The Dublin Jerome High School boys cross country team has made steady progress in each of its first four seasons.

The Dublin Jerome High School boys cross country team has made steady progress in each of its first four seasons.

Heading into year No. 5 with a group of veteran runners, coach Dave Stroh expects that trend to continue.

"We've gotten better every year and I think we're still on the upswing because we've got everybody back from last year's team," said Stroh, whose team opened last Saturday at the Bob Schul Invitational and will compete Saturday in the Warrior Invitational at Lebanon. "With our experience and leadership, I don't see any reason why this shouldn't be the best team we've ever had."

Returning to lead the Celtics are seniors Ashish Agrawal, Sean O'Leary and Joey Pelot and juniors Jack Crawford, Spencer King, Stephen King and Nick Schneider.

Seniors Nicholas Baulch and David Lee are the top newcomers.

"We have as veteran of a team as you can get in high school," Stroh said. "Most of our core runners are back, and I've coached 15 of these kids for three years now. Our practices have gone very smoothly. They already know what I expect and we've been able to hit the ground running."

Last season, Jerome was first (42 points) at the OCC-Cardinal Division meet ahead of Pickerington Central (50), Worthington Kilbourne (70), Mount Vernon (78), Westerville South (122) and Olentangy (136).

The Celtics will compete in the OCC-Cardinal this season with Marysville, Olentangy, Olentangy Liberty, Scioto, Westerville Central, Westerville North and Westerville South.

"I think our conference race is going to be very close," Stroh said. "I'm looking for Westerville North to be strong and I think Olentangy Liberty's going to be really good, too. Scioto has some strong runners and Marysville's an up-and-coming program. I think we should be there in the mix with all of those teams."

The Celtics were fifth (175) in the 21-team Division I, district 1 meet behind champion Reynoldsburg (67). Running with two stress fractures in his right foot, Schneider was 15th in a program-record 16:29.99.

Jerome was placed 10th (264) in the 16-team regional behind champion Pickerington North (96). Schneider (36th, 17:00), Pelot (52nd, 17:15), O'Leary (59th, 17:19), Spencer King (89th, 17:38) and graduate Elijah Hokanson (90th, 17:39) scored. The top four teams and top 16 individuals qualified to state.

"We should be in the mix for making it back to regional," Stroh said. "But this year I don't want us to be satisfied with merely making it there. I want us to go to regional knowing that we have a shot at getting a top-four spot. We're a veteran team that's been there before and I'm hoping that experience will give us some sort of advantage."

The girls team opened last Saturday at the Pickerington Classic and will compete Saturday in the Warrior Invitational.

Leading the Celtics are seniors Kelley Appleton and Kristina Jeminez and junior Abby Dunnan.

Filling out the roster are junior Kristen Mitchell and sophomores Mary Kate Foley, Ashley Smith and Audrey White.

"Kristina had a tremendous summer and she's running neck-and-neck with Abby to give us a nice one-two punch," coach Kenny Schuster said.

Jerome finished third in the OCC-Cardinal meet a year ago behind Kilbourne (46) and Olentangy (57) and ahead of Mount Vernon (96), Central (112) and South (132).

"Olentangy and Scioto are both good, but I definitely think we'll be competitive in the OCC and in contention to win it, because we've got a lot of good girls back," Schuster said.

The Celtics were fifth (138) in the Division I, district 1 meet behind champion Coffman (38) to qualify to regional for a second consecutive year. Graduate Kara Wadenstierna was sixth in a program-record 19:33.52. Jerome was finished 15th (369) in the 16-team regional behind champion Mason (111). Graduate Jennie Perkins (45th, 20:22), Wadenstierna (69th, 20:54), Jimenez (80th, 21:13), Foley (106th, 22:02) and Smith (110th, 22:18) scored.

"I feel like we've improved, so our goal is to break into the top eight of our regional for the first time," Schuster said.

At a glance

Coach: Boys -- Dave Stroh, fifth season; Girls -- Ken Schuster, fifth season

Next meet: Saturday at Lebanon Invitational

Key athletes: Boys -- Sean O'Leary, Joey Pelot and Nick Schneider; Girls -- Abby Dunnan and Kristina Jimenez