Center Grove runner J.T. Hodges posted a time slightly slower than his goal entering competition Saturday morning.

The sophomore wasn’t about to argue with the result.

Covering Franklin Community’s challenging 5-kilometer course in 16 minutes, 18 seconds, Hodges captured first-place at sectional with senior teammate Adam Russell seven seconds behind as the meet’s individual runner-up.

“For this course I was shooting for 16 minutes even,” said Hodges, who along with the other runners had to content with a chilly wind most the race. “When you’re going uphill you can still feel the wind.”

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The Trojans ran away with the team title with 29 points.

Southport came in second with 69 points; the host Grizzly Cubs, led by senior Josh Campbell’s fifth-place performance, took third with 79 points. Local squads Greenwood and Whiteland came in sixth and seventh, respectively, among the 12 teams represented.

Center Grove, Franklin and Greenwood all move on to Saturday’s Shelbyville Regional to contend for team honors.

County runners from non-qualifying programs competing at regional are Greenwood’s Ethan Pine (12th, 17:12) and the Whiteland quartet of Mika Long (16th, 17:25), Bailey McMahon (26th, 17:48), Jacob Findley (31st, 17:54) and Riley McMahon (32nd, 17:55).

Campbell’s place and time of 16:36 extended his final season of high school cross country no less than another seven days. His teammate, Isaiah Lindsay, sophomore, finished ninth in 17:07.

“In the race there were parts that were positive, the first through the third K (kilometer),” Campbell said. “I don’t feel confident in my legs the last 2K. That will come, though.

“But overall I’m not too pleased, but I can definitely take some positives from it. Next week it’s a flat track, but (at Franklin) the rolling hills just get to you.”

Southport with 36 points won the girls team title. Also moving on to regional were Center Grove (second with 52 points), Franklin (third, 112) and Whiteland (fourth, 120).

Trojans’ senior Val Clark posted a time of 19:31 for third individually.

Other local athletes in the top 10 were Greenwood Christian Academy senior Allie Dalton (sixth, 20:02), Whiteland’s Kaley Brewer (eighth, 20:23), Center Grove freshman Julia Falcone (ninth, 20:29) and Franklin junior Emma Treibic (10th, 20:38).

“My main goal was to try to stay with the Southport girls in front, but they have both gotten a lot better this year. I really respect them for that,” Clark said. “I would have liked to been one of the top two, but I’m happy with how I finished.

“It was a big pack of us the whole race. That’s a hard mental thing to get through. I’m just glad I was able to push through that and maintain what I’ve been doing.”

Dalton was running her first event since early in the season.

“Allie had some health struggles during the summer. She came out the first meet of the year and realized those weren’t quite corrected,” GCA coach Joe Slater said. “She needed to spend time training and managing the condition before really being able to compete again.

“It feels like she has it under control to some degree. Not 100 percent. Not where Allie wants to be, but good enough to try to finish her senior year. I thought she ran great today.”

Greenwood runners Mallory Watson (22nd, 21:19) and Julia Arruda (25th, 21:29) advance to the Shelbyville Regional by being among the top 10 finishers from a non-qualify team.

They will be joined by sophomore Anna Subris of Greenwood Christian Academy. She placed 41st overall in 22:59.

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.