EASTERN HANCOCK ROYALS
Coach: Rex Putt, 9th season
2013: 4th at Hancock County, 3rd at Mid-Hoosier Conference, 7th at New Palestine Sectional
Top 5 runners/grade
Outlook: With just a five-man squad, Eastern Hancock is relying on a few veterans to drive the team back to a solid performance at the Mid-Hoosier Conference Meet as well as individual appearances at the regional gathering.
The graduation of Jacob Mueller makes that task tougher in 2014. Mueller was the team’s top finisher at the MHC, New Palestine Sectional and Rushville Regional. He was named All-MHC with a sixth-place finish at the conference meet.
Stepping into Mueller’s spot as the Royals’ No. 1 option is senior Parker West, who garnered all-conference honors a year ago and qualified for regional.
“Parker West has worked hard this summer as his goal is to get the school record and make a return trip to regional, so that he can also earn a trip to semistate. Last year he took nearly two minutes off his best time from his sophomore year and will need to get a minute better to set that school record (16:54),” EH coach Rex Putt said. “Parker ran (in the) low 18s a year ago and has increased his summer mileage with the help of assistant coach Tyler Wilcher. He has been our front runner in our early practices.”
Joining Mueller and West at regional last year was Gabe Blake, but the sophomore hasn’t quite reached top shape following a broken leg suffered during wrestling season last December.
“He is back running but it may be late in the season before he can return to the form that earned him a regional qualification last year as a freshman,” Putt said.
Rounding out the squad are senior Mitchell Scott and two newcomers: junior Kenny Bunnell and freshman Logan Joyce.
Despite his limited numbers, Putt maintains a positive outlook for 2014.
“It will be hard to replace Jacob Mueller, and finding enough runners is our greatest problem right now. After a football team has a successful year like the Royals did last year as state runner-up, every 120-130 pound athlete thinks he is a football player,” Putt said. “But the small group we have is working extremely hard and if we can advance at least three to regional again this year we will be pleased with our season.”
Eastern Hancock’s first meet is at the New Palestine Invitational Aug. 19.