Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, and Lakewood High School boys cross country coach Dan Sekerak probably received more than a few smiles when he gave his runners the weekend off.

Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, and Lakewood High School boys cross country coach Dan Sekerak probably received more than a few smiles when he gave his runners the weekend off.

But that, too, merely was an unofficial statement.

"We highly encouraged the kids to get into the road race (last Saturday at the Sweet Corn Festival) in Millersport," he said with a laugh.

Sekerak is hoping the Lancers will show steady improvement after finishing eighth (222 points) at last year's MSL-Ohio Division meet won by Bexley (35) and ninth (223) at the Division II, district 1 meet won by DeSales (49). They have more depth after losing no graduates, even if top runner Alex Strayer opted not to return for his junior season.

"We got some new kids out and have a bigger team this year," said Sekerak, whose Lancers will compete in the McGowan Invitational on Saturday at Watkins Memorial. "We have 11 (runners) now so it looks to be a better year than the last few."

Junior Michael Orr, who was second more often than not for the Lancers a year ago and finished 27th (18 minutes, 15 seconds) at the district meet, is the top returnee. Tory Worstell, a former football player, is the lone senior. Junior Jerrod Avel was the first to finish (20:01) in the opening Baron Blast on Aug. 23 at Buckeye Valley.

Freshman Brendan Walburn, who competed in middle school, is a promising newcomer and also plays soccer. The lineup also features junior Willie Martinez.

Coach Sarah Robinson's girls team should be led by seniors Brittney Benner and Taylor Ghiloni, both of whom are fourth-year runners.

Sophomore Morgan Baker, a regional qualifier in the 800 meters last spring in track and field, finished fourth (23:46) at Buckeye Valley. Another newcomer, freshman Cassie Sendykar, also brings experience from the middle school.

Junior Megan Cullison also is back, and the other newcomers include freshmen Christina Bennett and Jasmine Glaub.

The Lancers were sixth (170) at last year's MSL-Ohio meet won by eventual Division III state-qualifier Newark Catholic (31). They did not score at the district 1 meet but Ghiloni (39th, 22:54) posted the best time among the returnees.

Robinson's lineup could receive a boost before or at the district meets Oct. 18 at Watkins Memorial as three soccer players are considering participating.

"We've got great leadership with (Benner) and (Ghiloni). They have a solid work ethic and can help the otherswith the courses because they know most of them so well," Robinson said. "I couldn't ask for more, really. Picking up some others, that'd help a lot, too.

"And (Baker), she surprised us a little (in the opener). She was first-team all-district on our (1,600 relay). She decided to come out and is having fun with it."