PENDLETON — As the sun made its gradual descent on Thursday evening, the Highland boys track and field team’s point total countered with its familiar upsurge.

It was just part of the defending Madison County champion’s routine these days, and one the Scots used to dethrone the host Arabians at the 52nd running of the Pendleton Heights Track Invitational.

Amassing seven first-place medals and 12 placements of fourth or better, the Scots tallied 147 team points to win their first PH Invitational since 2005.

Pendleton Heights earned runner-up honors with 95 points. Mount Vernon (83) finished third and Anderson (46) was fourth among the field of 10 schools.

“Depth. We’re deep. We have two people at every event and two really great competitors. We also have our guys that excel. That’s our secret,” Highland coach Cary House said about his team’s 52-point margin of victory. In last week’s county tournament, the Scots topped Pendleton Heights by 46 points for the team title.

“Nobody on the team is not placing for us,” the coach added. “The other schools, they have their guys that can go one, but then our two guys can go either two-three or three-four. We can get beat, but we can still outscore those other schools in those events.”

And then, there are also the anomalies to consider.

Highland junior sprinter Jamie Mallory, who placed behind Anderson’s Justin Fuller in the 100-meter dash at county, leapfrogged for first place Thursday.

Posting the preliminary’s top time (11.83), he followed up the run by edging Fuller (11.84) in the finals with a time of 11.66. Highland’s Sam Nunn (11.87) was just behind for third.

In the 200-meter dash, Fuller recovered, scoring a first-place run of 23.42 to upset Nunn, the defending county champion.

In the pits, the Scots had few upsets, building a decisive lead with sophomore Derrick Hill winning the high jump (6 feet, 6 inches), junior Jay Mohr seizing the long jump title (20 feet, .5 inches and junior Kerry Detienne taking the shot put with a throw of 49 feet, 9.5 inches.

Overall, the Scots had four runner-up winners, three third-place finishers and five participants place fourth.

“That comes into play in big meets like this,” Hill said. “We have guys finishing first, second and third. That’s a lot of points. We came out on top because of it. We build off of wins a lot. It really pushes us towards the end.”

“Teamwork is definitely a big part of it,” Detienne added. “It’s all about the points.”

Highland’s T.J. Taylor provided a boost in the 3,200 meter run, crossing the finish line in 10:10.89 for first with Frankton’s Blake Hamilton right behind.

The win helped keep the scales in Highland’s favor as Pendleton Heights’ Nathan Hendershot, who maintained his string of wins in the 800 and 1,600 meter runs, captured both with times of 2:05.56 and 4:42.69, respectively.

Arabians’ Evan Groninger, who like Hendershot ruled his respective event at county, collected another first-place finish in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 16.69. But in the 300-meter hurdle final, he stumbled over the final obstacle, which opened the door for Highland’s Nathan Walters.

“Evan and I have run against each other since the seventh grade. Every time you run against him, it’s always competitive. We push each other a lot,” said Walters, who won the event with a run of 41.84. “I feel for him. I almost bit the dust in the 110 (hurdles). You can’t help but think you can take advantage, but you don’t want to wish any harm on anyone.”

The Scots wrapped up the meet, winning the 400-meter relay over the Arabians with a time of 44.68.

Pendleton Heights captured the 3,200 meter relay in a time of 8:34.58, which marked the team’s fourth first-place finish.

Frankton freshman Ian Imels won the 400-meter dash in 51.74. He was also the winner at county last week.

But as the meet closed, it was Highland hoisting the hardware for a celebratory team photo.

“Last year we were a solid team, and now those guys who weren’t winning everything last year are stepping it up,” Walters said. “Last year, we didn’t really work together. This year, we’re together and trying to build each other up. We’re not individuals this year. We’re a team with added depth.”

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