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XC Preview: MV lads unproven, ladies aim for semistate

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The 50th season for the Mt. Vernon boys’ cross country team, the oldest sport at MV — as maintained by longtime coach Bruce Kendall — is sure to be an interesting one.

Four of the squad’s top five sectional runners from a year ago —Matthew Abebe (running at Indiana Wesleyan), Nathan Bode, Gary Maley and Sam Higdon — have departed.

Taylor VanWinkle is the lone runner with substantial varsity experience, but the addition of a strong freshmen class — according to Kendall, it’s the best group of MV newcomers since 1985 — has the future looking bright in Fortville as the boys’ team eyes its sixth straight semistate appearance.

Heading that cluster of ninth graders is Brandt True and Aaron Rush, though Kendall possesses tempered expectations for his youngsters (13 of the team’s 20 runners are underclassmen).

“They have proven nothing yet,” said Kendall, who added that seniors Andrew Boyle, Chase Harker, Andrew Payne and sophomore Braxton Ratekin will contribute. “I expect we will get drilled early and often and fight our way through a very tough sectional this year.”

After taking third in its first meet at Brownsburg Hokum Karem, MV placed 11th at the Carmel Invitational Saturday. VanWinkle took 22nd in the 5K race, Boyle was 27th in the 4K and Ratekin placed 30th in the 3K.

It’s a different story for the girls’ team, who is coming off a 15th-place finish at the New Haven semistate, the highest placement for an MV girls’ team.

The return of three of the squad’s top five placers at the Delta regional (Liz Cook, Jessica Grubb, Micaela Elmore) means a fifth consecutive voyage to the semistate meet is in the cards.

The loss of Hancock County-champion Mandy Bode hurts, but Kendall stated that juniors Lindsey Eckart and Samantha Sanders, sophomores Samantha Gawrys and Morgan Hayse, plus freshman Ariana Sandefur, have this edition of Marauder girls cross country looking very promising.

At Carmel, Cook was 20th in the 5K, Eckart finished 25th in the 4K, and Sanders took 27th in the 3K as MV placed eighth as a team. The Marauders took second at Hokum Karem.

MV is at the Marion Invitational on Sept. 1.

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