When Hilliard Darby High School senior Lane Hagar crossed the finish line first in the Chillicothe Zane Trace Invitational on Sept. 8, it was a testament to his hard work and perseverance, according to boys cross country coach Mark Tremayne.

When Hilliard Darby High School senior Lane Hagar crossed the finish line first in the Chillicothe Zane Trace Invitational on Sept. 8, it was a testament to his hard work and perseverance, according to boys cross country coach Mark Tremayne.

"Lane is one of those stories that you love to hear and talk about," Tremayne said. "He was running in the (23-minute range) as a freshman and he just didn't have the natural talent that some other runners possess. What he does have is a great attitude and work ethic. He asks questions and is truly invested in his sport.

"It really meant a lot to him, to me and to his teammates that he was able to finally win a race after all the work he put forth. He went from someone with little knowledge of running and without pure talent -- he now is someone who has high expectations for himself and his teammates. He never even won a race in track duals, so for him to get this was exciting and special."

Hagar won the race in 17:01.31.

"I think his best last season was somewhere around 18-flat," Tremayne said. "His teammates see what he has accomplished and they're happy for him. Everyone enjoys being around him. He's a good leader."

At Zane Trace, Chase Hampton was second in 17:17.09 as the Panthers scored 41 points to finish first in the 14-team field ahead of runner-up Teays Valley (83).

"We're off to a good start and we're running well," Tremayne said. "We've managed to stay under the radar in central Ohio some because of the meets we've competed in, so I think we'll surprise some teams when we start competing closer to home."

On Sept. 15, the Panthers finished second (84) in the 12-team gold race of the Cedarville Friendship Invitational as Mason (50) won. Hampton was fourth (16:33.12), followed by Hagar (sixth, 16:47.36), Ryan Baldridge (14th, 17:18.16), Christian Cunningham (32nd, 17:49.64) and Adam Ruiz (36th, 17:53.93).

"Hampton is a sophomore and we have freshman Daniel Reynolds running strong, too," Tremayne said. "With Lane, Chase and Daniel, we've got a pretty solid three. All of our times are dropping, but right now we're just concerned with placement and just competing.

"I think these kids have the commitment and attitude it takes to be successful and that's exactly what you want as a coach. At Zane Trace, it was muggy and muddy because it had just rained quite a bit, but we still had lots of (personal records). That course also has what they call 'Agony Hill' and you go up it three times and then come down on the kamikaze downhill. It's a pretty hilly and fun course and we competed hard."

The Panthers will get to face some local competition Saturday, Sept. 22, in the Tiger Invitational at Pickerington Central and Sept. 29 in the Erin L. Nance Fall Distance Classic at London Country Club.

"I'm really looking forward to the remainder of the season because we are seeing a lot of improvement," Tremayne said. "Everyone is positive and we have a lot of energy."

Darby coach: Girls showing progress

The Darby girls team has proven to be quite steady, as it finished third in three consecutive meets.

The Panthers scored 93 points to finish behind champion Mason (16) and Cincinnati McAuley (87) in the 11-team gold race of the Cedarville Friendship Invitational on Sept. 15.

Julissa Poullet (13th, 20:05.39), Cassady Shultz (18th, 20:34.46), Sarah Vermillion (20th, 20:35.51), Emily Melnik (27th, 20:51.75) and Aika Zelley (50th, 21:45.31) scored.

"We're showing more progress at this stage than I expected," coach Don Seymour said.

"I think this team has more talent, or natural ability, than some of the teams here recently. But I'm still a little surprised by the progression purely because of our youth.

"Our times are coming down and the past few weeks our pack has really begun to run well."

Poullet's return from a stress fracture has been better than anticipated, Seymour said.

Poullet and Melnik are the only holdovers from last season with much varsity experience.

"Julissa started to come back in July after missing all of track season, so we weren't sure what to expect," Seymour said. "She is almost back to where she was last year. She's working hard because she wants to return to state. Plus, she wants the team to go with her this season. She's pretty team-oriented."

Poullet finished 105th (20:09.03) at state last year.

Seymour also has been pleasantly surprised by first-year seniors Maria Fleming and Shultz.

"Those two started running with us in June," he said. "They have talent, but didn't have any experience. They have been terrific. Melnik is running some of the best times of her career and Vermillion also has been super. The leadership from our three seniors -- Amber Hunt, Poullet and Nikki Misiolek -- has been excellent and appreciated."