By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
Just a few years ago, Madison Central barely had enough runners to put together a competitive cross country program.
A lot certainly has changed in a relatively short period of time.
“My first year coaching (2009), we had 10 total participants total in cross country — seven boys and three girls,” Central coach Robert LaDeur said. “We’ve come a long way.”
A long way, indeed.
Central’s girls and boys swept the Class 3A Region 7 Meet in London and earned a berth in the KHSAA State Meet.
The region titles were the first-ever for both the Indians and Lady Indians.
“It was just something special to go down in history as having won the school’s first region championship,” Central sophomore Brennan Fields said.
Central has most of the runners back from both squads. The Indians and Lady Indians lost just two seniors each and have added some younger talent, including some middle school runners.
“We have good athletic kids,” LaDeur said. “Some kids are brand new but we can turn them into runners real quick. So are runners who have really improved over the summer. I like where we are at. I’m really high on (these) teams.”
The expectation are even higher this season for Central.
The Lady Indians return their top four finishers from the regional championship team — Julia Manning (sophomore — third), Anna Marshall (junior — fifth), Ivanna Sabino (sophomore — eighth) and Anna Knox (senior — 10th) — along with sophomore Melanie Manning (18th).
“We are so excited about this year,” Knox said. “We have some new girls, but we feel like they are going to do great.”
Led by that group, the Lady Indians finished with a total score of 31 and beat out Pulaski County by three points for the regional title.
The Indians ran away with the championship.
Central had seven of the top 20 finishers and beat out Pulaski County for the title by 28 points.
“We crushed it,” Central sophomore Griffin Sexton said. “It was just phenomenal. It was a really special for me and the team.”
Senior Mason Crump took second place at the regional, Fields was fourth, Sexton took seventh place, senior Parker Stanley was 18th and sophomore Grant Brockman was 20th.
Central finished 14th at last year’s Class 3A State Meet.
Senior Gabriella Sabino (53rd) had the top finish for the girls, while Anna Marshall was 64th.
Crump finished 42nd to lead the boys team.
“Nobody really ran well at the state last year,” Sexton said. “We want to get back and maybe have a Top 10 finish. That would be great.”
With so many runners back from last season and a new excitement surrounding the program, LaDeur has high hopes for this year and beyond.
“Both these teams are Top 10 teams in the state,” the Central coach said.
The team has developed a great chemistry and is very close, on and off the course. Members of both squads get together on a regular basis and are very active in the community, donating their time and energy to various charitable causes.
“They’ve really impressed me,” LaDeur said.
Central is set to open the season today at the Chick-Fil-A Open at Asbury College.