MUNCIE — Last Saturday, the New Castle High School girls and boys cross country teams traveled to the Muncie Sportsplex to compete in the Hoosier Heritage Conference Meet.
As in other sports, the HHC is a very tough conference with several strong teams and competitors, so the Trojan runners knew they had their work cut out for them.
The top NC athletes had their sights on All-Conference honors, which is the top fifteen places in cross country.
At race time, the weather was fairly ideal with the temperatures in the mid to upper 60s, overcast skies, a slight breeze out of the south, and humidity near 75 percent.
The 5K course at the Muncie Sportsplex is a primarily flat course with a few inclines and the bulk of the course was mostly dry. However, the course has seen its share of heavy rains in the past few weeks, so portions of the course were fairly wet and muddy which presented challenges during certain stages of each race.
Mt. Vernon (Fortville) took home the team championship trophy in both the girls and boys competitions. New Castle had three athletes earn All-Conference honors.
In the girls race, there were 53 competitors toeing the line at the start of the varsity race.
The Lady Trojans came away with two athletes earning All-Conference honors, as juniors Lydia Harvey and Ella Garvin finished in seventh and 12th place, respectively. The New Castle girls placed sixth in the team standings.
At the starting gun, the three NC front runners settled into the midst of the lead pack. Harvey led the way, with Garvin in close succession and sophomore Sydney Mathews just a few places back.
By the 1,000-meter mark, Harvey had settled into the top five, Garvin in the top ten, and Mathews in the top fifteen as all three proceeded through the first mile at a solid clip and held their positions amongst the lead pack.
Mathews has been struggling to fight through significant knee pain the past few weeks and by around 2,000 meters into the race it was apparent that on this day the pain was increasing with every step, and shortly after that point she stepped aside and dropped out of the race.
Around midway through the race, Harvey was still holding her position in the top five as Garvin was pushing to stay in the top fifteen.
In the last 1,000 meters of the race, Harvey was able to put on several surges to battle for position and secure seventh place as she crossed the line with a time of 20:35.32 and earned All-Conference honors for the third year in a row.
Between the 3,000 and 4,000 meter marks, Garvin was visibly gaining ground as she surged past several competitors to move into the top twelve as she continued to hold steady in the later stages of the race.
Ultimately, Garvin was able to hold onto 12th place with her second-best time of the season by crossing the line in 21:03.56.
Next up for the Trojans was freshman Catherine Willis, who has been improving all season and was running an exceptional race.
In the early stages of the race, Willis was working her way into the top thirty as she moved up through the field.
Coming off of a new personal best the previous week, Willis eclipsed the first mile of her race twenty-one seconds faster than she had all season, as she proceeded to cross the two-mile mark almost a minute faster than she had previously.
Willis pushed her way past competitors as she moved into the top twenty-five. With around 1,000 meter to go Willis made her final pass as she settled into 24th place and held her position to the finish line as she crossed with a new personal-best time of 22:24.36, which was over a minute faster than she had run the previous week.
Junior Savannah Kernel has been a strong and solid contributor to the Lady Trojan varsity squad all season, and again proved her validity during the HHC meet.
Kernel got out to one of her fastest starts of the season and progressed through her second mile right in the range as in previous meets. Kernel held steady in the latter part of the race to secure 37th place, crossing the line in 23:47.70.
Sophomore Shelby Nichols, in her first year running cross country at the high school level, has been a welcome addition this season as she has established herself consistently in the varsity top seven.
Nichols went through the first mile in one of her fastest starts of the season as she held steady as the race progressed. With Mathews out of the race, that put Nichols in the fifth and final scoring position for the Lady Trojans.
Nichols was able to secure 46th place with her fourth best time of the season by clipping the tape in 26:44.65.
Senior Jamie Kernel completed the varsity squad in New Castle’s sixth spot. Jamie ran her fastest first two miles of the season, as she went through the mile mark nine seconds faster than she had all season and the two-mile mark six seconds faster than her previous best.
Jamie went on to finish with her second-best time of the season. The result was a time of 27:07.13, which was good for 47th place.
The Lady Trojans had four athletes in the junior varsity race.
Sophomores Lauren Watterson and Lily Farmer paced with freshman Annabell Rector during the early stages of the race, as Watterson and Rector eclipsed the first mile in their best split of the season.
Rector then pulled away as the race progressed to go on to her fastest time of the season with a clocking of 27:37.79, which was twenty-one seconds faster than her previous best that she posted the week prior.
Watterson followed in 28:11.52 with her second-best finish of the season. Farmer was up next with 28:43.56, and freshman Sylvie Terrell completed the finishers for NC, crossing the line in 34:29.14.
For the boys, there were 54 competitors in the varsity race and six of those represented New Castle. The Trojans came away with senior Skyler Dickey earning All-Conference honors for the second year in a row, crossing the line 14th place also for the second year in a row. The NC boys placed 8th in the team standings.
The Trojans were without their normal front runner, senior Andrew Fewell, who was sidelined with an illness and not able to compete, leaving Dickey to set the pace for NC.
Dickey got out to a relatively slow start and had to work to make up ground in the middle and later stages of the race.
Around the 1,000-meter mark, Dickey found himself near the front of the second pack in the top thirty. By the 2,000-meter mark, Dickey had moved into the top twenty-five, but there was much more ground to make up.
Around halfway through the race, Dickey put on several significant surges to get past multiple competitors and move into the top twenty. Just past the two-mile mark, Dickey was closing in on the top fifteen and had All Conference honors in his sights.
Between the 3,000 and 4,000-meter marks, Dickey moved into fourteenth place and worked to distance himself from the Delta runner in fifteenth.
Coming down the home stretch, Dickey pulled away to hold onto 14th place to secure All Conference honors with a time of 17:25.39.
Sophomore Harry Callaway has been very consistently running around the nineteen minute mark all season, with a couple of dips into the eighteens.
Callaway held true to his performances in recent weeks by clipping off his mile splits right in the same range, as he surged past other runners in the latter stages of the race.
As the Trojan number two runner for the day, Callaway crossed the finish line with the clock reading 19:00.83 and securing 31st place after a finishing kick to stave off several competitors who finished in rapid succession.
Fellow sophomore Colten Lawson has been improving all season and proving himself as a reliable contributor to the varsity squad.
Lawson executed his best performance of the season by eclipsing his first mile right in the range he had in recent weeks and then held steady the last two miles of the race with nearly even-mile splits.
The result for Lawson was a new personal-best time of 19:58.85, which was almost nine seconds faster than his previous best and good for 42nd place.
Freshman Vincent Salerno and senior Josh McCune typically pace with each other in the early stages of each race, and the HHC meet was no different as they crossed the first mile mark in close proximity to each other.
During the latter part of the race, Salerno pulled away as he went on to run his fourth fastest race of the season, clipping the tape in 22:50.97 and 51st place.
McCune rounded out the top-five scoring for the Trojans with 54th place and a time of 24:41.91.