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Trojan harriers compete in HHC Meet

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New Castle freshman Lydia Harvey (left) receives her All-Conference award from a representative of host Pendleton Heights after Saturday’s Hoosier Heritage Conference Meet. Harvey finished third in the girls race.
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New Castle High School girls cross country team members Lydia Harvey (1063) and Ella Garvin (1062) run together in a pack of girls during Saturday’s Hoosier Heritage Conference Meet in Pendleton. Both Trojan girls had personal-best times in the meet, and Harvey finished third and Garvin 19th overall.
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New Castle High School boys cross country team members Drew Nelson (1074), Quentin Hedges (1070), Ben Head (1069), and Ayden Humbles (1072) run in a pack during Saturday’s Hoosier Heritage Conference Meet in Pendleton. The Trojan boys finished eighth as a team in the meet.

By ANDY CARTER of NCHS

PENDLETON — New Castle High School girls’ and boys’ cross country teams traveled west on Ind. 38 to Pendleton Heights High School to compete in the Hoosier Heritage Conference (HHC) meet.

After training for weeks in high temperatures with high humidity, the weather had changed on Saturday morning and was very conducive for racing. Temperatures were in the high 50s to low 60s, skies were sunny with no wind, and low humidity.

As is the case with most sports, the HHC is a competitive conference and athletes must perform at a high level to earn All-Conference honors. Week after week the Trojan harriers have challenged themselves and tested their resolve to push their limits over the course of the 5K distance.

Cross Country is a sport where each athlete knows going into each race that he or she going to have to push through the pain to see where his or her limits lie.

The Trojan harriers all gave everything they had during HHC competition. All the New Castle athletes showed up to race and compete to the best of their abilities with goals for a personal best, a varsity roster spot, or for All-Conference.

Girls Meet

The New Castle girls, again competing with an incomplete team, made their presence known at the HHC meet on Saturday. Freshmen Lydia Harvey and Ella Garvin have had a very strong first season for the Trojans and on Saturday they stepped-up their game even more.

Both Harvey and Garvin had well-defined race strategies before the starting gun, as they have raced against most of their HHC competitors multiple times earlier this season. Both executed their plans well as the entire race as they stayed near the top of the field of 48.

At the start, Harvey got out with the leaders and established herself in third place by the 800-meter mark. Harvey looked very strong, confident, and on a mission throughout the race to place in the top three.

Top runners from Greenfield-Central and New Palestine broke away from the pack very early in the race and that left Harvey by herself in third with a large pack behind her in hot pursuit.

After breaking away from the pack, Harvey ran the entire 3.1 miles by herself with the leaders in sight and the next pack about 80 to 100 meters behind. Harvey eclipsed the first mile right where she wanted to be with a split of 5:57 and held strong the second mile with a 6:25 split.

During the final mile, Harvey continued looking confident with the pack slowly closing in on her. In the final 800 meters the pack continued to close and Harvey knew if she wanted to hold onto third place she would have to find her final kick to the finish line.

In the last 200 meters, Harvey dug deep to surge to the tape with a New Palestine runner in hot pursuit. Ultimately, at the finish line Harvey had stood her ground in third place holding onto a two-second gap over the fourth-place runner.

It was an incredibly impressive race by Harvey earning All-Conference honors, and her time of 19:45.49 was a personal best by over seven seconds and within six seconds of the New Castle girls 5K school record.

Garvin also ran an exceptional race. During the previous few weeks, Garvin had put in a series of consistent meets and solid workouts that displayed every sign that a breakout race was in her near future.

Saturday was that day. Garvin had her sights on an All-Conference (top 15) placing. From the start, Garvin positioned herself within a pack of competitors within striking distance of the top 15. Garvin’s first mile split of 6:19 was a blistering pace, 15 seconds faster than she had eclipsed any first mile yet this season.

Garvin’s second mile was an equally impressive 7:06 split as she stayed within the top 20, battling back and forth with other competitors every step along the way.

In the brutal last mile of the race, Garvin was as high in the standings as 18th place as she ran one of her fastest final mile splits of the season while continuing to trade places with other opponents.

At the tape, Garvin finished 19th with a personal-best time of 21:28.51, which was 25 seconds faster than she had ever run before.

Trojan junior Audra McClure had a solid race while struggling with extreme pain in her lower back. McClure fought through the pain and finished 60th with a solid time of 31:53.60.

The New Castle girls team starts IHSAA state tournament competition this Saturday at 11:15 a.m. with the sectional meet hosted by Connersville High School.

Boys Meet

The Trojan boys team posted several season best or near season best times in the HHC meet. The team was without previous front runner, sophomore Andrew Fewell, who is rehabilitating a knee injury and plans to return to competition next week for the Sectional meet.

For the second meet in the row, team lead responsibilities again fell on sophomore Skyler Dickey, who had high hopes of an All-Conference placing. Dickey got out with one of his fastest starts of the season and followed with one of his fastest middle-mile splits. This swift start allowed Dickey to steadily move up through the field from the top 30 eventually into the top 20.

Through the final mile, Dickey continued with a strong race, battling neck-and-neck with the competition. At the tape, Dickey finished in 23rd place with a time of 18:09.28 which was right in the range of where he had been running most of the season.

Next up was junior Ayden Humbles, who has been working diligently in recent weeks to rehabilitate an injury and was eager to re-establish himself as a front-runner for the team. Humbles had a very solid race, fighting his way through the field with a solid start and strong middle mile. Humbles finished in 41st place with a time of 19:02, which was just 11 seconds off of his personal best.

The exceptional performance for the NC boys team came from first-year high school harrier, senior Drew Nelson, who has been steadily improving throughout the season.

Moving up through the field, Nelson looked strong and confident throughout the race and started with his fastest first mile of the season, posting 5:58 for the first mile and followed with his season-quickest second mile of 6:19.

However, Nelson was not done as he increased the pace even more the third and last mile. As opponents were fading, he was accelerating and passing the competition one by one along the way. Nelson ran his last mile in 6:12 which put him in 44th place at the finish line with a personal-best time of 19:07.49, which was 48 seconds faster than his previous best that he posted week before.

Junior Quentin Hedges started with a solid first two miles of the race but struggled the last mile. Hedges still finished at a respectable 46th-place with a time of 19:46.30.

Senior Ben Head has been working diligently in recent weeks to rehabilitate a nagging injury and return his fitness level to where he’d like it to be. His diligence appeared to be making a difference as Head looked solid throughout the event and ran his best race of the season by running almost 37 seconds faster than the previous week.

Head steadily moved up through the field the entire race and ran his best mile splits of the season, which resulted in a time of 20:09.27 and good enough for 50th place.

Sophomore Xander Bray worked with senior Luke Carter the entire race, trading places throughout the contest to push each other along. Bray fought through a side-stitch the latter stages of the race which made racing more difficult.

In spite of the challenges, Bray had a great finish and placed 54th with a time of 20:54.53 which was six seconds faster than the previous week and just nine seconds off of his personal best.

Carter also ran a good race by cutting over 21 seconds off of his season best by working with Bray throughout the chase. For Carter, this yielded his first sub 21-minute finish this season. At the tape, Carter was just one second behind Bray in 55th place with a time of 20:55.53.

As a team, the Trojan varsity squad placed eighth in the tough HHC meet.

In the junior varsity race, New Castle junior Dominic Reynolds had his second-best time of the season with 21:54.92 and placed 31st. Also in the JV race, sophomore Joshua McCune, competing in his first cross country season, continued to improve and put forth an exceptional effort by posting a personal-best time of 23:49.08, which was 51 seconds faster than his previous personal record, and finished 42nd.

Rounding out the JV roster was senior Will Hayes. Hayes has continued to improve greatly in recent weeks and had another impressive kick into the finish chute at the end of the race. Hayes’ time of 36:11.86 was 2:42 faster than the previous week and six minutes faster than two weeks prior. He finished 48th.

The Trojan boys team start their IHSAA state tournament competition Saturday at 10:30 a.m. with the sectional meet hosted by Connersville High School.