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2014 Girls Cross Country Preview: Eastern Hancock

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Coach: Rex Putt, 9th season

2013: 4th at Hancock County, 1st at Mid-Hoosier Conference, 4th at New Palestine Sectional, 7th at Rushville Regional

Top 5 runners

Hope Spaulding/11

Karlee Gray/11

Emily Schrope/11

Cara Johnson/11

Paige Schuyler/10

Next in line: Liberty Durham/9, Annie Floyd/9

Outlook: There’s no replacing Kiersten Schrope – two-time semistate qualifiers don’t come around often.

But the Royals also weren’t all-Schrope the last two seasons when they racked up back-to-back Mid-Hoosier Conference championships and became the first-ever Eastern Hancock girls squad in any sport to reach semistate in 2012.

At last season’s MHC Meet, Schrope – who was 123rd at the 2013 Carmel Semistate and now runs for Marian University – took fourth. Karlee Gray, Hope Spaulding, Paige Schuyler and Cara Johnson placed eighth through 11th, garnering All-MHC honors. Spaulding (17th), now a junior, and Johnson (29th), also a junior, were also top-30 finishers at the New Palestine Sectional.

So, the cupboard is far from bare – especially not with Spaulding, who ran toe-to-toe with Schrope many times last year, and Gray – another junior – who coach Rex Putt called the “dominant” runner in the team’s early-season practices.

“Kiersten Schrope … will be missed because of her talent and leadership, but we have four very capable juniors, three of whom were key members of the school’s first-ever semistate qualifying team of two years ago,” Putt said. “Spaulding, Gray and Johnson now have two valuable years of experience and will be joined by Emily Schrope, who has battled leg problems her first two years, as the core of this year’s group.”

EH will rely on its collective talent to not only replace Schrope the athlete, but Schrope the leader.

“It’s more of leadership by committee as all four have become team captains in Kiersten’s vacated spot,” Putt said.

Schuyler, a sophomore, and freshmen Liberty Dunham and Annie Floyd – fresh off back-to-back Hancock County championships as middle schoolers – will provide depth for a Royal outfit that, according to Putt, is capable of a third straight MHC title and making it back to semistate. EH was seventh at last season’s Rushville Regional, two places shy of becoming the first team in school history to qualify for two straight semistates.

“All of these girls have been part of championship cross country teams and they understand the word ‘team,’ setting aside personal glory to work as one unit for team success,” Putt said.

The Royals’ first meet of the season is the New Palestine Invitational Aug. 19.

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