NEW PALESTINE — The rise was significant in 2021, now the New Palestine boys cross country team wants to continue the climb.
A year after finishing eighth (last) in the Hoosier Heritage Conference meet, the Dragons bumped their way up to fifth in 2021.
Likewise, at the Mt. Vernon Sectional, the Dragons went from well out of the top five advancing positions in 2020 to placing sixth, just 16 points behind fifth and final qualifier Warren Central.
This season, coach Chuck Myers is hopeful for continued improvement from a group that has varsity experience.
“I think we’re going to be improved again,” Myers said. “We’ve got a couple seniors coming back that will be leading the group. They have matured over the last couple years and are moving in the right direction.”
Myers isn’t lacking in interested runners. There are 28 boys on this year’s team. The sophomore unit is the largest class with 10. There are eight seniors, seven freshmen and three juniors.
“We’ve got good numbers. We just have to try to make them all fast now,” Myers said.
Cody Crawmer and Connor Lapenta are the two seniors that Myers expects to lead. They were two of four to advance to the regional as individuals. Crawmer, who also plays on the soccer team, was 30th at the Mt. Vernon Sectional. Lapenta placed 40th.
The other returning regional qualifier is junior Jake Collins, who was 38th.
New Palestine will miss graduated Colin Darley, who reached the semistate.
Sophomores Jake Cooper, Gavin Smith and Jesse Isaacs should strengthen the varsity lineup.
“I’d like to finish in the top half of the conference,” Myers added on improvements he’d like to see from this year’s team. “The conference, as strong as it’s been, there have always been good guys’ squads. I think we could get in the top four with a good meet, but the conference will be pretty strong this year.
“I think we’ll have to run well (to get out of the sectional). We can be in that mix. There are usually five or six good teams in it with Franklin Central, Warren Central, Roncalli, Greenfield, Mt. Vernon and us. We have to beat one of those to advance out. That’s what it really boils down to.”
The Dragons will open their season Aug. 20 at the Zionsville Invitational.