The Heath High School girls cross country team certainly is young.
"This is the first time I can remember nobody's old enough to drive to practice and bring a couple more (runners) with them," coach Doug Griffin said with a laugh.
Sammi Presley, who has her learner's permit, is the lone senior for the Bulldogs, who have lost classmate Andrea Adams for the season with a knee injury. Eventually, Presley is expected to be the front-runner after the graduation of Angela Hastings, who helped the team finish fourth (90 points) at last year's MSL-Ohio Division meet won by Newark Catholic (31) and seventh (156) at the Division II, district 2 meet won by New Albany (48).
An iron imbalance cut short Presley's track and field season last spring.
"She's feeling better now that they've figured it out," said Griffin, whose team competes on Wednesday in the Northridge Invitational followed by the McGowan Invitational on Saturday at Watkins Memorial. "She's just now rounding back into shape, but you know she's going to keep getting better."
Sophomore Emily McCall has stepped to the front of the pack, finishing first for the Bulldogs in each of the first three meets and running a personal-best 21 minutes, 15 seconds last Wednesday at the Canal Winchester Invitational. Sophomores Letticia Cunningham and Annaleigh McDonald also return, and the newcomers include freshmen Kurstin Wigal and Kali Hastings.
"I always tell people the hardest thing coming from middle school is going from (running) two miles to 3.1 miles," Griffin said. "Some kids adapt pretty quickly so we'll see."
The boys team also is young. Coach Tony Phillips has seven runners, which is one more than Griffin, but his group includes sophomores Chris Monroe and Mackenzie O'Flaherty and freshman Micheal Francis. Juniors Dustin Weaver, Jake England and Corey Thrush return, however. The only senior is first-year runner Josh Wedor, who also kicks for the football team, and he might prove to be the pacesetter the Bulldogs have been lacking.
"Josh is a natural athlete," said Phillips, whose team was seventh (208) at last year's MSL-Ohio meet won by Bexley (35) and 11th (300) at the Division III, district 2 meet won by Mount Gilead (31). "He went 20:44 his first time out at (the New Albany Invitational on Aug. 20) and then ran really well at Newark Catholic (19:38)."
England finished as the top runner a year ago. Weaver and Monroe led the offseason workouts.
"Our kids have done a lot on their own," Phillips said. "I'm pleased."