Coach Jim Bibler has some work before him with the Delaware Hayes High School boys and girls cross country teams.

Coach Jim Bibler has some work before him with the Delaware Hayes High School boys and girls cross country teams.

The boys team the past five seasons was led by year-around runners like 2006 graduate Jake Edwards and 2007 graduates Ben Andrews and Kurt Kostyu. What the Pacers have this season is a collection of young runners and competitors who never before had trained all year long.

"Right now, it is a mystery to find out how good our top two runners will be," said Bibler, whose teams opened last Saturday in the Mount Vernon Invitational. "David Oliver and Steven Swisher should be our top two, but David had never trained hard in the offseason until this summer and Steven is just a sophomore.

"I talked to David about training last spring and he put the miles in over the summer. He's never been in better shape. Steven trained like a maniac, too, and he had a good freshman season. Most of our guys make their biggest improvement in their sophomore seasons. He's gained strength, so he could really explode. That's the hope for those two, but they're still unknown as compared to what we've had the past four or five years."

Delaware will compete Saturday in the Westerville Classic at Westerville North.

Last season the Pacers qualified for the Division I regional where they finished 16th with 331 points and did not advance any individual to the state meet. The top four teams, led by champion Pickerington North (96), and 16 individuals advanced.

Delaware finished sixth (190) in the district 1 meet won by Reynoldsburg (67) to secure the final regional-qualifying spot. The Pacers were fourth in the OCC-Central Division meet behind North (27), Central Crossing (72) and Thomas Worthington (74) and ahead of Westerville Central (120) and Marysville (140)

In addition to Kostyu, a state qualifier in 2006, and Andrews, Delaware also lost junior Zach Arace as his family moved to Bexley. Arace was the team's second finisher in the regional.

Also at regional, David Oliver was third on the team (91st, 17 minutes, 40 seconds) and Swisher was fourth (111th, 18:05). Sophomore Bobby Oliver (128th, 18:44) and junior Daniel Nethers (130th, 18:47) were sixth and seventh.

Joining David Oliver in the senior class are Raymond Chittock and Steven Santee. The juniors on the roster are Justin Kerby and Nethers. Sophomores include Nate Planisek, Joel Simpson, Zach Reed, Swisher and Bobby Oliver.

Freshmen vying for a spot in the top seven are Zach Flint, Connor McCabe, Tony Morrison, Tommy Peterson and Justin Sistrunk.

The girls team returns three of its top seven in seniors Sam Catania and Eva Kostyu and sophomore Kathleen Jackson.

Kostyu led the team in the district 2 race as she was 28th in 20:31. Catania (66th, 21:51) and Jackson (76th, 22:25) were fifth and sixth. None of the Pacers advanced to the regional, as the team was eighth (222) behind champion Thomas Worthington (62).

"Eva is always solid and trains all year," Bibler said. "We expect her to run well, maybe start near 20 (minutes) and knock off a minute or more over the course of the season. "Sam is a bit of a mystery right now. She got mono in the first week of practice last season and came back late, but wasn't up to her usual time. She then had a stress fracture in her leg late in the track season and was real cautious with it over the summer. So it will probably take her a while to return to her normal form."

Also returning is sophomore Kelly Robinson.

Delaware was fifth (106) in OCC-Central meet behind Thomas (28), North (66), Marysville (70) and Central Crossing (92) and ahead of Westerville Central (185).

The Pacers lost graduates Stacey Steigerwald, Lauren Wright and Allison Reed, who were second, fourth and seventh on the team at district. In addition, Vanessa Eufracio, who was third on the team at district, did not return for her senior season.

Rounding out the roster are senior Olivia Hurley, a first-year runner, and freshmen Alanna Sturgill and Kia Schluetz.

"We don't have much in terms of numbers, but there are three girls who just came out after the first day of school (last Wednesday)," Bibler said. "We'll be all right because we've got Eva and Sam and the two sophomores, Kathleen and Kelly, gained experience last year and trained all winter and spring. They'll be solid."