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Boys Cross Country Preview: Greenfield

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Coach: Aaron Smith, 1st season
2013: 1st at Hancock County, 2nd at Hoosier Heritage Conference, 4th at New Palestine Sectional, 4th at Rushville Regional, 16th at Carmel Semistate
Top 5 runners/grade
Syrus Fletcher/12
Jason LaFord/12
Taylor Wright/12
Zach Bishop/11
Jake (Miguel) Hansen/10.
Next in line: Tyler Morris/9, Donovan Hankins/12, Nate Brand/9, Cooper Hanson/9, Tommy Hembree/11
Outlook: If you happen to be a newcomer to the Hancock Country sports scene, you could do worse than trek out to Mt. Vernon for the county meet on Sept. 23 to witness what will be a thrilling battle between three-time defending champion Greenfield-Central and the host Marauders, two teams with stacked rosters and legitimate State Finals ambitions. The blue-and-gold won last year’s county foray by a mere four points.
“It is going to be between us and Mt. Vernon for the county title and I know (coach Bruce) Kendall has a talented group of juniors, but I think we have what it takes to win for the fourth year in a row,” first-year G-C coach Aaron Smith said.
As a team, the 2013 Cougars repeated their team finishes – first at county, second at the Hoosier Heritage Conference Meet and fourth at the New Palestine Sectional and Rushville Regional – from 2012 with the exception being raising their finish at the Carmel Semistate from 19th in 2012 to 16th last year.
The optimism surrounding this year’s group of Greenfield runners centers around the return of junior Zach Bishop, senior Syrus Fletcher and senior Taylor Wright. That trio comprised the Cougars’ top three in all five of its championship season meets – county, HHC, sectional, regional and semistate.
Bishop emerged as the team’s clear No. 1 in 2013. He was second at county and HHC behind New Palestine’s Seth Eagleson, who has graduated. Bishop was seventh at sectional, fifth at regional and 46th at semistate – placing first for G-C in its five biggest meets of the year.
Smith, a former Greenfield-Central runner who joined former head coach Hunter White’s staff as an assistant in 2012, said the next step for Bishop is to qualify individually for the State Finals if the Cougars do not make it to Terre Haute as a team.
“He is coming off a sophomore track season that saw him only five seconds shy of the school 3,200 record, and he is looking really good so far this year. We expect big performances of him in all of the big meets, especially when the championship season comes,” Smith said of Bishop. “I never put limits on Zach because just when I think he won’t be able to do something, he goes out there and does it. I am always excited to watch him run. He is very competitive and he will do whatever it takes to run well.”
As for the talented – and deep – collection of runners behind Bishop, Wright and Fletcher lead the way. Fletcher finished behind Bishop at HHC, sectional, regional and semistate, while Wright was second on the team at county. Senior Jason LaFord, who suffered an injury during his 11th-place showing at last year’s county meet and didn’t run again in 2013 after conference, is healthy again. Smith said LaFord is “just as important as Syrus and Taylor were last year.”
“Speaking of being competitive, Syrus Fletcher, Taylor Wright, and fellow senior Jason LaFord – who is coming off a great track season – are all integral parts of our team and will always go out there and compete,” Smith said. “With Bishop leading the way, these three seniors and sophomores Miguel Hansen – who is already faster than last year – and Tyler Morris, we are expecting a successful season.”
Hansen, the team’s No. 5 runner at semistate, and Morris, G-C’s No. 4 runner at county, HHC and sectional, will be pushed by senior Donovan Hankins, who was the Cougars’ fourth-best finisher at semistate.
Three newcomers to the team – freshman Nate Brand and Cooper Hanson as well as junior Tommy Hembree – make the Cougars 10-deep.
“These three could very easily see varsity running time as the season progresses,” Smith said of Brand, Hanson and Hembree.
Let the march to championship season begin.
“We have several other goals for the season, but the biggest one for this year would be to make it to the state meet as a team, which I believe no Greenfield team has done,” Smith said. “We have the toughest semistate in the state (at Carmel), but I know these guys will go out there and give it everything they have.”
Greenfield-Central begins its 2014 campaign Aug. 23 at the Richmond Invitational.

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