As far as Groveport Madison High School cross country coach Jason Brooks is concerned, Ariel Pichardo accomplished his goal just by competing in the Division I boys regional meet Oct. 27 at Pickerington North.
Pichardo, a senior who was making his first regional appearance, finished 94th of 125 runners in 17 minutes, 47.55 seconds behind the champion, Westerville North's Jacob Dumford (15:51.81). The top four teams and top 16 individuals qualified for the state meet Saturday, Nov. 3, at National Trail Raceway and Watkins Memorial's Mikey McKean (16:16.27) secured the final state-qualifying spot.
Westerville North won the team title with 79 points, with Hilliard Davidson (88), Olentangy Liberty (108) and New Albany (114) also advancing to state.
Pichardo, who was in his second season competing in the sport, was Groveport's lone regional qualifier.
"We set regionals as a goal, and he got it," Brooks said. "If he didn't tweak a couple things here or there this year injury-wise, he could've been right there at the end challenging to go to states. I'm really happy for him. As a coach, you just want what's best for your athletes, and he did well for barely running two years of cross country."
Pichardo had qualified for regional by finishing 22nd (17:23.61) in the district 3 meet Oct. 20 at Watkins Memorial behind champion Jake Mandel of Dublin Jerome (16:11.57), as the Cruisers finished 15th (429) of 18 teams. The top six teams and top 24 individuals qualified for regional, with Jerome (51), New Albany (53), Liberty (55), Newark (143), Gahanna (149) and Upper Arlington (183) advancing.
Also competing at district for the Cruisers were senior Eddie Wilson (59th, 18:57), freshman Jamie Green (115th, 24:47), sophomore Mike Sweatt (116th, 24:49) and sophomore Caleb Conners (117th, 26:49).
"I think (Pichardo) really needed to push it (at regional to qualify for state)," Brooks said. "He's been under 17 minutes before and he needed to be there to have a chance. I think he went out early and tried to push it, but there are some good runners in the region and he tried to stay with the best and ran out of gas."
Groveport did not have enough runners for a team score in the OCC-Ohio Division meet Oct. 13 at Lancaster. Pickerington North (47) won the league title, finishing ahead of Lancaster (52), Newark (53), Gahanna (82), Pickerington Central (142), Reynoldsburg (164) and Grove City (196).
The Cruisers lose two seniors in Pichardo and Wilson. Conners, Green, Sweatt and junior Zander Wright are expected to return.
Wright missed significant time this season because of a knee injury.
"Jamie has shown me he can be a pretty good runner," Brooks said.
The girls team did not have any regional qualifiers and had only one runner compete in the 18-team district 3 meet in sophomore Taylor Moore.
Moore finished 73rd (26:50.93) of 80 runners, as Jerome's Kaitlyn Willette (19:04.66) won the district title and Dublin Scioto's Shayla Wigand (20:49.38) secured the 24th and final regional-qualifying berth.
Groveport did not have enough runners for a team score in the OCC-Ohio meet. Gahanna (40) won the league title, finishing ahead of Pickerington North (59), Pickerington Central (77), Lancaster (105), Reynoldsburg (143), Grove City (155) and Newark (163).
In addition to Moore, expected to return are freshman Leah Monroe and sophomore Priscilla Dodson.
"I'm hoping to get a handful of boys and girls who are freshmen and can move right in on the team and make this program better," Brooks said. "I expect next year we'll have between 10 and 20 runners.
"I have a really good group of freshman runners coming in and I'll do a little more recruiting and hopefully get some girls who are playing other sports who can come in and help."
Girls volleyball team showed improvement
Girls volleyball coach Kari Lennon is encouraged by the strides her team made in her second season.
Groveport finished 7-17 overall and 2-12 in the OCC-Ohio to place seventh, behind Pickerington North (14-0), Gahanna (11-3), Grove City (9-5), Newark (9-5), Lancaster (7-7) and Pickerington Central (4-10) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (0-14).
The Cruisers went 2-22 overall and 1-13 in the OCC-Ohio last season.
"They're definitely building a foundation," Lennon said of her players. "Seven wins is more than these seniors have had their entire high school career combined. It still might not look like a great record at 7-17, but they worked to build the program stronger and move it in the right direction."
Seeded 32nd, Groveport opened the Division I district tournament with a 25-20, 25-16, 25-17 win over 31st-seeded Westland on Oct. 15 before losing to top-seeded Dublin Coffman 25-12, 25-14, 25-18 in the second round Oct. 17.
"Getting a couple of wins in the OCC and getting a tournament win, those were huge," Lennon said.
According to Lennon, a key moment in the season occurred during a 25-8, 25-22, 25-21 loss to Grove City on Aug. 30. Even though the Cruisers were swept in the match, she liked the fact that her team was much more competitive in the second and third games after losing the first game by a lopsided score.
"That was the turning point," Lennon said. "The kids were able to battle in the second and third game. We lost, but you would've thought we won those games. They just played well and played as a team and had never done that up until that point. I think at that point they realized the potential they have."
The Cruisers lose six seniors in Amber Angell, Alexis Baugus, Makenzie Farrington, Allison Johnson, Paige Shoemaker and Cassidy Tigner.
Johnson was named honorable mention all-district and first-team all-league.
Expected to return are juniors Breanna Keesee, Samantha Strayer and Madison Wilson and sophomore Shianne Curry. Wilson (second team), Keesee (special mention) and Strayer (honorable mention) earned all-league honors.
Football team falls to Raiders in finale
The football team lost to visiting Reynoldsburg 28-0 on Oct. 26 to conclude the season on a seven-game losing streak.
The Cruisers finished 1-9 overall and 0-7 in the OCC-Ohio.
Running back Kumar Collins led the way for Reynoldsburg, rushing for 126 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries.
The Cruisers were held to 93 total yards by the Raiders, who finished 7-3 and 5-2 and had 250 total yards in the contest. Reynoldsburg's fourth touchdown came on a 10-yard fumble return by Cory Beal.