Aaron Toland | Staff Writer
The Center Grove boys cross country team is nearing the end of their season and beginning to look toward important end-of-season and post-season meets.
These next two meets— the annual MIC and county meets — are what the team has been preparing for the whole season. These meets act as the last opportunity for JV runners to get a personal record (PR), and also act as the final test for varsity before their vital state tournament meets. Coach Howard Harrell and the team are hungry for the results that they know they are possible of running this season.
Harrell has 17 seasons of CG cross country coaching under his belt. Each season he uses the Ben Davis Invitational as a measuring stick for how the team compares to past teams.
“The top five runners on a team are the ones that score for the team,” Harrell said. “Looking at the top 5 runners for each year [at the Ben Davis Invitational], this year’s top 5 runners are the 11th fastest out of 17 teams. This year’s team is just below average compared to other teams.
Although the team’s results at Ben Davis were just below average compared to teams in the past, Harrell knows the team is on track.
“We are right where I expected us to be at this point. All the big meets are at the end of the season, and that is when we run our best,” Harrell said.
There are two meets left in the season, but the meet that the team values exponentially more is MIC.
“Varsity wise we aim for the MIC meet and the semi state meet,” Harrell said. “One can not peak for each and every meet, so we are not saying county is not important, but we are aiming to two different meets. Nevertheless, the team’s goal since day one has been to place third at MIC and first at county.”
Throughout this season, one varsity runner and one junior varsity runner in particular have pleasantly surprised the coach the most.
“Archit Malik has to be the biggest surprise,” Harrell said. “ He ran JV track last spring, but over the summer he kept getting better and better. All of a sudden he was varsity cross country. Then he was top 5, then top 3, then, well, who knows exactly how high or far he is going to get.”
It’s not just varsity runners who have shown growth this season though.
“Michael Goebel might just be the next biggest surprise,” Harrell said. “His work ethic went through the ceiling about mid-season, and that is exactly when his PR times start to really drop. He went from a mid-pack JV runner to running with the varsity on most days of the week.”
Harrell also lists several other runners as the X factors for the team’s success in MIC.
“X factor number one would be how well Nick Wilson runs,” Harrell said. “Early season he was one of our top runners but as of late he has experienced a rough spot. If he can get back to where he was, he’ll be in the front pack.”
Wilson’s teammate, senior Sebastian Martin, also figures to be an important factor come race day.
“X factor number two would be how well Sebastian Martin races,” Harrell said. “He has been running great in practices but has not put it all together on race day. He continues to work hard, and I am confident his hard work will pay off soon.”
The team is also led by seniors Steven Mills, Chris Jones, Nick Ellis, Connor Walsh and junior Ethan Stanley.
With MIC being this Saturday, the practice is over and the test is finally here. Harrell feels confident in the team’s potential for success.
“We’ve been gearing up for the MIC meet from the start. We have gradually picked up the miles and the intensity the whole summer and season until this week,” Harrell said. “We are holding back a little this week to recharge the body for an epic race at MIC on Saturday.”