By Jason Haddix
For The Herald Bulletin
PENDLETON, Ind. — Many of the teams that competed in Tuesday’s Pendleton Heights boys cross country sectional meet battled each other on the same course seven weeks prior.
That day, Pendleton Heights bested Mount Vernon, but the most recent round went to the Marauders who captured the sectional title by 12 points over the Arabians.
“It is good to look at,” Pendleton Heights coach Alan Holden said of hosting a regular season meet with teams the Arabians will face in postseason tournaments. “It is a good key. Mt. Vernon is always our opponent, and that is who we have to look at all the time. That is who we have been fighting for the last couple of years.”
Mount Vernon tallied 44 points and Pendleton Heights 56.
Much like Pendleton’s girls, the boys team relied on youth to propel the Arabians. Three of their top four finishers are sophomores. The other is Parker Jones, who is a freshman.
“Try to go out there and get Mount Vernon,” Jones said of his strategy. “Just run as fast as you can. For some people it is to keep a pace, but my philosophy is to just to go out there and give it your all.”
Twin brothers Tyler and Tony Flood to give the Arabians three in the top 10 joining Jones. Tyler took second with a time of 17 minutes, 11.06 seconds, and Tony crossed the finish line in 17:24.01 for fifth place.
The difference between Pendleton Heights earning a sectional title and being the runner-up team was Mt. Vernon having its third, fourth and fifth runners place 12th, 13th and 14th compared to the Arabians taking seventh, 19th and 23rd.
“We were a little short today,” Holden said. “(Eli Young) was not able to run today. We thought it would be better for him to run in the regional. So we kept him out because of an ankle injury.”
Perhaps the surprise of the event was when Shenandoah’s Brayden Crow and Mitchell Humphrey took 29th and 33rd places respectively to secure a fifth-place finish for the Raiders with 129 points.
Raiders coach Danielle Crowthers credits the turn around of her team, which had two sixth-place finishes and a seventh-place showing since 2008, to team members rising to the occasion when in the past they failed to do so.
“We had a lot of the upperclassmen that didn’t do 100 percent last year, really step it up this year,” she said. “One of our kids went from our seventh runner to our second. We always have our leader, Kyle Demick, who just comes out every week and runs his heart out.”
Demick led the way for the Raiders with a 16th place time of 18:29.66.
“I wasn’t in a pack too much, I was off in no man’s land, which I did not enjoy,” Demick said of his race. “Just go for green — Pendleton and Yorktown, and of course Mount Vernon.”
Yorktown (91) and Lapel (124) were the other teams to earn a top-five finish and advance to the Delta regional on Saturday.
Indiana High School Athletic Association rules allow the top-10 runners from non-advancing teams to move on to the regionals as individual entrants.
Frankton, last year’s sectional champions, will send three runners. The Eagles were led by senior Dylan Doan’s sixth-place finish.
His performance seemed more impressive after Frankton coach Valerie Williams said he ran the final two-and-a-half miles with one shoe after losing the other around 800-meters into the race.
Garrett Allen and Patrick Spillman will join Doan in the regional meet.
“We lost seven seniors,” Williams said of her team’s down season. “That affected the boys mentally. Hopefully, it is a building year and we will get some eighth-graders moving up and try to build the program again.”