Boys cross country: Season preview

There isn’t much Parker Mimbela hasn’t experienced at this stage of his cross country career.

The Center Grove senior has competed in the fairest and foulest weather conditions, been to the only three state meet appearances in program history and, in a perfect world, saved his best for last.

Projected to again be one of Indiana’s elite teams, the Trojans, a sixth-place finisher at state a year ago, are fueled by the return of Mimbela and classmates Griffin Hennessy, Jarret Rockwell and Levi Farmer, along with juniors Kyle Montgomery and Gavin Rockwell.

“The main goal is to set school history with a state title,” Mimbela said. “It definitely feels like we could put in a super low score by putting a bunch of people in the top 25.”

Center Grove gets an early gauge on Aug. 13 when it takes part in the Valley Cross Kickoff at the LaVern Gibson course in Terre Haute, annual host of the girls and boys state meets.

As for newcomers expected to make a significant impact, one isn’t so new.

Ty Garrett, who finished 22nd at state as a ninth-grader and moved to Colorado for the past two school years, is back, providing Center Grove a level of star quality few, if any, programs will be able to duplicate. In addition, talented freshman Cameron Cox is the reigning state middle school champion.

In other words, if postseasons were conducted solely on paper, this Trojans outfit would be a slam dunk. It has the next couple of months to achieve the type of team chemistry necessary to make it work by October.

“I think it’s easy to do. Ty works well with people. He’s not a one-man-show type of guy,” Mimbela said. “We all know how to race. We all run very different, but are able to run together. We’ve had a lot of shared moments.”

Center Grove coach Howard Harrell, now in his 22nd season, has complete confidence in Mimbela doing his part.

“This is his year. I think Parker has been leading up to this time and moment,” Harrell said. “You can see the focus in his eyes. Parker is very coachable and does what you tell him to do. If he has a bad meet, he’s just on to the very next one.

“It just bounces off him. It doesn’t stick.”

Harrell’s preferred reference point is the state track and field meet in June.

Mimbela was in eighth place with approximately 600 meters remaining in the 3,200-meter run when he fell, but immediately bounced back up.

“He said, ‘I tripped. It was me,’” Harrell said of Mimbela, who missed out on a medal (top nine) by placing 13th in a time of 9 minutes, 23.48 seconds. “The road to the top is never smooth, but Parker always thinks the next step is always going to be up.”



Center Grove Trojans 

Coach: Howard Harrell

Last season: Johnson County, sectional and regional champion; semistate runner-up, sixth at state meet

Key returnees: Levi Farmer, Griffin Hennessy, Parker Mimbela and Jarret Rockwell, seniors; Kyle Montgomery and Gavin Rockwell, juniors

Top newcomers: Ty Garrett, senior; Nathan Hollcraft; junior; Carson Boggs, Cameron Cox, Michael Leavitt and Nathan Sequeira, freshmen

Outlook: Capturing the program’s first ever state championship was a realistic expectation even before Garrett, a Wake Forest commit, moved back after living in Colorado the last two years. Hennessy is the reigning Daily Journal Runner of the Year after placing 15th at the 2021 state meet; Mimbela and Jarret Rockwell were 20th and 58th, respectively, while Montgomery took 65th overall.

“This year’s team has worked hard all summer to build upon a great team culture. Working hard together in pursuit of a common goal has been a theme all summer long,” Harrell said. “The camaraderie on this team is high on and off the field of play. In short, we’re building for a historic season.”

Edinburgh Lancers 

Coach: Amy Schilling

Last season: Did not score as a team

Key returnees: Ethan Campbell, junior; Brian Callejas, sophomore

Top newcomers: Carson Cheek, senior; Irving Luis-Orozco, sophomore

Outlook: “We are still looking to talk more students into participating to have a full team,” Schilling said. “We are just looking at improving times meet by meet and running as hard as we can individually. I believe Irving could really do well once he learns to pace himself and when to push.”

Franklin Grizzly Cubs 

Coach: Jeff Powers

Last season: Third at county meet, fourth at sectional, sixth at regional

Key returnees: Jaden Crisafulli, Ty Murphy and Blane Terry, seniors; Ari Smith, sophomore

Top newcomers: Luke Holcroft, Alex Lin and Isiah Tunis, freshmen

Outlook: “Last year, I felt we started moving in the right direction as a team-first program. This summer, our priority has been to establish our identity as a team,” Powers said. “We have a fantastic group of guys who push each other and, more importantly, support each other. I’m excited about how this group continues the progress that we started last year, and can’t wait to see how that translates to some fast running.”

Greenwood Woodmen 

Coach: Joe Mushrush

Last season: Fourth at county meet, sixth at Franklin Sectional

Key returnees: John Gries, senior; Sam Grimes and Stuart Luhigo, juniors; Henry Barrett and Sam Cassel-Bertolet, sophomores

Top newcomers: Jackson Frahm and Grady Havens, freshmen

Outlook: “We hope to make big improvements from last season,” said Mushrush, formerly the school’s girls soccer coach. “We have solid team leadership and some very talented runners. We are counting on Sam Grimes and John Gries to lead the way, but hope the team will have success in every meet this season. The cross country season is a grind, so we will stay focused and hopefully be running our best races by the end of the season.”

Greenwood Christian Cougars 

Coach: Sean Branch

Last season: Second at PAAC meet, ninth at Franklin Sectional

Key returnees: Lucas Miller, senior; Carter Pierce, junior; Nathan Cottongim, sophomore

Top newcomer: Gavin Rothrock, freshman

Outlook: “We are looking strong this summer and are ready to take another shot at a conference championship,” Branch said. “We are excited about new leadership on the team. I would say we’re very much a team in terms of our commitment to each other. We’re a big fan of going into big invitationals and putting our best foot forward again these big schools. We kind of like being the David to everyone else’s Goliath.”

Indian Creek Braves 

Coach: Brady Devine

Last season: Fourth in WIC meet, fifth at county, sectional and regional meets; 18th at Shelbyville Semistate

Key returnees: Carson Ringer and EJ Woodke, seniors; Jackson Neibert, junior; Henry Fleetwood and Luke Neibert, sophomores

Top newcomers: Andrew Elsbury and Lukas Hogan, sophomores; Casey Seitzinger, freshman

Outlook: “With only losing one of our top seven runners, we look to end the season in an even better position than last year,” Devine said. “Fleetwood will lead the way for us as he has improved drastically in the last year, with a real shot to be a state qualifier. With at least a 60-second PR from each guy on the varsity roster, it could be a huge year for the Braves.”

Whiteland Warriors 

Coach: Scotty Kern

Last season: Runner-up at county and conference meets; third at sectional, second at regional, 17th at semistate

Key returnees: Jordan Wrightman, senior; Emry Gill and Matthew Nino, juniors; Caleb Fox, Cameron Jones and Jason Rose, sophomores

Top newcomers: Nolan Edens, Tristan Jordan, Steven Mergl and William Watson, freshmen

Outlook: “I used to be the middle school coach, so I’ve seen our runners from the juniors on down,” Kern said. “I’m excited about the freshman group because I saw how they progressed from sixth through eighth grade. Everyone is transitioning very well and getting used to the change from 3,000 meters to 5,000 meters.”