The Newark Catholic High School girls cross country team seemingly has more than enough returning talent to defend its MSL-Ohio Division and Division III district championships.

The Newark Catholic High School girls cross country team seemingly has more than enough returning talent to defend its MSL-Ohio Division and Division III district championships.

Ali Ernest, a senior and two-time ThisWeek Athlete of the Year, headlines a lengthy list of returnees who helped the Green Wave also post a third-place finish (117 points) at the regional won by Bellaire St. John Central (46) to advance to the state meet for the first time since 2001. There they were 15th (340) among 16 teams behind champion Versailles (117). Even one of last year's top graduates, Ashley Scarsella, is helping out this year while attending Ohio State.

"We honestly feel we'll have 10 or maybe 12 girls running varsity meets," said coach Rennie Bare, whose team participated in last Saturday's Circleville Invitational and next competes in the McGowan Invitational on Saturday at Watkins Memorial. "I'm telling the kids all the time, 'I know it's not so much fun for you, but it sure makes it easier for the coach.'"

Ernest won the league title (19 minutes, 57 seconds) a second time as the Green Wave beat runner-up Granville 31-44, reversing the Blue Aces' 48-49 victory in 2006. The Blue Aces also are deep and talented, especially in regard to underclassmen, and should challenge again for the title Oct. 11 at Bryn Du Mansion in Granville, where Ernest was first (20:38) at the opening Newark Catholic Invitational with a 14-second cushion Aug. 23.

She significantly lowered her 2006 winning time in the MSL-Ohio (20:48) and 2007 winning time at the home invitational (22:07), making continuous strides in her bid to become the school's first all-state girl.

"She just keeps getting better," Bare said. "Funny thing is, she expects big things from the team, too. She has a great relationship with her teammates. She knows she has a lot of help."

Ernest was third (20:06), junior Nicole Scarsella was ninth (20:42), classmate Laura Rickrich was 10th (20:50) and senior Heather Blair was 12th (21:08) at Watkins Memorial a year ago, with Ernest making first-team all-district and the others second-team. All seven finished in the top 30, as was the case eight days ago at the home invitational. Ernest was fifth at the regional (20:17) and 42nd at state (19:58).

Other top returnees include juniors Nicole Patellos and Mandy Wolfe. Another wave of newcomers includes sophomore Henrietta White and freshmen Mariah Brennan and Lindsey Turillo.

"It's nice being so deep," Bare said. "I'm hoping we'll have a (definitive top seven) by the league and district races, though."

The boys team also returns a ThisWeek Athlete of the Year in senior Bryson Wade, who picked up the award as the county's only boys state qualifier a year ago. He won four races, including those at the MSL-Ohio (16:42) and district 2 meet (16:36). He was third at the regional (16:47) and 33rd at state (16:41).

At the opening Newark Catholic Invitational, he was third (17:23).

"He was a little disappointed," Bare said. "He expects more every time out, (Ernest), too. That's the mindset you have to have."

Sophomore Jason Snider (sixth, 17:26) joined Wade in making first-team all-district. The Green Wave placed third (103) as Mount Gilead (31) topped the team standings, which came after a runner-up finish in 2006 and a league title that season. Bexley (35) won the MSL-Ohio last year as the Green Wave (83) finished fourth, and Newark Catholic (231) was eighth at the regional won by St. John Central (77).

The last boy from Newark Catholic to make all-state was Dan Webb in 1998. He also set a since-broken record at the state track and field meet in the 800 meters before graduating.

"(Wade) looks to have another solid year," Bare said. "The toughest thing might be him not being pushed enough. He doesn't always have that although Jason and some others are giving their all."

Other returnees include senior Dan Miller and sophomores Matt Bowman, Dean Yocum, Jonathan Wagner and Ben McKnight. The newcomers include seniors Corey Kane, Nick Lafferty and Cody Taylor.

The Grandview boys and Galion Northmor girls won last year's other Division III district team titles. Prevailing in Division I were the Dublin Coffman and Thomas Worthington girls and the Reynoldsburg and Hilliard Davidson boys. The New Albany and Hartley girls and DeSales and Canal Winchester boys triumphed in Division II.

At state, the other team champions were Medina in Division I boys, Brecksville-Broadview Heights in Division I girls, Peninsula Woodridge in Division II boys, Kettering Alter in Division II girls and Louisville Aquinas in Division III boys.