The Delaware Hayes High School cross country program has struggled with a low number of participants in the recent past.

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The Delaware Hayes High School cross country program has struggled with a low number of participants in the recent past.

In fact, when coach Jim Bibler used to lament about lack of participation, one of his athletes would always try to cheer him up.

"Both the boys and girls teams were down in numbers not long ago," Bibler said. "I remember (2008 graduate) Lauren Wright used to always look at me and say, 'It's not about quantity, but quality.' "

Bibler would like to have the best of both worlds this season, as 45 athletes are in the program. Last year, there were 28 who started the season. The girls team jumped from 10 to 23 and the boys team went from 18 to 22.

"This is the largest team I've had at Hayes, and that's pretty exciting," said Bibler, whose team opened last Saturday and will be off until playing host to the Delaware County Meet on Sept. 8 at Dempsey Middle School.

"When we practice, the coaches kind of run behind the team. The other day, we looked around and saw a sea of runners. It was almost like, 'Where did all these people come from?' The goal now is to keep the group together, especially the underclassmen. It'd be nice to finally get a large group of three- and four-year runners."

The boys team lost three graduates and four others did not return after the Pacers finished last (158) in the OCC-Capital meet, behind champion New Albany (38), Hilliard Bradley (66), Mount Vernon (82), Watkins Memorial (97), Big Walnut (105) and Olentangy Orange (148).

Delaware was 12th (328) in a 13-team district field as Pickerington North (38) won.

Three runners who competed at district return in senior Steve Swisher and juniors Zach Flint and Tommy Peterson. Swisher led the trio, finishing 43rd in 18 minutes, 23.76 seconds. Flint (63rd, 19:01.82) and Peterson (69th, 19:12.40) followed.

"Steve Swisher really stepped up in the offseason and is in great shape," Bibler said. "He had a great summer, really upped his mileage and clearly is our No. 1 guy. He's our only fourth-year runner."

Also competing in the league with Swisher (22nd, 18:03.11), Flint (45th, 18:59.40) and Peterson (48th, 19:05.83) were senior Zach Reed (54th, 19:23.53), junior Justin Sistrunk (63rd, 19:40.60) and senior Zac Davis (66th, 20:18.71).

Joining Swisher, Reed and Davis in the senior class are Kyle Edwards, Mitch Graf and Chase Pennington.

"Reed is in his third season, so he and Swisher have experience," Bibler said. "Edwards is (former Delaware standout) Jake Edwards' brother, but he's running cross country for the first time. Maybe some of Jake's magic will rub off on him."

Also competing for varsity positions are juniors Connor McCabe and Kalebh McBrearty and freshman Jacob Rumbalski.

Rounding out the roster are juniors Tony Morrison and David Stark, sophomores Donte Schlabach and Tyler Smith and freshmen Nathan Bonofiglio, Adam Crosbie, Josh Daugherty, Charley Griffey, John Homan and Bob Putman.

The girls team returns six of its top eight runners from last season when the Pacers finished last (174) in the OCC-Capital meet behind champion Watkins Memorial (48), Mount Vernon (56), Big Walnut (81), Orange (90), New Albany (113) and Bradley (125).

In the district, Delaware was ninth (246) in a 13-team field as Dublin Scioto (21) won.

Seniors Kathleen Jackson and Caitlin Green, junior Alanna Sturgill and sophomores Christiana Binkley, Harlee Mollenkopf and Sierra Mollenkopf are back.

Harlee Mollenkopf was honorable mention all-league after finishing 21st in 21:26.60. Sierra Mollenkopf (30th in 22:04.60), Jackson (34th, 22:12.85), Binkley (49th, 23:09.77) and Sturgill (50th, 23:46.93) followed.

At district, Harlee Mollenkopf (28th, 21:57.16) led and was followed by Sierra Mollenkopf (41st, 22:27.13), Jackson (51st, 22:53.09), Binkley (58th, 23:31.26) and Green (83rd, 29:45.30), as Sturgill was sick and did not compete.

"Jackson had a great summer and is a team leader, and Sierra and Harlee Mollenkopf were our front-runners last year," Bibler said. "I expect Binkley and Haller to be on varsity, but after that it is completely unknown. We're still sorting people out."

The rest of the team is comprised of first-year runners in seniors Shelby Brown, Carly Grubbs and Caroline Welker, junior Tatiana Pacheo-John, sophomores Cassy Castle, Ally Davis, Katie Haller, Kyra Mack, Alaina Manor and Mary Beth Siekman and freshmen Miriam Aburmaieleh, Katie Barnhart, Jessie Cremer, Hannah McBrearty, Sarah Stark and Emma Voss.

•The girls volleyball team faces a big task with a small lineup.

The Pacers lost seven players who helped the program post consecutive winning seasons for the first time this century, as Delaware finished 12-9 last season after going 15-7 in 2008.

Among those seven graduates were a trio of players at 6-feet or taller, including outside-hitter Ashley Sprau and middle-hitter Liz Palmer. Sprau was first-team all-district and first-team all-OCC-Capital. She was the Player of the Year in the league in 2008. Palmer was second-team all-district and second-team all-league last year.

Three letterwinners return for the Pacers, who will switch to a 5-1 offense. But Delaware does not have a player taller than 5-foot-9 on the roster.

"We're small and inexperienced," fifth-year coach Doug Franz said. "We'll have to play smart, but yet remain aggressive. That's a difficult balance to achieve, especially with our lack of experience. We have to hit around blockers, but stay aggressive at the same time. If we hit into blocks, our cover defense will feel a lot of pressure."

Seniors Chelsea Amato (defensive specialist), Abby Kremer (outside hitter) and Carly Shaw (libero) return for the Pacers, who went 7-5 in the league last year to tie New Albany for third behind Big Walnut (12-0) and Hilliard Bradley (10-2). Mount Vernon and Olentangy Orange both finished 3-9 and Watkins Memorial was 0-12.

"Kremer has really stepped forward in terms of leadership and consistency," Franz said. "We'll rely heavily on our defense and scrappiness, so we're leaning on Shaw and Amato to get the ball back up. We must play with intensity and overcome adversity."

The Pacers were still mixing and matching possible lineups, so Franz had not named his starters as of last Tuesday.

However, the roster also includes senior first-year player Payne Winston (defense), juniors Andie Moore (setter) and Keshawna Ximines (outside hitter) and sophomores Rachel Howser (middle hitter), Nicole Nelson (middle hitter) and Sarah Scott (right-side hitter).

"We're going to need the young girls to step up and perform," Franz said. "There's not time for them to get their feet wet, they've got to jump into this in an instant. Our setter and middles are all first-year varsity players. With only three girls with experience, we're going to need those other girls to raise their level of play quickly."

Schedules

CROSS COUNTRY

Aug. 28 - Sandusky Central Catholic Invitational Sept. 8 - Delaware County Meet at Dempsey Middle School Sept. 11 - John McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial Sept. 18 - Cross Country Festival at Galion Sept. 25 - Bob Reall Invitational at Lancaster Oct. 2 - Erin Nance Fall Distance Classic at London Oct. 9 - Ray Russell Invitational at Jonathan Alder Middle School Oct. 16 - OCC-Capital meet at TBA Oct. 23 - Division I district meet at Watkins Memorial

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Aug. 28 - vs. Brookhaven Aug. 31 - at Franklin Heights Sept. 2 - vs. Mount Vernon Sept. 7 - vs. Watkins Memorial Sept. 9 - at Big Walnut Sept. 14 - vs. Hilliard Bradley Sept. 16 - vs. New Albany Sept. 20 - vs. CSG Sept. 21 - at Olentangy Orange Sept. 22 - vs. Franklin Heights Sept. 25 - at Elgin Sept. 28 - at Mount Vernon Sept. 30 - at Watkins Memorial Oct. 5 - vs. Big Walnut Oct. 7 - at Hilliard Bradley Oct. 9 - at Beth Moore Inv. at Olentangy Oct. 12 - at New Albany Oct. 14 - vs. Olentangy Orange Oct. 16 - at Pickerington North tournament

OCC-Capital match

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Delaware Hayes boys golf, boys soccer, football, girls soccer and girls tennis teams:

BOYS GOLF

Aug. 20 - Finished last (375) in 25-team New Albany Invitational at New Albany Links as Dublin Jerome (300) won Last Thursday - Lost to Marysville 164-193 at Oakhaven Last Saturday - Competed in Kent Miller Colonial Fall Classic Monday - At Oakhaven vs. Watterson Wednesday - OCC-Capital at Granville Golf Course Saturday - Pickerington North Invitational at Pine Hill Of note: The Pacers are 4-8 in the OCC-Capital through two rounds, which is tied for fourth with Olentangy Orange. New Albany leads at 12-0. Watkins Memorial and Mount Vernon are tied for second at 9-3. Hilliard Bradley at 3-9 and Big Walnut at 1-11 round out the standings. Franklin Heights has competed, but does not have a complete team.

BOYS SOCCER

Last Tuesday - Lost to Hilliard Darby 5-0 in opener Tuesday - At Franklin Heights Thursday - At Westerville North

FOOTBALL

Last Friday - Played Buckeye Valley in opener Friday - At Olentangy. Delaware won 17-14 last season.

GIRLS SOCCER

Last Tuesday - Defeated Reynoldsburg 3-1 in opener. Kelsie Meiser, Susan Thomson and Amanda Smiley scored and Taylor Franklin made five saves. Last Thursday - Def. Marion Harding 13-0 Tuesday - Home vs. Franklin Heights Thursday - Home vs. Hilliard Darby

GIRLS TENNIS

Aug. 20 - Competed in four-team round-robin Delaware tournament with Big Walnut, Buckeye Valley and Marysville. No team points were awarded. Abby Hoovler went 3-0 at third singles and the Pacers finished 1-2 on every other court, including a third-team doubles entry. Big Walnut went 3-0 on all five of those courts. Last Tuesday - Def. Mount Vernon 5-0 Last Wednesday - Def. Caledonia River Valley 5-0 Last Thursday - Def. Watkins Memorial 5-0 Monday - At Westerville South Tuesday - At Big Walnut Wednesday - At Westland Thursday - At Worthington Christian

Of note: The Pacers are 4-0 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Capital.

OCC-Capital contest