Eastern’s girls cross country program enjoyed a terrific run of success in 2009-12, winning four straight Mid-Indiana Conference meets, four straight sectionals and back-to-back regionals in 2011 and ‘12. At the ‘12 state meet, Eastern stood out as the small school with big talent as it earned a seventh-place finish.
Now, Eastern has to replace the bulk of that big talent. Four-year standouts Bethany Neeley, Brittany Neeley and Sarah Wagner graduated in the spring. The Neeley sisters are continuing their XC and track careers at Indiana University and Wagner is continuing her track and field career at Lipscomb University.
At last year’s state meet, Bethany took fourth place individually, Brittany was 16th and Wagner was 45th.
“Obviously, graduating the girls we had last year, you can’t replace that. That’s not something you can even think about,” Eastern coach Brandon Mink said. “Having said that, we do have some returners from last year and they developed those habits of good workouts and so on. We’re basically just trying to rebuild in some sense. We do have some good veterans coming back so we’re kind of looking forward to seeing them start the next chapter here at Eastern.”
The Comets’ cupboard is far from bare. Junior Avery Ewing and sophomores Jessie Sprinkles and Carly Jones return from the Comets’ postseason lineup.
Last year, Ewing was fifth at sectional, 10th at regional, 29th at semistate and 133rd at state.
“Avery is definitely stronger [following] summer workouts,” Mink said. “Now that we’ve graduated those top girls from last year, she has really followed in their footsteps. She learned a lot from them and she has kind of taken a lot of the leadership responsibilities.”
Sprinkles was 13th at sectional, 17th at regional, 71st at semistate and a surprising 89th at state.