For the Daily Journal

After Ethan Pine graduates from Greenwood next spring, his dream is to attend the U.S. Naval Academy.

It might be a good fit. He’s already displayed plenty of the work ethic and discipline the service academies demand.

Pine, a junior, participates in the school’s robotics program when he’s not running, which isn’t often. He trains almost year-round, allowing himself a three-week break in November, and that work has paid off during cross country and track seasons.

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He was the top runner for the Woodmen’s semistate-qualifying cross country team last fall and hopes to build upon last track season, when he established himself as one of the county’s best distance runners despite only being a sophomore.

His breakthrough race came in the 1,600-meter run at the Columbus North Sectional, which he won in 4:29.23 after hoping he could simply finish in the top four. He followed that up with a runner-up finish at the Franklin Regional, qualifying for the state meet. His personal best time of 4:26.71 at state was good enough to place 20th.

Pine, who also runs on Greenwood’s 4×800 and 4×400 relays, now has his eyes on the 1,600 school record of 4:15. Beyond that, though, he also hopes to join Navy’s track and cross country teams.

“The Naval Academy is a really good opportunity because there are all kinds of different job opportunities outside of it,” Pine said. “The robotics program at Greenwood has gotten me into engineering, and that’s what the Naval Academy is all about.”

Blaine Williams, his coach in cross country and track, certainly won’t doubt Pine’s ambition after seeing how far he’s come since he first saw Pine run a couple of years ago.

“He’s a talented kid, but of that group of boys in his class, he’s not the one I would have picked to be the top runner,” Williams said. “He was kind of a short, skinny guy, but he’s gotten taller and stronger, and I absolutely love having him on the team. I’ve had him in (English) class, too, and he’s good there as well.

“If we could find a way to bottle up his effort and attitude, we’d be billionaires because we could sell it.”

Pine says he started running in sixth grade, after a couple of friends who ran cross country convinced him to join them on the track team. His middle school coach, John Irons, talked him into joining the cross country team as well, and he gradually improved from there.

A teammate, Conner Terhune, became his running partner and biggest competition on the team. Those two formed the nucleus of a class that has advanced to the cross country semistate all three years of its time together in high school.

“We’ve all been running together since middle school, and we know how to push each other all the time,” Pine said. “Coach Williams does a lot of research and gives us a lot of tips and hints.”

Since that sectional championship in the 1,600, Pine has narrowed his track focus to that school record, which he has two seasons to break, and improving upon his state meet finish from last year.

“Last year at state, my attitude was to just go run it, have fun and see what it’s like,” Pine said. “This year, with the advances I’m making, I feel like I can compete (at state). I’m aiming for that 4:15, and I definitely think I can do it this year.”

Scouting Johnson County's boys track & field teams

Center Grove Trojans

Coach: Eric Moore

Last year: Johnson County, Columbus North Sectional and Franklin Regional champion; fourth at state meet

Who’s back: Logan Bontrager, Tyler Boyer, Austin Daming, Christian Goines, Josh Hall, Trevor Hohlt, Zane Libke, Grant Mason and Russ Yeast, seniors; Sam Hohlt, sophomore

Who’s gone: Jackson Hohlt, Zak Smith and Cameron Tidd

Outlook: A strong senior class and lots of returning talent spread out across several events should give the third-ranked Trojans an excellent chance of matching or exceeding last season’s accomplishments.

Moore says: “We have a big enough team to really spread out and score in every event. We will have to wait and see if we have athletes who can score and continue the Center Grove track tradition of state champions.”

Edinburgh Lancers

Coach: Derrick Ball

Last year: 10th in Mid-Hoosier Conference; ninth at Columbus North Sectional

Who’s back: Sean Bacha, senior; Jordan Myers, sophomore

Who’s gone: Shane Smith, Marcus Ruch and Cameron Moore

Key newcomer: Isiah Estes, freshman

Outlook: Lack of numbers might keep the Lancers from being competitive in bigger meets, but Ball hopes for some standout individual performances and to be competitive in dual meets.

Ball says: “Being a smaller school, we are looking for improvement each year and looking to compete in meets. We may not be able to win a meet outright, but we want to place in as many meets as we can.”

Franklin Grizzly Cubs

Coach: Mike Hall

Last year: Second in Mid-State Conference; third in Johnson County meet and Columbus North Sectional; sixth at Franklin Regional.

Who’s back: Chandler McGaha, Sam Barnett, Peyton Utterback, Travis Murr, James Jones and Cole Bellmore, seniors; Josh Campbell, Riley McCann and Manny Cheam, juniors

Who’s gone: Peter Hostetter

Key newcomers: Javon Harris, junior; Andrew Bixler and Isaiah Lindsay, sophomores; Will Tucker and Drew Hargis, freshmen

Outlook: Hall, the dean of Johnson County track & field coaches in his 33rd year at Franklin, boasts three returning state qualifiers in McGaha, Campbell and Barnett — though Barnett is still recovering from a leg injury he suffered during football season. The Grizzly Cubs return enough talent that they could challenge for a Mid-State championship.

Hall says: “If everyone remains healthy, which is an issue at this point, this team could be a force in central Indiana track. The major injury story right now is Barnett’s recovery and how soon he can perform at 100 percent.”

Greenwood Woodmen

Coach: Blaine Williams

Last year: Fourth in Johnson County meet; fifth in Mid-State Conference and Columbus North Sectional; 14th at Franklin Regional

Who’s back: Lucas Oskins and Ryer Burchett, seniors; Ethan Pine and R.J. Meyers, juniors; Nick Patton, sophomore

Who’s gone: Hunter Smith and Zeke Neihart

Key newcomers: Connor Stout, senior; Ian Rimer, junior

Outlook: Pine, Rimer, Oskins and Conner Terhune were part of the Woodmen’s semistate-qualifying cross country team in the fall, and junior Nick Young (throws) returns after missing a large chunk of last season with a broken hand.

Williams says: “This year, I have the biggest boys team at Greenwood in a few years, with almost 50 kids out. I expect big things out of our cross country guys, and Nick Patton (hurdles) is going to continue to build on his excellent freshman season.”

Greenwood Christian Cougars

Coach: Joe Slater

Last year: Did not score in sectional

Who’s back: Grant Slater, senior

Who’s gone: Hunter Slater

Outlook: The Cougars likely won’t compete for team wins, with only six boys currently on the roster for Slater, who has coached GCA for nine years.

Slater says: “The guys are just kind of here to work out, get in good shape and have fun.”

Indian Creek Braves

Coach: Steve Fleenor

Last year: Third in Mid-Hoosier Conference; fifth in Johnson County meet; sixth at Columbus North Sectional; 25th at Franklin Regional

Who’s back: Tim Abel, Sean Bowman, Jaylin Brown and Noah Maness, seniors; Peyton Sisson, junior; Nate Decker, sophomore

Who’s gone: Logan Cobb, Tucker Dawson, Dalton Sprull

Key newcomer: Wyatt Phillips, junior

Outlook: The Braves return a solid nucleus of seniors, but are going to have to fill some holes from athletes they lost from last season’s squad, including a Cobb, a state qualifier in the 110-meter hurdles.

Fleenor says: “We lost some key people through graduation, and others decided not to come out. We also have a few injuries we’re nursing right now.”

Whiteland Warriors

Coach: Brandon Bangel

Last year: Mid-State Conference and Whiteland Sectional champion; Second in Johnson County meet; fourth at Franklin Regional; tied for eighth at state meet

Who’s back: Ryder Emberton, Jacob Ballain and Zach Gaertner, seniors; Joseph Leistner and Bailey McMahon, juniors

Who’s gone: Brandon Patterson, Shaw Cloud, Jacob Walters, Dalton Lowry, Djimmon Ogega, Charlie Ogega

Key newcomers: Brylar Metz and Jake Dougherty, freshmen

Outlook: The Warriors might have a tough time duplicating last year’s team accomplishments with several key personnel losses, but they return plenty of impressive individual talent — most notably Emberton, the defending state champion in the shot put, and Ballain, a former state qualifier in the pole vault.

Bangel says: “This year’s team is somewhat inexperienced, so it might take some time, but we expect to compete to win the conference and move a few athletes on to the state finals in June.”

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Adam Wire is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.