FORTVILLE — Mt. Vernon brought in an impressive newcomer— at least new to its girls cross country program — when it hired veteran mentor Brian Williams.
A 30-plus years career of cross country coaching experience at the high school and college levels, Williams is now being impressed with other program rookies.
The Marauders began workouts earlier this week and a couple of freshmen have been among the top runners.
Freshman Hannah Hauser has shown she can run up front with some of the returnees and is currently competing for the No. 1 spot with sophomore Emma Gale.
Kenydi Russell, another frosh, will be in the mix when Williams fills out his varsity lineup.
In all, the coach has a nice blend of veterans and newcomers for his first Mt. Vernon team.
Having two talented freshmen couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Marauders graduated their top two runners in Morgan Tharp and Lydia Carrell, along with another strong senior in Alex Overshiner.
Last year’s team was strong, winning Hancock County and Hoosier Heritage Conference titles. They were second in the regional and wrapped up the season with an 18th place finish at the semistate.
“My expectation is I hope we can be vying for the county and for conference,” Williams said. “No doubt, that is something that is a goal. That’s not to say we don’t think anyone is better, we just want to keep doing what we did last year.”
The coach said opponents in county, conference and postseason races will provide strong competition, but his focus will be on his first group of Marauder runners.
“Really, the goal is not to worry about other teams, but do the best we can,” he said. “If we win conference, that’s great. But, I want the girls to look at their performance and, regardless of the outcome, be proud of it. If someone does beat them, they were better than them and there was nothing else they could do.”
He’ll have talented freshmen, but Williams will have some really good veterans, too. Many played key parts in the 2021 accomplishments.
Junior Allie Jenson was an All-HHC runner, placing 13th at the conference meet. She was also 10th at the sectional and 18th at the regional.
Gale was 19th at the sectional. Sophomore Julia Iserloth and the team’s lone seniors, Mindy Cornelius and Madelyn Ludlow are other returnees with big-meet experience. They, along with sophomore Ella Sinn and juniors Hannah Eads and Emily Xiao, have impressed the coach during the first week of practice.
Williams called Thursday’s practice the best of the season and added the transition of having new coach has been smooth.
“I am seeing that the time we spent together in the summer helped,” Williams said. “They are more comfortable with me and I think I have a better understanding of them and where they are as runners.
“Getting started Monday, it seems like everyone has come in ready to go and has put in a good effort this first week.”
The Marauders open their season Aug. 13 at the Valley Kickoff, hosted by Indiana State University on the LaVern Gibson course, which will also be the site for the state finals on Oct. 29.