In the past five years, the Center Grove boys track and field team has won a state championship and placed third on two occasions at the IHSAA state finals.
During that stretch, the Trojans have accumulated the third-most state finals points — behind only Lawrence Central and Hamilton Southeastern — among boys track teams.
The secret to having built one of the state’s top programs really is no secret, insists 16th-year coach Eric Moore.
“I attribute it mostly to the kids with great work ethic that when they come in they’re part of a track team. It’s not just, ‘How can I get a self-accolade,’” said Moore, who prior to this run led Center Grove to 11th-place finishes in both 2004 and 2009.
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“Our guys sacrifice maybe having the best time in the state in certain events to help the team score points,” Moore said. “We’ve really bought into that. When it comes to the state meet we usually have about half the participants by number, but we still spread them over eight or nine events.”
That will be the case at Friday’s state finals, as the 13th-ranked Trojans are represented in eight events. Competing in two events will be seniors Derek Grimmer (200-meter dash, 400 relay) and Grant Stapleton (800, 3,200 relay) and juniors Jackson Hohlt (400, 1,600 relay), Nathan Fill (800, 3,200 relay) and Zak Smith (400 and 1,600 relays).
The training these and other athletes go through doesn’t vary from what their predecessors in the program experienced.
“I think it’s the foundation of the guys before me. And maybe even before them. The Luke Swifts, Jordan Luallens, Tanner Rileys and Kyle and Kevin Jones bought in to the program and chose to work hard,” said Nick Stoner, who helped lead the championship effort of 2011 with wins in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and 1,600 relay.
“That paved the way for how I worked and how the rest of the sprinters worked,” Stoner said. “The guys after me, Schwartzy (Kyle Schwartz) and (Austin) Mudd, saw how we worked and trusted the coaches, and now it’s becoming a traditionally strong program.”
Stoner also helped the 400 relay secure a fourth-place finish that day, meaning he was in four events on the sport’s grandest high school stage.
Mudd, who is now a senior at the University of Wisconsin, also showed his versatility by obliterating decades-old state finals standards in the 800 and 1,600 and then helping close the meet in the 1,600 relay.
“For me, personally, seeing the way Nick and Austin approached track in its entirety allowed me to see what it took to win conference and state championships,” said Conner Stapleton, who two years later would win state in the 300 intermediate hurdles for the Trojans. “They made what seemed like a far-fetched goal an achievable reality.”
Center Grove boys track isn’t about specialization in training or meets. If you’re the person most qualified to bring home points in a specific event, that’s where Moore will insert you.
“I would point to the motto on the T-shirts and locker room walls: Hard work X dedication = success. I’m no math major, but I can figure that one out without a calculator,” Mudd said. “Coach Moore places huge focus on the team aspect of every individual sport.
“Put talent aside and look at the bigger picture. We were always striving to help each other get better every day.”
Prior to 2010, no member of Center Grove’s boys track program had stood atop the state finals award’s podium a champion. They’ve since had eight champions, Mudd making the walk to the highest level four times, three as an individual and once as a relay participant.
The Trojans also have won the past two 300 intermediate hurdles titles: Stapleton (2013) and Justin Veteto (2014).
Of those making the trip to Bloomington on Friday, the 1,600 relay of Trevor Hohlt, Zach Hart, Smith and Jackson Hohlt appears to be Center Grove’s best bet for first-place in a running event.
The foursome is seeded fourth after winning the Connersville Regional in 3:19.65, while junior Cameron Tidd also appears poised for points as No. 2 seed in the discus.
“I think if we can get a top three in the 1,600 (relay) we’ve accomplished a lot,” Moore said. “I don’t know if I see a state champion on this team or not, but if we can score over 30 points I think we’ve done a good job as a team.”
THE FAST LANE
Boys track programs that have accumulated the most points over the past five State Finals (2010-2014):
1. Lawrence Central 208
2. Hamilton SE 161.5
3. Center Grove 152
4. Ben Davis 147.75
5. Carmel 140
6. Bloomington South 101
7. Warren Central 99
8. North Central 90
9. Lafayette Jeff 82
10. Pike 75.75
IF YOU GO
What: IHSAA Boys State Track and Field Finals
When: Friday, 3 p.m.
Where: Indiana University, Robert C. Haugh Complex
Local qualifiers: 3,200 relay – Center Grove (Noah Rhoten, Christopher Jones, Nathan Fill, Grant Stapleton); 110-meter hurdles – Logan Cobb (Indian Creek); 200-meter dash – Derek Grimmer (Center Grove); 1,600-meter run – Blaine Conners (Franklin); 400 relay – Center Grove (Grant Mason, Zak Smith, Titus McCoy, Derek Grimmer); 400-meter dash – Jackson Hohlt (Center Grove); 800-meter run – Grant Stapleton and Nathan Fill (Center Grove); 3,200-meter run – Griffin Miller (Center Grove); 1,600 relay – Center Grove (Trevor Hohlt, Zach Hart, Zak Smith, Jackson Hohlt), Whiteland (Shaw Cloud, Djimmon Ogega, Jacob Walters, Brandon Benson); discus – Cameron Tidd (Center Grove) and Ryder Emberton (Whiteland); shot put – Tyler Hendricks (Franklin); pole vault – Jacob Ballain (Whiteland).