When the pistol sounded at the start of the Johnson County boys cross-country meet, almost all of Center Grove’s runners darted out to the front together.
Not all of them were able to maintain the same pace throughout, but the Trojans stayed close enough together to elevate one another.
Center Grove claimed the championship in surprisingly easy fashion, outpointing host Franklin 23 to 48 for first place on a foggy Saturday morning.
The victory followed up a dominating performance by the Trojan girls, who had eight of the top 10 finishers to easily outpoint runner-up Whiteland.
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Coach Howard Harrell was pleased with how his Center Grove boys attacked the race.
“I liked how the guys kind of packed up at the beginning and ran together,” he said. “When you’re running with a group, you’re more engaged, and then when they start making a move, you kind of feel it and you go with it.”
The pack mentality seemed to be of particular help to the Trojans’ number two through four runners. Adam Russell, Ethan Stanley and Nolan Miller took third, fourth and fifth place, respectively, all but assuring Center Grove the team crown.
Center Grove’s J.T. Hodges was the overall winner, covering the 5-kilometer course in 16:35. Finishing second was Franklin’s Josh Campbell.
Valerie Clark easily outdistanced the girls field, taking first in 20:05.65. Finishing nearly 17 seconds back was Center Grove teammate Madelyn Keeley.
The Trojan girls totaled just 18 points, with Whiteland (62) and Franklin (72) well behind.
Clark said she wasn’t thrilled with her time, but added that from a team standpoint, the meet should help create some momentum for Center Grove heading into this Saturday’s sectional meet — which also will be run at Franklin.
“We’re just trying to get ready for sectionals next week and moving forward with this season,” Clark said. “So I think today was definitely good for us to just get some confidence going into the tournament.”
Kaley Brewer of Whiteland was third overall in the girls race.
All of the local squads have their eyes set on bigger prizes with the postseason ahead, but both Center Grove teams were happy to be able to extend their county winning streaks.
“It’s something we’ve done for many years in a row now,” Clark said. “We definitely want to be the group that doesn’t keep that going.”