CHARLOTTESVILLE — Until we meet again.
At Tuesday’s Hancock County Boys Cross Country Championship, Greenfield-Central left with the upper hand.
The Cougars, ranked No. 23 in the state by the Indiana Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches, beat No. 22 Mt. Vernon to win their first county title since 2013.
It was the third time the county’s top two teams were on the same course this season. It was the first time Greenfield-Central had beaten Mt. Vernon.
To open the season, at the Valley Kickoff in Terre Haute, they placed 10th and 11th, respectively, with the Marauders coming out one spot ahead of the Cougars.
At the Arabian Roundup on Aug. 24, the last time they were in the same event, Mt. Vernon won and Greenfield-Central placed third.
At Eastern Hancock Tuesday, it was the Cougars time to be out front.
Greenfield-Central won with 29 points. Mt. Vernon had 36. Eastern Hancock edged New Palestine for third, scoring 88 to the Dragons 91.
They’ll meet up again in Shelbyville on Oct. 1 as the favorites for the Hoosier Heritage Conference Championship before running consecutive Saturday’s in the postseason, beginning Oct. 8 at the Mt. Vernon Sectional.
“When I took over as head coach (in 2014) we thought we were going to win (the county). We did not. We got humbled by Mt. Vernon,” Greenfield-Central coach Aaron Smith said. “We thought we had better teams in the championship, Mt. Vernon was better one year. Another year, New Pal was better. Finally, this year, we were better.”
The Cougars were better and healthier.
Chris Ross, who had missed a portion of the early season, led Greenfield-Central with a second-place finish.
“When warming up I felt pretty bad, but I’m a mental runner and I stayed strong. That’s what kept me going through the race,” Ross said.
G-C had four runners in the top 7 and a key 11th-place finish from No. 5 runner Carter Crouch.
“We knew we had a strong four,” Smith said. “We needed to put four as far up front as possible. We had been a little weaker with our fifth, but today, what saved us was (Crouch). He ended up passing Mt. Vernon’s No. 5 and No. 6 down the stretch. He’s starting to come on and has had some good races recently.”
Mt. Vernon had the top spot with senior Tristan Trevino, who won the individual honors for the second straight year. It’s only the third time a Mt. Vernon runner has won back-to-back county titles. He joins good company in Christian Noble (a Division II national record-holding distance runner at Lee University) and Brad Untraver, who later ran at Miami University (Ohio) after finishing his prep career at MV.
Trevino won with a time of 16:45 for the 5K race. He finished six seconds ahead of Ross.
“My strategy was to go out pretty fast and I knew some people would try to follow me,” Trevino said. “My goal is to get out pretty fast and make them waste some energy and then try to pace myself as they slow down.”
Greenfield-Central’s Griffen Wheeler placed third in 17:14. He tried to get out early with Trevino, but said it only lasted the first kilometer.
“The strategy was to get Carter Crouch, in front of Mt. Vernon’s No. 5, just get him up there and everyone else do their job,” Wheeler said. “Chris Ross did his job extremely well. Usually, every year, I have a bad race. This was my bad race. After that first kilometer, I was dead. That happens and we’ll move on.”
Wheeler said it was a special race, too, for both of his coaches.
“It was good to get coach Smith his first county championship, and get (assistant and former head) coach (Paul Youngkin) one in his last year,” Wheeler said. “He’s retiring and is our last coach to win a county championship. He’s the greatest coach of all-time.”
Eastern Hancock’s Preston Markley had a strong showing to place fourth in 17:16. Mt. Vernon’s Ahmed Saleh was fifth in 17:18. Greenfield-Central had the next two spots with Liam Brinkruff (17:26) and Luke Haffner (17:36.)
Rounding out the Top 10 and all-county runners were Mt. Vernon’s Austin Baugh (17:47), Eastern Hancock’s Brandon Metz (18:02) and MV’s Landon Willis (18:10).
“It feels good being a small school and running with all the big dogs. It feels good to get both of us all-county,” Markley said.
Crouch just missed out on an all-county spot, but he took a crucial position. Mt. Vernon runners were right behind him with the next four spots.
“It was close like we thought it would be,” Mt. Vernon coach Bruce Kendall said. “Congratulations to Greenfield. They were better than us everywhere, at the 2, 3, 4 and the No. 5.”
There will be plenty more opportunities for the county’s state-ranked runners
“We need to go out on a happy note,” Youngkin, who is 76, said. He has been with the Greenfield-Central program for 13 years. “I told our kids (Monday), we run (Mt. Vernon) five more times. In the conference, it’s us and them. Then we’ve got them in the sectional, regional and semi-state. Just because we got them today, it doesn’t mean they won’t get us next time. We’re very close. It’ll depend on what kind of day you have.”