Longtime coach Bruce Kendall has raised the stakes further this preseason: his goal for the Marauders is to not only to reach the state meet as a team for the first time since MV’s fourth-place showing in 1984, but to finish in the top 20.
With a legitimate opportunity to win Hancock County and Hoosier Heritage Conference championships as well as claim repeat titles at sectional and regional, Kendall’s objective is to keep his team on an elevated path to semistate.
“My problem is creating a mindset to my team that they belong. I will not let them smoke the season to get to semistate to fail. We will focus on the semistate and get smoked in the season,” he said. “Jeff Wheeler won the state for us in 1983; he never won a race before the sectional. Mike Mundy was undefeated in the season in 1985 and then fifth at state. Who had the satisfaction?
“You have to pick your fights at the right time and not let pride get in the way. Greenfield and Pendleton will be especially hard to beat during the season based upon our goals. (We) just have to be healthy and hit it right when it counts.”
Noble, one of MV’s 14 juniors, is the team’s top runner – when healthy. As sophomore, Noble was in good enough form to be the black-and-gold’s top runner at county, HHC, sectional, regional, semistate and state. He added first-place finishes at the Pendleton Heights Sectional and Delta Regional for good measure.
Rush isn’t far behind Noble though, especially since the junior had a full offseason to train. Last season, Rush was recovering from a serious forearm injury suffered in a boating accident and missed a large chunk of preseason conditioning. Rush rebounded quickly though, notching top-five finishes at county, sectional and regional, the latter of which he was runner-up behind Noble.
“After 17 months and eight inches in height, Christian Noble, given good health, will be a front runner. He missed almost all of his track season and summer just like last year,” Kendall said. “If we could just get him to stop growing, he is the real deal, and with Rush (we have) another low stick in the big meets.”
Noble and Rush were 17th and 21st, respectively, at the 2013 New Haven Semistate, qualifying for the State Finals by being two of the top 10 individuals from non-advancing teams. The experience gained from the state meet – Noble was 112th and Rush took 116th – is a notable asset for both, along with the significant running genes both Noble and Rush posses.
Noble’s father, Mike, was a two-time State Finals qualifier for Mt. Vernon, and Christian’s older brother, Andrew, advanced to the state track meet in 2013. Rush’s father, Eric, and his mother, D’Lee, were all-conference runners at Indiana State, the site of the State Finals.
“Every course has its personality and favors certain types of athletes. You kind of know what to set in their minds during the season and match it up to what they experience. Difference is this year we will be set up for semistate instead of regional/semistate, and they will be physically better given a second chance,” Kendall said of Noble and Rush. “Don’t forget each of them have fathers and a mother who ran at state – the breeding is there as well as the expectations.”
Noble and Rush will have plenty of help in the team’s season-long march to state.
Last fall, then-junior Jake Russell was the Marauders’ No. 3 runner at HHC and regional; No. 4 finisher at semistate and No. 5 runner at county and sectional. Current junior Brandt True, the team’s No. 3 placer at county and semistate, is back, though a recent concussion may prevent him reaching top form until later in the season.
2013 seniors Andrew Thaxton and Andrew Boyle will be missed, but Mt. Vernon has the horses to replace them – mainly with a strong junior class that received another boost with the addition of track standout Brisco Wood, the 2014 sectional runner-up in the 800-meter run who also ran with the sectional-winning 3,200 relay.
“More than likely Jake Russell, (junior) Brian Bozymski and (senior) Jimmy McDonald will factor big into the equation. All had outstanding track seasons and all three are considerably stronger,” Kendall said. “(Junior) Brendan O’Bryhim, (junior) Ashton Jordan, (junior) Ayden Millspaugh and (junior) Austin Rappe are part of a JV team that went 91-0 last year with wins over Ft. Wayne Carroll and other Ft. Wayne teams. … Even (freshmen) Drew Bluethmann and Matt Boyle may figure into the scoring.”
Mt. Vernon needs to place in the top six at semistate to move on to the State Finals, and Kendall is out to make sure he fairly divvies up the shots to crack the front of the rotation.
“My problem is with high expectations and a lot of good runners, they will destroy themselves fighting for the top seven and be worn out by tourney, so I will have to create competition that makes them hungry and (willing to) fight, but allows some distribution of opportunity,” Kendall said.
The Marauders begin their season Monday with a tri-meet against Brownsburg and host Fishers.