Donny Thompson is looking forward to his first postseason as coach of the Grove City High School cross country teams.
Given that his runners' times have dropped since the start of the season, he believes the Greyhounds are in position to excel, beginning with the OCC-Ohio Division meet Oct. 13 at Lancaster. The Division I district meets will be held Oct. 20 at Watkins Memorial.
Grove City closes out the regular season in the Darby Dash on Saturday, Oct. 6, at Hilliard Darby.
"I'm pretty excited about the postseason," Thompson said. "With the times this year, my goal was just to get the kids excited, especially the freshmen and sophomores. I want to prepare the kids. We've been training all summer and all through the fall and, as runners, this is why we do all this. The kids are motivated, I'm motivated and we're ready to get to it and see what happens."
Junior Josh Schaffer has been the boys team's top runner. He turned in a personal-best time of 17 minutes, 55 seconds to place 31st in the 17-team Bob Reall Invitational on Sept. 22 at Lancaster, as Grove City finished 13th (318) behind champion Westerville North (30).
Thompson said one of Schaffer's goals is to get his name on the program's record board, which is located near the school's gymnasium. The top 10 times in program history earn a spot on the board.
Senior Drew Artrip, who is in his first season competing in the sport, has been the Greyhounds' No. 2 finisher in four meets this season. He ran a personal-best 18:55.17 in the OHSAA Preseason Invitational on Aug. 18 at National Trail Raceway.
"Drew wanted to come out just to get in shape and to have something to do, and he ended up being a pretty good runner," Thompson said. "I wish I would have had him for four years."
Thompson said the remaining postseason positions have yet to be finalized. He said among those vying for those spots are Logan Friend, Adam Glass, Troy Hendrickson, Austin Huff, Alex Meister, Brendan Mountain, Vinh Peters, Brendan Presley, Matt Torsell and Alex Winkler.
"Josh has been our No. 1 runner the entire year and then two through five shuffles every week," Thompson said. "The back four or five for varsity, there's about seven of them who are right there together. It's going to be a tight battle."
Senior Annie Winkler has been the girls team's top runner all season. She earned the third spot on the program's record board by running 20:40 in the Canal Winchester Invitational on Aug. 29.
Freshman Michaela Mountain and sophomore Kim Peters have been competing for the team's No. 2 position, according to Thompson, with Alexis Ewing, Destiny Camp and Michaela Freeman also looking to be in the team's top six in the postseason.
"We're working, we're continually pushing and the kids are striving to get better," Thompson said. "We have some individuals who are getting a lot better. Our main leaders of each group are continuing to push the whole group and move them forward. I like where we're going with the program. It will take a little bit of time, but we're getting there."
Comets looking for strong finish
Central Crossing will compete in the Darby Dash before preparing for the OCC-Central meet on Oct. 13 at Darby.
"We're getting there," coach Doug Boggs said when asked about the postseason. "This is the start of our training to get faster for the OCC and district times. We plan on peaking at district, so all the workouts now are going to be geared to get them faster and fall away from the aerobic training a little bit."
Junior Isse Roble is the boys team's lone returnee from regional last season and has been the team's No. 1 runner for most of the season. He ran a personal-best 17:46 in the Canal Winchester Invitational.
"Isse definitely has more ambitious goals than what he's been running right now," Boggs said. "He still has a lot of work that he wants to accomplish."
Boggs said junior Kyle Pessel has emerged as the team's No. 2 runner and ran a personal-best 18:27.21 in the Erin Nance Fall Distance Classic on Sept. 29 at London Country Club.
Senior Zane Aleman has been the team's No. 3 runner and ran a personal-best 19:27 in the Canal Winchester Invitational.
According to Boggs, other key runners for the boys team have been senior Tyler Tope and sophomore Cody Calafatis.
Senior Molly Lalonde, who is in her second season competing in the sport, has led the girls team and ran a personal-best 21:02.73 in the Erin Nance Fall Distance Classic. Sophomore Kristina Myers has been the team's No. 2 runner and senior Caitlyn Ritter and sophomore Jessica Stanley have been vying for the third spot.
"Our goal is to get some people in the regional, if possible, and have everyone (set a personal record) at district," Boggs said. "We talk about trying to get our team averages as low as possible. We want to have our best races at district and be as fast as we can."