If ever there was going to be a year that other county and area schools could catch up with the Pendleton Heights girls cross country team, 2018 looked like the one.
Not so much.
The Arabians, who had graduated a large group of seniors, including the 2017 Girls Cross Country Athlete of the Year Christina Magers, had a largely inexperienced roster comprised of 10 freshmen, a sophomore, and a senior who had not been able to run the previous two seasons due to health issues.
But, under the expert and experienced tutelage of coach Melissa Hagerman, all the Arabians girls team did was dominate at the Madison County meet and advance through the postseason all the way to semistate. Their surprising success this season has earned Hagerman the 2019 Girls Sports Coach of the Year.
Led by six All-County performers, the Arabians won the Madison County meet with relative ease, scoring 26 points and bettering the runners-up from Lapel by 40 points. Freshman Laney Ricker was the county champ and sophomore Madison McKee placed fourth that day. Four more freshmen, Hailee Brunnemer, Berkeley Lord, Catherine Dudley and Katie Jones posted top-10 finishes for Hagerman and the Arabians.
It was the 11th straight, and possibly the most unlikely, Madison County championship for PH under Hagerman.
Dudley would take a turn as the top PH runner with a ninth-place finish at the Hoosier Heritage Conference meet where the Arabians placed second.
But it was Jones who would ultimately lead the way in the postseason and earn THB Girls Cross Country Athlete of the Year for 2018. The Arabians placed third at both sectional and regional, with Jones finishing 10th and 17th, respectively, before a placing of ninth at the New Haven semistate.