Coffman boys team in rebuilding mode
Dublin Coffman High School boys cross country coach Chad Biegler said it would be unrealistic to expect his team to defend its Division I state championship having lost four of its top five runners.
But while the Shamrocks' No. 1 runner, senior Adam Davidson, moved with his family to Houston over the summer and Grant Onken, Mark Ruf and Mike Smithhisler graduated, Biegler still is expecting his squad to be formidable.
Coffman opened Aug. 25 by finishing seventh (174) in the 12-team Panther race of the Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North, behind champion Kings Mills Kings (74).
"You can talk all you want about reloading, but you don't just replace four guys like the ones we just lost right away," said Biegler, who is in his 33rd season leading the program. "I will say that I was encouraged to see that we had the largest number of kids that we've ever had who consistently ran over the summer, and a lot of them are coming into the season in good shape. We do have our No. 2 runner (senior John Sotos) back, and John will make us respectable. I think some of our younger guys are going to do well, too, and they will help us lay a foundation for success for years to come."
Coffman's No. 6 and 7 runners also are back in sophomores Zach Bons and Steve Riley-Popovic.
Sotos finished first (16 minutes, 20.2 seconds) in the opening meet at Pickerington North.
"We have 65 boys on the team, including a strong freshman class of 23 kids," Biegler said. "Our freshmen are looking good and they should help our team."
Last year, the Shamrocks scored 31 points to win the OCC-Central Division meet at Westerville North ahead of Hilliard Davidson (38), Central Crossing (70), Hilliard Darby (115), Thomas Worthington (135), Upper Arlington (166) and Worthington Kilbourne (173). It was their third consecutive league title.
Darby and Kilbourne have moved to the OCC-Cardinal and have been replaced by Marysville and Olentangy Liberty.
Coffman also scored 58 points to win the 16-team Division I, district 3 meet at Watkins Memorial ahead of runner-up Liberty (61). It was their second consecutive district title.
The Shamrocks finished second (100) in the regional at Pickerington North behind Liberty (91) and scored 101 points to win the state meet at National Trail Raceway ahead of runner-up Cleveland St. Ignatius (120).
Davidson finished ninth in 15:42.28, earning all-state honors.
Sotos (27th, 16:00.67), Onken (35th, 16:09.11), Ruf (71st, 16:30.58) and Smithhisler (83rd, 16:38.92) rounded out the scoring for Coffman, while Riley-Popovic (120th, 17:02.37) and Bons (140th, 17:26.95) also competed.
"We want to be competitive in our league meet, but we're going to run against two of the three favorites to make it to state in Davidson and Liberty there, so we'll just need to run the best we can," Biegler said. "Westerville North's also a favorite to make it to state this year, so we'll need to run our best at regional and see if it's good enough to put us in that fourth position to make it back to state.
"I think we've got a shot at making it to state if we stay healthy and focused and everyone runs well. But with so many new faces, I'm just as mystified as everyone else when it comes to guessing how good we can be."
Celtics aiming for first state appearance
Jerome opened Aug. 25 by scoring 54 points to win the 22-team Saturday Night Lights Invitational ahead of runner-up and host Centerville (68).
Back to lead the Celtics are senior Stephen Gaber and juniors Jake Mandel, Mitchell Leitch and Chase Stewart.
Also expected to contribute are senior Zach Sherman, juniors Brian King, Matt Merriman and Nick Schleter, sophomore Nick Jarvis and freshman Bradley Davis.
"Our top four are running really well together and we have more depth than we've had in the past," fourth-year coach John Wilhelm said. "We averaged 20 to 25 guys at our summer runs, which was a high for our program. I expect their hard work to pay off."
Last fall, Jerome finished fourth (70) in the OCC-Cardinal meet at Westerville North behind Liberty (42), Westerville Central (63) and Westerville North (68) and ahead of Olentangy (137), Scioto (167), Marysville (215) and Westerville South (237).
Hilliard Bradley, Darby and Kilbourne have replaced Liberty, Marysville and Olentangy in the OCC-Cardinal this season.
The Celtics were second (58) in the 13-team Division I, district 1 meet at Watkins Memorial behind Davidson (42).
Jerome then finished ninth (190) in the 16-team regional as Mandel (ninth, 16:16.46), Leitch (12th, 16:18.86), Stewart (30th, 17:01.82), 2012 graduate Daniel Benson (83rd, 18:07.7), 2012 graduate Ryan Burkholder (84th, 18:08.17), King (88th, 18:16.21) and Gaber (90th, 18:17.08) competed. The top four teams and top 16 individuals advanced to state.
At state, Mandel finished 16th (team-record 15:47.13) to earn all-state honors for the first time and Leitch finished 62nd (16:26.29).
"Our goals are to improve where we finish in the OCC meet and the regional meet," Wilhelm said. "I think we've got a shot at going to state as a team if we run well at regional because we have a good core group back and some good additions."
Irish looking to move up in league
Scioto opened Aug. 25 with an eighth-place finish (138) in the 12-team Panther race of the Pickerington Classic.
The Irish are led by junior Dylan Languis, who finished 58th (17:34.85) in the Division I regional a year ago.
Other leaders for Scioto are seniors Tyler Bruney, Connor Howard, Gregg Howard and William Smith and juniors Ahmad Abusharch, Jeff Jarry, Jesse Jordan and Kenny Mayes.
"We're a little more experienced and I expect to improve," 18th-year coach Kevin Foley said. "How much we'll improve is the question that remains to be answered."
After finishing sixth in the OCC-Cardinal meet a year ago, Scioto placed eighth (207) in the 14-team Division I, district 2 meet at Watkins Memorial behind champion New Albany (64).
Competing were Languis (19th, 17:22.95), junior Reid Cairns (38th, 17:53.99), 2012 graduate Brandon Carbajal (41st, 18:00.54), Mayes (52nd, 18:20.95), Bruney (57th, 18:33.77), Jordan (74th, 19:03) and Smith (76th, 19:21).
"I like Jerome to win the OCC because they have a nice 1-2-3 punch that's about as good as anybody in the area," Foley said. "But I won't count out Westerville North because they have the most depth. The rest of us will slug it out for the other places behind those two, but I think we could finish in the upper half as long as things keep progressing well for our guys."