GREENFIELD — If they’re feeling well, they’re running well.
The success of Greenfield-Central’s boys cross country team may rely on the former.
The Cougars come into the 2022 season with some of the county’s top runners, but they also have question marks when it comes to depth.
The roster is at 21, but a number of those are new to the sport. Staying healthy while the newcomers develop will be important.
“We’re excited for the season, but at the same time, if we don’t have all of our guys, it might be a rough season,” Greenfield-Central coach Aaron Smith said. “If we get all the pieces clicking, we’re going to run really well. We have five guys and that’s all you need (for a team score). Unfortunately, that’s about all we have right now.”
The Cougars have three of the area’s top returnees in senior Griffen Wheeler and juniors Liam Brinkruff and Chris Ross.
Wheeler was an All-Hoosier Heritage Conference runner a year ago, placing fifth. He followed it up with a third at sectional and 10th place run at regional. Brinkruff was All-HHC and had one of his best runs of the year in the postseason, finishing third at regional.
Ross has been another top-notch performer, usually in the same pack with Wheeler and Brinkruff. He missed much of last season due to an injury.
Smith mentioned a few varsity, and potential varsity runners have been battling through injuries and ailments. He has a good number of runners, but a lot are adjusting to high school cross country. The freshmen are going from a 3K distance in junior high to 5K in high school.
One of the freshmen that has adjusted quickly is Luke Haffner. Smith said the rookie is not too far behind his top three. Carter Crouch is back, too, after running varsity in most of the big meets a year.
Currently, another freshman, David Wasson and veteran junior Elliot Ryba are making up the team’s varsity seven.
Smith said he wasn’t sure yet on who would be next in line.
“We have 21, but I would say one-half of those are projects,” Smith said. “They’re new, inexperienced and aren’t quite ready for varsity this year. We basically have two teams, several guys up front that are pretty good and a bunch of new runners. It’s been interesting.”
Last season, Greenfield-Central finished runner-up to Mt. Vernon in the HHC meet and third in both the sectional and regional. They were 15th at the Shelbyville Semistate.
A healthy group of harriers will be key if those accomplishments grow in 2022.
“We want to do well in sectional, regional and our goal is to be as high in semistate as possible,” the coach said. “I think any one of those three (Wheeler, Brinkruff, Ross) or all of those three have an opportunity to qualify for state.”
The Cougars open their season Aug. 13 at the Valley Kickoff, hosted by Indiana State University in Terre Haute on the LaVern Gibson course, which will also be the site for the state finals on Oct. 29.
The lone home meet of the season is the annual Cougarpalooza, Sept. 7 at Brandywine Park.