Coach Chad Biegler said the Dublin Coffman High School boys cross country team was humbled as it placed fifth (176) in the McGowan Invitational on Sept. 6 at Watkins Memorial, well behind Reynoldsburg (82), Hilliard Darby (91), Hilliard Davidson (95) and Pickerington North (105).

Coach Chad Biegler said the Dublin Coffman High School boys cross country team was humbled as it placed fifth (176) in the McGowan Invitational on Sept. 6 at Watkins Memorial, well behind Reynoldsburg (82), Hilliard Darby (91), Hilliard Davidson (95) and Pickerington North (105).

But he's optimistic about the Shamrocks' chances of qualifying to the Division I state meet for the first time since 2000 after they bounced back with strong performances at the Alliance Invitational on Sept. 13 at Clayton's Miami Valley Career Tech Center and the Bob Reall Invitational last Saturday at Lancaster.

Coffman finished fourth (162) at the Alliance Invitational behind Mason (63), Centerville (76) and Cincinnati St. Xavier (142) and ahead of fifth-place Darby (173). The Shamrocks then were first (71) at the Bob Reall Invitational ahead of runner-up Jerome (71), as their sixth runner proved to be the tiebreaker.

Competing for Coffman were John Kieffer (third, 16 minutes, 47.8 seconds), Nate Lonsway (ninth, 17:05.4), Nick Bons (18th, 17:29), Drew Murray (19th, 17:30.4), Jack Wellmerling (22nd, 17:38.5), Robbie Daulton (42nd, 18:11.2) and Trevor Grandy (44th, 18:15.3). Daulton finished ahead of Jerome's sixth runner, Spencer King (60th, 18:57.3).

"The rate we've been improving has been amazing," Biegler said. "The top eight teams in central Ohio were at Watkins Memorial, and we didn't see anything there that made us think we can be a top-four team at the regional (Oct. 25 at Pickerington North) to qualify to state. But our guys got out much faster in their next race and avoided getting caught up in the congestion, and we beat the same Darby team that had just beat us by more than 80 points at Watkins. It remains to be seen if that was some kind of fluke, but I feel very good about the way we've performed since then."

The Shamrocks also were first (85) at the Westerville Classic on Aug. 30 ahead of runner-up Gahanna (95) for their first invitational title since winning the Division I district championship in 1999.

"One of the secrets to our success is we've got 10 guys challenging for varsity spots," Biegler said. "When you have kids who are good enough to scare the guys ahead of them, it makes everyone run harder. If we keep improving at this rate, we should be in fine shape for the more important meets."

•After a slow start, coach Jim Ferguson has been pleased with the way the girls team has run its last two races.

The Shamrocks were sixth (215) in the Alliance Invitational behind champion Mason (105), then were third (90) in the Bob Reall Invitational behind Upper Arlington (23) and Olentangy (89).

"We were shaky and didn't run with much confidence the first few weeks," Ferguson said. "We've had injuries that have set us back a little, and we've got off to a slower start than I thought we would. But getting sixth at Alliance was good, because those were some of the tougher teams that we've faced this year. And getting third at Lancaster was great, considering that we were missing three of our better runners."

With Carrie Terlecky (mononucleosis) and Stefanie Larsson (sore back) out of the lineup, only six Shamrocks competed in the Bob Reall Invitational.

Megan Collins (sixth, 20:22.8), Kelly Greenzalis (13th, 21:00.6), Mechelle DeNoble (14th, 21:06.8), Katie Keenan (32nd, 22:06.5) and Clarissa Bons (33rd, 22:10.0) scored. Breanne Ziegler was unable to finish because of dehydration.

"This was only the second varsity race for one of our freshmen (DeNoble), and she ran her best time by 30 seconds to help us pick up the slack with so many of our top runners out," Ferguson said. "Megan Collins ran really well, too. Hopefully, we can get healthy and put it all together by the time we get to district (Oct. 18 at Watkins Memorial)."