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Boys Track Preview: Royals aim to build on success

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Coach: Clayton Shultz (fourth season)

Key losses: Jesse Grass, Mitchell Kramer

Key returnees: Derrik Noel, Justin Cool-Luke, Josh Ramage, Cody Spicer, Bryce Spegal, Jacob Mueller, Parker West, Cole Cochard, Austin Smith, Sam Carlton, Kenny Delph

2013 Team finishes: 4th at Hancock County, Tied for 1st at Mid-Hoosier Conference, 6th at Mt. Vernon Sectional

Newcomers to watch: Shultz pointed out four freshmen – Jayson Bowers, Devyn Brinson, Reece Burkhart, Ethan Hayse – and one sophomore (Clayton Brumfield), but two familiar names have also joined the squad: senior Isaiah McCormick and junior Cooper Henderson. McCormick was recently named to the All-Hancock County basketball team, and Henderson was a starting guard on the basketball team as well as an offensive, defensive and special teams standout for the Class A state runner-up football team.

Outlook: Eastern Hancock enjoyed a breakout 2013 campaign, a spring highlighted by a tie for first in the program’s initial Mid-Hoosier Conference Meet.

After last year’s conference meet, EH coach Clayton Shultz spoke of shedding the “club sport” label from the program. For 2014, the Royals want to develop consistency and continue to outwork their competition.

“We tied for the conference championship, we won (the Small School) Invitational, broke a school record and had a good year,” Shultz said of 2013. “Now the challenge is not to be satisfied with last year and stay hungry for the new challenges throughout the upcoming season.”

Things got off to a nice start for the Royals during the indoor season, with junior Derrik Noel – also a starting wide receiver for the football team and a first team all-county basketball player – finishing fourth in the high jump at the Indoor State Finals.

Noel, plus returning regional qualifiers Justin Cool-Luke, Josh Ramage and Cody Spicer, set an example of dedication and diligence to the sport that has filtered down through the EH ranks.

“These guys are, first of all, great kids to work with. All four guys work very hard at what they do,” Shultz said. “But it’s what they have done to help build our program that is the key. These guys compete not only in meets but in practices – (they’re) always striving to better themselves and it has become contagious. When your top guys are your hardest workers it makes my job a lot easier.”

Cool-Luke is a two-time regional qualifier in the high jump. He was also fourth at last year’s sectional in the 400. The all-around talent will play a big role in the Royals’ bid to repeat at the conference meet.

“Winning the conference is a goal,” Shultz said. “Some other goals are to win the Small School Invitational (on April 19) and Guerin Catholic’s Invitational (on April 26).”

Notes: Jacob Mueller ran the 800, 1,600, 3,200 and 3,200 relay at the Mid-Hoosier Conference Meet last spring, a distance of nearly five and a half miles. Shultz called Mueller a “warrior” after the meet. … Eastern Hancock dismantled Knightstown 106-17 in its first outdoor meet March 20. EH hosts Anderson Prep and North Decatur April 10.

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