Senior Ariel Pichardo of the Groveport Madison High School boys cross country team finished 22nd in 17 minutes, 23.61 seconds in the 18-team Division I, district 3 meet Oct. 20 at Watkins Memorial to qualify for the regional meet on Saturday, Oct. 27, at Pickerington North.
The top six teams and top 24 individuals at district advanced to regional.
"It was really sloppy and muddy and cold, but he stuck it out and did well," coach Jason Brooks said. "He's never really been nervous before in his track career or even in cross country last year, but he was really nervous at the (OCC-Ohio meet Oct. 13 at Lancaster).
"When it gets wet and muddy, you can't be nervous. You have to focus. I think he did what he does best (at district). He's a really good athlete and he has good feet. I think running in the mud, his agility paid off for him."
According to Brooks, Pichardo made up ground in the second half of the district race.
"He had to make some moves from behind and he was able to do that late," Brooks said. "It paid off for him and I'm really happy for him."
The top 16 individuals at regional advance to the state meet Nov. 3 at National Trail Raceway.
"He's going to have to knock 1:20 off his time from (district) to even dream of being up there," Brooks said. "So he's going to have to dig down deep because the training we've put in to this point is what's going to lead him there.
"It's one of those things where you do the best you can and just hope for the best," Pichardo said.
"You can't look at where you're going to be, but you try your hardest and see where it ends up. You just have to have fun with it."
The Cruisers scored 429 points at district to finish 15th behind regional-qualifiers Dublin Jerome (51), New Albany (53), Olentangy Liberty (55), Newark (143), Gahanna (149) and Upper Arlington (183).
Also competing for the Cruisers were Eddie Wilson (59th, 18:57), Jamie Green (115th, 24:47), Mike Sweatt (116th, 24:49) and Caleb Conners (117th, 26:49).
The girls team was represented in the 18-team district 3 meet by sophomore Taylor Moore, who finished 73rd (26:50.93) of 80 runners. The 24th and final regional qualifier was Dublin Scioto's Shayla Wigand (20:49.38).
Football team seeks to end on positive note
The football team will look to end the season on a positive note when it plays host to Reynoldsburg on Friday, Oct. 26, in an OCC-Ohio Division contest.
The Cruisers fell to 1-8 overall and 0-6 in the OCC-Ohio with a 44-7 loss to host Pickerington Central on Oct. 19. That same night, Reynoldsburg improved to 6-3 and 4-2 with a 47-0 win over Newark.
Groveport, which has lost six games in a row, managed just 71 total yards and lost two fumbles against Central, which improved to 6-2 and 5-1. Austin Newman, who was expected to enter the season as the starting quarterback before being sidelined with a broken foot and a broken finger, completed one of three passes for 22 yards. His lone completion was a touchdown pass to running back Jordan Garrettson.
The Cruisers were held to just 39 yards rushing on 54 carries.
According to coach Tim Brown, the weather was a factor throughout the game.
"We went from the shotgun snap and lost a lot of those snaps," Brown said. "We'll probably have to do a little bit from under center, to be sure, if it rains again (against Reynoldsburg). We're prepared for that.
"When we did get the snap, we had some success. We think we have a pretty good running package put together. We think we can move the ball against Reynoldsburg. Stopping the ball is going to be a challenge because they've got a balanced attack."
Running backs Kumar Collins (3 and 2 yards) and Nigel Easley (2 and 21 yards) each had two touchdown runs for Reynoldsburg against Newark, as the Raiders led 27-0 at halftime and 47-0 after the third quarter.
Collins rushed for 124 yards on 12 carries and Easley had 56 yards on eight carries.
Mykel Traylor-Bennett, who starts at wide receiver, also played a key role in the win for the Raiders, as he scored on a kickoff return (85 yards) and a punt return (59 yards) and finished with 153 total return yards.
"They like to play some smash-mouth football offensively," Brown said of Reynoldsburg, which defeated the Cruisers 41-0 last season. "They'll put two, three backs in the backfield and use an unbalanced line and come at you. They will also spread it out some, and they can throw the football well enough to keep you off balance."
Even though victories have been scarce for Groveport this season, the players continue to be eager to learn.
"We show them film and they want to know what they did right and wrong," Brown said. "We have kids asking questions and learning. We only play six seniors and a lot of the juniors didn't play much as sophomores, so they're young.
"We're building on that and trying to keep a positive attitude. A lot of the younger kids who are playing are making plays. I tell them that we'll be smarter, bigger, stronger and faster next year with everyone coming back. We just have to understand the system better. It's called growing."