GREENFIELD — Coach Scott Burton is hoping the newcomers follow the lead of the veterans.
Greenfield-Central’s girls cross country team is just eight runners deep, but three members of the group are coming off seasons where they reached the regional round of the postseason.
The Cougars have three freshmen, two junior newcomers, and a trio of vets in senior Reagan Crouch, junior Emma Bogle and sophomore Lexie Copeland.
Copeland led the team at the end of the 2021 season. She just missed qualifying for the semistate and was the top G-C runner at sectional, regional and Hoosier Heritage Conference races.
Bogle led the team at the Hancock County Championships by placing 13th, one spot ahead of Crouch and two in front of Copeland.
“We’ve got three regional qualifiers returning,” Burton said. “Those three are experienced. Having that experience from last year, and the leadership they showed, is a big help for our new runners this year.”
One of the cross country newcomers isn’t new to distance running.
Junior Emma Capen ran track in the spring and was the team’s No. 2 miler and two-miler, second to Copeland in both races.
Three freshmen Kendall Barrett, Ashlyn Devlin and Taylor Cooksey make up the rest of the roster along with recent addition Annika Fischer, a junior.
“Our freshmen are showing promise early, but it’s going to take a couple of 5Ks under their belt to see how they respond to the competition,” Burton said. “It’s a greater distance from coming up and running a 3K in junior high. It’s a big step up going to that 5K in high school.
“Right now, anyone of them could step up and be that fifth runner. With only having (eight) runners, all are going to be contributors early. It’s just going to go from race to race, week to week to see how they step up to the competition.”
Of the veterans, Burton said it’s too early to tell who will run out front. But, the combination of the three and development of newcomers gives hope for strength by the end of the season.
“With our sectional, and the addition of Mt. Vernon a couple of years ago, we always seem to have six teams battling for those five (regional qualifying) spots,” Burton said. “With our experience, and how we’re looking early, it’s a matter of how everyone runs on that second Saturday in October.”
The Cougars open the season Saturday at the Valley Kickoff at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, the same site as the IHSAA Girls Cross Country State Finals on Oct. 29.
The lone home meet of the year is the annual Cougarpalooza, held Sept. 7 at Brandywine Park.