Dublin Coffman High School boys cross country coach Chad Biegler believes his team has the same kind of experience and depth the Shamrocks had from 1996 through 2000 when they qualified to the Division I state meet each year.

Dublin Coffman High School boys cross country coach Chad Biegler believes his team has the same kind of experience and depth the Shamrocks had from 1996 through 2000 when they qualified to the Division I state meet each year.

But Biegler hasn't circled Nov. 1 -- the date of the state meet -- on his calendar quite yet. He knows from experience that a lot can happen between now and then. The Shamrocks haven't qualified to state since 2000.

"This is the most experienced and deepest team -- and maybe the most talented team -- we've had since 2001, but we didn't make it to state that year," said Biegler, whose team opened last Saturday by finishing third at the Pickerington Classic and will compete Saturday at the Westerville Classic at Westerville North. "The team we had in 2001 was just as talented and experienced as some of our other teams that made it to state, but the 2001 season was a complete disaster because illnesses and injuries took away our top two runners.

"This could be one of the better Coffman teams we've had, but we can't assume that everything is going to be great. We've got to continue working hard and stay healthy. If we do those things and peak at the right time, we should be a very good team."

Six letterwinners have returned in seniors Nick Bons, Trevor Grandy, Nate Lonsway, Drew Murray and Grant Stafford and junior John Kieffer. Senior Jack Wellmerling completes the lineup.

"For several years in a row, we had a bunch of seniors who were first-year cross country runners on varsity, so we kept having to start over with new groups," Biegler said. "This year, we've got a good core of seniors who did a lot of running during the summer back. A lot of these guys, including Jack Wellmerling, had strong track seasons and they've continued to improve."

Last year, the Shamrocks were fifth (93) in the OCC-Buckeye Division meet behind Hilliard Davidson (27), Reynoldsburg (46), Westerville North (71) and Upper Arlington (88) and ahead of Grove City (138). Coffman will compete in the OCC-Central this season with Central Crossing, Hilliard Darby, Davidson, Thomas Worthington, UA, Westland and Worthington Kilbourne.

"This looks like it's going to be a great cross country division," Biegler said. "Both Hilliards and Worthingtons are among the toughest teams in our area. Upper Arlington and Central Crossing have good teams, and we should be more competitive, too."

Coffman was fifth (164) in the 18-team Division I, district 2 meet behind champion Davidson (45).

The Shamrocks were 15th (298) in the 16-team regional behind champion Pickerington North (96). Graduate Spencer Shadel (40th, 17:04), Kieffer (68th, 17:23), graduate Ben Hughes (75th, 17:27), Bons (88th, 17:38) and Lonsway (95th, 17:42) scored.

The top four teams and top 16 individuals from each regional qualified to state.

"I'm cautiously optimistic about our chances of advancing far, based on our experience and how hard the kids have worked," Biegler said. "But the reality is even if this is one of the better Coffman teams we've had, there could be four other teams at our regional that are better. We'll just have to wait and see."

The girls team also opened last Saturday at the Pickerington Classic, finishing fifth, and will compete Saturday at the Westerville Classic at Westerville North.

Four letterwinners have returned in seniors Katie Keenan and Carrie Terlecky, junior Kelly Greenzalis and sophomore Megan Collins.

"We've got a lot of good runners moving up to try to get those other three varsity positions, but they're all unproven at this point," coach Jim Ferguson said. "Kelly and Megan should be able to run in the low 19s or better and Katie and Carrie are right behind them. If we're going to be competitive this year, we'll need to find those next three scorers and be more of a pack team."

The Shamrocks were first (32) the OCC-Buckeye meet a year ago ahead UA (45), Davidson (49), Reynoldsburg (91), North (112) and Grove City (136) for their second consecutive league title.

"Our new division is going to be loaded," Ferguson said. "Davidson and Upper Arlington are going to be good, and so is Thomas Worthington. It's definitely going to be a tougher division than we were in last year."

Coffman was first (38) in the Division I district 1 meet ahead of runner-up UA and third (120) at regional behind Mason (111) and Kings Mills Kings (118) to qualify to state for a 12th-consecutive year.

The Shamrocks finished 14th (308) in the 16-team state meet behind champion Brecksville-Broadview Heights (115).

Greenzalis (50th, 19:35.21), graduate Mary Pfeifer (90th, 20:05.21), Collins (100th, 20:15.59), graduates Emily Grace (121st, 20:34.15), Chelsea France (133rd, 20:57.36) and Lauren Cassel (138th, 21:04.85) and Terlecky (140th, 21:06.78) competed. Kilbourne senior Claire Durkin won the race in a Division I state-record 17:10.51.

"I don't bring up our state streak very much, but I know it's important to the kids," Ferguson said. "They don't want to be the group that lets it end and they're working hard to try to keep it going. Last year, it was questionable if we were going to make it now that the Cincinnati teams come to our regional, and it's going to be the same way again this year. We need to make sure we peak (at regional) again, and hopefully we'll be good enough to make it through."

At a glance

Coach: Boys -- Chad Biegler, 29th season; Girls -- Jim Ferguson, 14th season

Next meet: Saturday at Westerville Classic at Westerville North

Key athletes: Boys -- Nick Bons, John Kieffer and Nate Lonsway; Girls -- Megan Collins and Kelly Greenzalis