SHELBYVILLE — It was a simple strategy for the Mt. Vernon girls cross country team at the 2022 Hoosier Heritage Conference cross country meet at Blue River Cross Country Course Saturday.

Pass the girls in the green shirts.

It’s a wise way to go when three of eight teams in the conference have it as the primary color, and even wiser knowing the strongest competition for the team title was coming from those three programs, Pendleton Heights, Yorktown and New Castle.

The black and gold of Mt. Vernon got by the green, the blue (Greenfield-Central, Delta), the red (New Palestine) and the black (Shelbyville), to win its second straight HHC cross country championship.

With four runners earning all-conference spots (Top 15), the Marauders won the race with 50 points, six better than Pendleton Heights (56) and well ahead of the rest of the field. Yorktown was third with 94, followed by New Castle (104), Delta (108), New Palestine (124), Greenfield-Central (157) and Shelbyville (214).

Freshman Hannah Hauser was the top Mt. Vernon runner. She placed third with a time of 19:59.40. Not too far behind were sophomore teammate Emma Gale, fifth in 20:39.30, and senior Mindy Cornelius, sixth with a season-best time of 21:02.60.

“Kept on picking off girls,” Cornelius said of moving up to her sixth-place spot. “I was like, I’m going to get her, and I’m going to get her … My goal was to pick off as many people, like coach (Brian Williams) said, every place matters whether you are toward the front of the team or toward the back. If I didn’t pick off one girl that could change everything.

“My goal was to do the best I could and, like (Williams) said, to pick off as many green girls (as I could). There was a pack of them and I went at them one at a time and ran my best.”

Also earning all-conference honors was 11th place finisher Julia Iserloth, who crossed the line in 21:17.40 to finish 11th.

Down the stretch, she got by a pack of four Yorktown runners as well as Pendleton Heights’ No. 4 runner (18th place Lily Hessler).

“We were up a point through three (runners). We got some breathing room with Julia. Those places were huge,” Williams said.

Iserloth’s moves paid dividends. So did the return of junior Allie Jenson, Mt. Vernon’s fifth and final scoring runner.

Jenson, who returned after missing the last two weeks, placed 25th in 22:26.90.

Iserloth and Jenson both had season-best times.

“She ended up being our fifth girl and it mattered,” Williams said of Jenson’s return. “The last half of the race, she did a fantastic job of just passing people. We talked to them all week, it’s about beating people. The total scores come from where you place. It doesn’t matter if it’s green, red or whatever other colors there are, we have to do that.

“We are no longer running for time. We’re running for placement.”

The only other Hancock County all-conference runner was New Palestine’s Courtney Study. She was eighth in 21:08.50.

Greenfield-Central was led by sophomore Lexie Copeland. She placed 21st in 22:11.70.

For the third straight year, Delta junior Nicki Southerland finished well ahead of the field to win the individual title. She finished the 5K race in 17:39.20. It was nearly two minutes ahead of Pendleton Heights runner-up Ava Jarrell, who had a time of 19:37.90.

“That was a fun race,” Pendleton Heights coach Melissa Hagerman said. “I knew going in Mt. Vernon was probably overall a better team than we were, but we were close enough to challenge them.”

The three Hancock County HHC schools will compete Saturday at 9:45 a.m. in the Mt. Vernon Sectional. The top five teams and top 10 individuals, not on an advancing team, will qualify for the Oct. 15 Rushville Regional.

There are 12 teams in the sectional, including Beech Grove, Franklin Central, Scecina Memorial, Lutheran, Victory College Prep, Morristown, Roncalli, Triton Central, and Warren Central.