,200, so I got a little antsy,” Noble said. “I picked up some things, so I know what to fix.”
The IHSAA State Finals will be conducted June 4 at the Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex at Indiana University in Bloomington.
North Central Regional
1,600-meter run: Aaron Rush, Mt. Vernon (2nd), 4:23.34
Discus: Garrett Mauk, Mt. Vernon (12th), 130-09
4×800 relay: Mt. Vernon (12th), 8:36.88
4×100 relay: Eastern Hancock (DQ)
High Jump: Mark Lough, Mt. Vernon (10th), 6-00.00
Long Jump: Damari Gatewood, Mt. Vernon (ND)
Shot Put: Reece Burkhart, Eastern Hancock (13th), 43-03.00
3,200: Christian Noble, Mt. Vernon (2nd), 9:18.90
Pole Vault: Ashton Jordan, Mt. Vernon (11th), 10-06.00; Blake Miller, Mt. Vernon (10th), 11-00.00
800: Brisco Wood, Mt. Vernon (2nd), 1:55.79; Clayton Brumfield, Eastern Hancock (9th), 2:00.21
4×400 relay: Mt. Vernon (11th), 3:32.93