NEW PALESTINE — Four local teams advanced from the New Palestine cross country sectional meet Tuesday, but it was the performances of a star-in-the-making boys’ runner and upstart girls’ squad that stole the show.
NP’s Seth Eagleson blew away the field on the boys’ side, taking first with a time of 16:44.68 — over 14 seconds faster than runner-up Shane Wright of Franklin Central — which only added to Eagleson’s list of accomplishments during the 2012 season.
And the Eastern Hancock girls’team placed third for its highest-ever sectional finish, as Kiersten Schrope took sixth (20:41.92), pulling away at the finish from Hancock County champ Sarah Schwartz of New Palestine (seventh, 20:45.69).
Franklin Central took home the boys’ title with 37 points. Roncalli (63) was second, Warren Central (64) was third, Greenfield-Central (113) placed fourth and NP (120) took fifth. EH recorded an incomplete score.
Christina Matthies of Franklin Central won the girls’ race in 19:57.91 as the Flashes prevailed with 21 points. New Palestine was second (61) followed by EH (91), Warren Central (100) and Roncalli (107). Greenfield-Central was sixth (141).
The top 15 individuals and top five teams move on to Saturday’s regional at Rushville.
Already the owner of Hancock County and Hoosier Heritage Conference titles, Eagleson tallied another accolade Tuesday by getting out to a sizable lead from the starting line. Eagleson spoke with his father earlier in the week about his approach for sectional.
“The goal was to move on, anything else was icing on the cake,” explained Eagleson, who has only lost once this season and broke the meet record at county on Sept. 18. “This is definitely awesome and I really wanted this. But you know what, I’m glad we moved on.”
Eagleson’s teammate, senior Austin Dodd — who has battled injuries each of the past two seasons — was the only other local runner in the top 15 via a fifth-place finish in 17:08.56.
“I think he’s the best guy out there,” said Eagleson of Dodd. “Take out times. Austin’s the hardest worker.”
The Cougars also moved on as a team, with their top five runners finishing within eight places of one another. G-C was led by Garrett Benedict (19th, 17:58.66), who was backed up by Syrus Fletcher (21st), Taylor Wright (23rd), Zachariah Bishop (24th) and Scott Prewitt (26th).
Nathan Kell placed 53rd (20:03.67) to pace the Royals.
As for Schrope, who finished less than a minute behind Schwartz at county, her strategy was simple: stick with the county champ throughout the race.
“She’s a really good runner. I just wanted to stay with her the whole time and get her at the end,” said Schrope of Schwartz. “She was my main push and my main drive, and it helped me out a lot.”
Shelby Wyatt, who EH coach Rex Putt termed a “great pressure runner,” took 10th (20:59.65) to support Schrope. Three freshmen (Cara Johnson, Hope Spaulding, Karlee Gray) rounded out the Royals’ scoring in 20th, 26th and 29th respectively.
Three days after capturing its initial Mid-Hoosier Conference Championship by 26 points, Putt set out two clear objectives for his team before Tuesday’s meet.
Putt wanted Schrope — the individual champion at the MHC meet — and Wyatt to place in the top 15. He also wanted his three rookies to finish in the top 30. The Royals did exactly what their coach asked of them.
“That’s all I could ask for,” said a beaming Putt.
After finishing third in last season’s sectional, the New Palestine girls bumped their placement by one spot Tuesday.
The quartet of Bailey Wallace, Natalie Shields, Kayla Medaris and Marissa Crosby took places 12-15 to back up Schwartz’s performance.
Freshman Nicole Stephenson (23rd, 22:16.03) led Greenfield-Central, which fell one spot short of regional qualification.
Notes: The Connersville sectional also feeds into the Rushville regional. …Eagleson placed sixth at regional last year. … In addition to Eagleson, advancing to semistate from the Rushville regional in 2011 were the G-C boys’ and NP girls’ teams. Schrope missed semistate by one spot last season.