New Grove City High School cross country coach Joe Dollins loved the savvy he saw from sophomore Adam Glass during the season-opening Canal Winchester Invitational on Aug. 28.

New Grove City High School cross country coach Joe Dollins loved the savvy he saw from sophomore Adam Glass during the season-opening Canal Winchester Invitational on Aug. 28.

Solidly in 16th-place near the finish, Glass made a quick pass around Fairfield Christian's Jordan Kellett and Canal Winchester's Bryce Carroll and finished 14th in 18 minutes, 2 seconds.

Glass finished 1:26 shy of winner Luke Evans, from Grandview, but that didn't faze Dollins, who is ecstatic about Glass' leadership on and off the course.

"We are getting stronger and faster every day. I'm impressed with our first official race of the season," said Dollins, whose team scored 201 points and was seventh behind champion Bexley (64) as 20 teams scored. "Our top five, and even our top 10 runners, are very strong. They go around 18, 19 and 20 minutes."

Dollins, a 2003 Grove City graduate, replaced Donny Thompson, who resigned after one season.

Senior Josh Schaffer was the Greyhounds' second runner at Canal Winchester, finishing 31st in 18:46. He was followed by sophomores Austin Huff (54th, 19:31) and Troy Henricksen (71st, 19:55), junior Mickey Meister (73rd, 20:00), senior Brandon Presley (75th, 20:04) and sophomore Noah Porter (89th, 20:33).

Others who have a chance to crack the top 10 include senior Davis Rohr and freshmen Sam Bennett and Alex Schimmoller.

Dollins has six girls in the program in seniors Ashley Artrip, Alexis Ewing, Alex Koser and Nayla Morbitzer, sophomore Michaela Mountain and freshman Sydney Smith. Mountain and Smith are expected to be the team's top runners. They were 33rd (21:59) and 34th (22:04), respectively, at Canal Winchester, followed by Morbitzer (80th, 24:31) and Ewing (110th, 25:57).

"Numbers are a little down. I hope to improve on that, definitely next season, (and) try to recruit more athletes in general," Dollins said. "Sydney Smith is a freshman and she's strong. Michaela is right there, too. Nayla always finishes a strong third. I'm very excited to have Sydney Smith for the next four years."

The girls did not record a team score at Canal Winchester. Columbus Academy won (62) as 18 teams scored.

"I've talked to (Thompson) and our track coach, Jane Taylor, about the kids to learn what kind of runners they are," Dollins said. "We've been getting work in on hills one day a week and getting in long-distance runs at Darby Creek Metro Park. We're seeing every kind of terrain, and I hope that pays off."

Few veterans, young runners pacing Comets

Central Crossing returns little experience beyond senior boys runner Isse Roble and junior girls runners Noelle Brown, Kristina Myers and Jessica Stanley.

Roble and junior Cody Calafatis are the only two boys who have competed before this season. Stanley is running for a third year, and Brown and Myers each has run for two.

"The future looks good, but a lot of this group is learning how to race," fourth-year coach Doug Boggs said. "A lot of them ran track, and they'll figure it out quickly. They're coming around."

Roble was sixth (17:20) at Canal Winchester as the Comets were eighth (227).

Senior Hunter Taylor led the Comets in the Westerville Classic on Aug. 31 at Westerville North, finishing 32nd (19:29.53), just ahead of Roble (36th, 19:46.9), and the Comets were ninth (188) behind champion Worthington Christian (20) in the 10-team field.

Other boys runners include seniors Matt Chamblin, Mike Chamblin, Danny Holmes and Efren Jimenez, sophomore Jake Lalonde and freshmen Ryan Bachman, Drew Carmichael, Elijah Ferguson, Kyle Fleer, Nick Fulton, Ethan Gates and Roger Yount.

"It's a weird mix," Boggs said. "We've already seen some times come down by a minute or so, but we're young and we'll see a lot of growing this year. Isse is a clear No. 1 but behind him, it's just a bunch of guys fighting for position. Three or four are within 20 seconds of each other."

The rest of the girls team consists of sophomores Taylor Bernhard and Sydney Peters and freshman Cortny Lutey.

Peters has established herself as a consistent top-three runner. Myers was 31st (season-best 21:57) at Canal Winchester, where the Comets had only four runners and didn't record a team score.

Central Crossing was ninth (173) of nine teams at Westerville North behind champion Worthington Christian (22). The Comets competed there because the original season-opening race, the New Albany Classic on Aug. 21, was canceled.

"I don't usually go to two meets in a week, but we used it as a learning experience," Boggs said.