Dublin Coffman High School boys cross country coach Chad Biegler has high expectations for his team this season despite losing his top runner from a year ago in 2013 graduate John Sotos.
Sotos placed seventh of 148 runners in the Division I state meet last year in 15 minutes, 33.01 seconds to become Coffman's first runner to earn first-team all-state honors since J.J. White won back-to-back state titles in 1991 and 1992.
"This year's team is very young and inexperienced, but I think we're going to be stronger than we were last year even though we lost our top runner," Biegler said. "That's because everyone had a good spring and summer of training and we've added some athletes who have a lot of potential."
The Shamrocks return senior Sam Kieffer, juniors Eric Anthony, Zach Bons, Steve Riley-Popovic and Logan Siefker and sophomore John Graf. Sophomore twin brothers Simon and Tommy Alford also are expected to be key contributors, Biegler said.
"Our guys are a little inexperienced as far as running in really important meets, but we can see that they're capable of good things based on how they've run all year," Biegler said.
Biegler concedes that his team will be hard-pressed to win the OCC-Central Division title this season after placing third (86) last year behind Hilliard Davidson (28) and Olentangy Liberty (39).
"Hilliard Davidson is the No. 1 team in the state right now, in my opinion, so they're going to be tough to beat in the OCC," Biegler said.
"But Olentangy Liberty, Thomas Worthington and Upper Arlington all have nice teams, too, so the OCC meet is going to be very competitive."
In the postseason last year, Coffman placed third (100) in the 12-team district 2 meet at Watkins Memorial behind champion Davidson (39) and placed ninth (254) in the 16-team regional meet at Pickerington North behind state-qualifiers Westerville North (79), Davidson (88), Liberty (108) and New Albany (114).
"Our main goal is to get to the state meet," Biegler said. "It's going to be hard because Dublin Jerome and Hilliard Davidson are both one of the top five teams in the state and Olentangy Liberty, Lancaster and New Albany have very good teams, too. There are eight or nine teams from our region that have a shot at making state, so we'll need to peak at the right time."
Coffman opened the season Aug. 24 by winning (77) the 11-team Panther Division of the Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North ahead of runner-up New Albany (95).
Scoring were Bons (third, 16:37.6), Graf (eighth, 16:51.3), Simon Alford (14th, 17:02.9), Riley-Popovich (18th, 17:15.8) and Anthony (34th, 17:43.1).
Irish looking to move up in league, district
Scioto is determined to improve on last season, when it finished fifth (148) in the OCC-Cardinal meet behind champion Westerville North (34) and placed sixth (74) in the 13-team Division I, district 1 meet at Watkins Memorial behind champion Westerville North (45).
The Irish return five of their top six runners from a year ago, including senior Dylan Languis, who placed ninth (17:25.81) at district to qualify for regional, where he finished 59th (17:16.48) of 125 runners.
The others are seniors Ahmad Abusharkh, Nick Horvat and Kenny Mayes and sophomore Michael Raabe.
"Our goal is to progress further and finish higher in our league and district meets," coach Kevin Foley said. "Westerville North has been the team to beat in the OCC-Cardinal the past few years, but Dublin Jerome's going to be very difficult to beat this year. We just want to improve upon last year's finish in the OCC.
"We also want to qualify for regional and that's an obtainable goal when you look at the team we have this year."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Griffin Flais, Tomo Hayasaka, Jeff Jarry and Jesse Jordan and sophomores Daniel Guzak and Brendan Murphy.
"We're a senior-dominated team and I'm pleased with the direction that we're heading in," Foley said. "A lot of our guys are greatly improved compared to where they were at this time last year."
Scioto opened Aug. 24 by placing 10th (207) in the Panther Division of the Pickerington Classic.
Scoring were Languis (16th, 17:06.5), Abusharkh (22nd, 17:20.6), Mayes (43rd, 17:55.8), Flais (71st, 18:58.3) and Jordan (75th, 19:05.6).
Celtics aiming to win multiple titles
Jerome returns its two Division I state qualifiers from last season in seniors Jake Mandel and Chase Stewart.
Mandel placed 15th (program-record 15:42.93) at state last fall to earn all-state honors after finishing 16th (15:47.13) in 2011. Stewart finished 27th (15:53.51) at state last season.
The Celtics also return seniors Brian King, Mitchell Leitch and Nick Schleter, junior Nick Jarvis and sophomore Brad Davis. Others vying for a spot in the top seven are junior Nick Foley and freshmen Ryan Gartner and Sashank Sayang.
"This is definitely the most experienced, talented and motivated team we've had in the four years I've been coaching here," coach Dave Wadenstierna said.
Last season, the Celtics placed second (51) in the OCC-Cardinal, won (51) the 18-team district 3 meet at Watkins Memorial ahead of runner-up New Albany (53) and finished sixth (168) at regional.
Mandel and Stewart placed third (15:59.66) and 14th (16:11.86), respectively, at regional to advance to state.
"We're shooting for the OCC championship, but Westerville North is always a power to be reckoned with, so we'll have to run well," Wadenstierna said.
"I'd like to see our team sustain its success throughout the season and contend for district, regional and state championships."
Jerome opened Aug. 24 by winning (27) the 11-team Mount Vernon Kiwanis Club Invitational ahead of runner-up Liberty (60).
Scoring were Mandel (first, 15:56.9), Leitch (second, 15:57.0), Stewart (fourth, 16:03), Davis (fifth, 16:38.3) and Jarvis (15th, 17:16.8).