It's not hard for fourth-year coach Drew Eschbach to tell his runners on the boys and girls cross country teams at Grove CityHigh School are getting more serious.

It's not hard for fourth-year coach Drew Eschbach to tell his runners on the boys and girls cross country teams at Grove CityHigh School are getting more serious.

He can tell by looking at their shorts, which are getting shorter.

"It blows my mind," Eschbach said. "If they're not wearing basketball shorts below their knees, I know we're moving in the right direction."

Last year, the boys team finished sixth (138 points) in the OCC-Buckeye Division meet behind champion Hilliard Davidson (27) and 16th (538) of 18 teams in the Division I, district 2 race behind champion Davidson (45).

The girls team was sixth (136) in the OCC-Buckeye meet behind champion Dublin Coffman (32) and last (484) of 16 teams in the Division I, district 2 meet behind champion Thomas Worthington (62)

"When I took over four years ago I was the third coach in three years," Eschbach said. "It's basically been a process of building a team and getting a culture established at the school."

He said the biggest change he noticed during the offseason was his runners willingness to accept difficult training. Not wanting to scare potential team members while the program was on the way up, Eschbach said he was unable to do too much in his first few seasons.

"You want to have a good team but at the same time you don't wan to scare the kids," he said. "When I started I was worried about getting warm bodies to run so I wasn't doing the 5,000 meters of intervals.

"This year it feels like I can ask them to do anything out there and they're actually talking about how much they like it."

The roster for the boys team lists 15 runners, but no seniors. Leading the way are junior Corey Reeb and sophomore Andy Bennett, with junior Mitch Williams and sophomore Adam Plank occasionally at the front of training. Ron Lucas, Chuck Leffler and Matt Merritt round out the top seven.

Grove City was ninth (287) behind champion Magnolia Sandy Valley (55) last Saturday in the Tiger Division of the Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North.

"I'm not sure we have enough runners in the low numbers to do really well at a big meet," Eschbach said.

"We want to build and get these guys down into the 17s thisyear and see what we can do next year."

•The girls team also has 15 runners, the most Eschbach has had at the school after in the past struggling to get seven.

"Sometimes we'd only have four girls and wouldn't be able to score in the race," Eschbach said. "We're moving in the right direction."

The top three runners are senior Daralyn Baldogo, junior Rachel Ronau and junior Paige Myers, a newcomer who played soccer last year. Eschbach expects sophomore Brooklyn Alberts to be in the top four, with senior Emily McFann and juniors Sarah Dixon and Allison Holderle competing for the fifth spot.

"We're just focusing on getting the times down," hesaid.

"We're trying to turn them into runners and it takes time to get that commitment."

Grove City was 16th (408) of 14 teams behind champion Sandy Valley (96) last Saturday in the Tiger Division of the Pickerington Classic.

At a glance

•Coach: Drew Eschbach, fourth season

•Next meet: Saturday, at Groveport

•Key runners: Boys -- Andy Bennett and Corey Reeb; Girls -- Daralyn Baldogo, Paige Myers and Rachel Ronau