Although the Watkins Memorial High School boys and girls cross country teams are relatively young and must learn how to tighten the pack to achieve team success, both squads have strong front-runners.
Junior Josie Woosley is back to lead the girls team after competing last season in the Division I state meet at National Trail Raceway, where she finished 97th (19 minutes, 46.23 seconds) of 150 runners.
"Josie had a strong state meet, although she got out a little too quick," fifth-year coach John Jarvis said. "What she learned (last year) will be invaluable in her future trips to state. I love her intangibles."
Competing as an individual at regional a year ago, Woosley finished 12th (19:19.26) as the top 16 advanced to state.
"I am looking for a big season from Josie, with continued improvement throughout the season," Jarvis said. "Both our teams are very young overall, although they are very hard-working teams. Our runners will need to learn how to race together at a high level."
The Warriors just missed a regional berth as a team last season, finishing seventh (183) in the district 3 meet as the top six advanced. Olentangy Orange (176) took the final qualifying spot. The girls team had advanced to regional four consecutive seasons.
Also returning after being in the postseason lineup are sophomore Josie Cotugno, junior Claire Snode and senior Natalie Watson.
Joining the four returnees are freshmen Hailey Clyburn, Samantha Hyme, Lauren Miller and Raechal Schoenberger.
The Warriors opened Aug. 24 by finishing second (67) behind Thomas Worthington (62) in the 13-team Bengal Division of the Panther Classic at Pickerington North. Woosley won in 19:42.5, followed by Hyme (seventh, 20:39), Cotugno (16th, 21:07.4), Schoenberger (20th, 21:19.1), Watson (31st, 21:50.2), Snode (35th, 22:10) and Miller (38th, 22:18).
The Warriors finished fourth (84) behind champion New Albany (33) in the OCC-Capital Division meet last year. Watkins Memorial has moved to the Licking County League.
The boys team returned seniors Jared Clark, Austin Dowis and Owen Tennant and sophomore Tyler Day from its postseason lineup.
However, the Warriors lost Mikey McKean to graduation. He finished 79th (16:26.1) of 148 runners at state after earning the 16th (16:16.7) and final state berth from regional.
The Warriors had a streak of four consecutive regional team appearances snapped when they finished ninth (209) in the district 2 race behind champion Hilliard Davidson (39).
"Owen Tennant is a senior who is healthy again after struggling with injuries last year," Jarvis said. "He is ready to put the past behind him and see how fast he can go."
In the OCC-Capital meet, the boys were fourth (115) behind champion New Albany (32).
Filling out the roster are first-year senior Jordan Rice, junior Drew Triona, sophomore Andrew Jordan and freshman Jacob Gero.
"Andrew Jordan is new to cross country but had a very strong freshman track season and is excited to take his running to a new level," Jarvis said.
The Warriors (61) won the Bengal Division of the Panther Classic ahead of runner-up Warsaw River View (75). Jordan was second (17:16.2), followed by Dowis (12th, 18:27.4), Rice (14th, 18:32.1), Triona (15th, 18:32.7), Tennant (18th, 18:34), Gero (19th, 18:36.7) and Clark (24th, 18:52.7).
Girls volleyball team looking to improve
The girls volleyball team lost one player to graduation after finishing 3-19 overall last season. But first-year coach Amber Harris knows the rebuilding will continue, and it starts with the team mentality.
"We need to continue to play on through every single point and any adversity, and that's something we're working on," she said. "We have many athletes who have been in and with the program for years. The key for us will be our teamwork and spending quality practice times together.
"We want to make positive progress throughout the season. This season is going to be a growing season. We have a lot to learn in a very short amount of time."
Lost to graduation was setter Katie Park.
Starters this season have been seniors Sydney Brock (outside hitter), Bri Morris (outside hitter) and Amanda Toth (libero), juniors Morgan Fitch (opposite hitter) and Shelby Seas (outside hitter) and sophomores Liz Fafiade (middle hitter) and Hannah Holton (middle hitter).
Also looking to contribute are seniors Mallory Bugala (defensive specialist), Carley Schmidt (defensive specialist) and Mackenzie Springer (opposite hitter) and juniors Jamie Hammond (defensive specialist) and Kendra Lancia (defensive specialist).
The Warriors lost to Hamilton Township 25-18, 25-21, 25-15 in their opener Aug. 17, fell to Lakewood 25-16, 25-20, 25-9 in their LCL opener Aug. 24 and lost to Heath 25-15, 25-19, 25-21 in a league match Aug. 27.
Last season ended with a 23-25, 25-17, 25-14, 25-7 loss to Canal Winchester in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
Watkins Memorial went 2-12 in its final season in the OCC-Capital to finish seventh behind champion Big Walnut (13-1).
Football team to face Athens
The football team will play its first road game of the season Friday, Sept. 6, at Athens.
The Bulldogs won last year's matchup 62-54 en route to an 11-2 season that ended with a 60-21 loss to Dayton Thurgood Marshall in the Division III, Region 12 final.
Athens earned the program's first playoff win by beating Circleville 63-28 and followed by beating Springfield Shawnee 36-35.
The Bulldogs' other loss was in the opener against Gallipolis Gallia Academy (52-34) before playing Watkins Memorial in week two.
Athens should be strong on offense again this season, as most of its playmakers return for their junior seasons. Included in that class are quarterback Joe Burrow, tailback Trae Williams and receivers Adam Luehrman and his brother Ryan Luehrman.
Last season, Burrow (6-foot-4, 190 pounds) threw for 3,239 yards and 47 touchdowns with four interceptions and ran for 836 yards and 13 scores. Ryan Luehrman (6-4, 185) had 996 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns, and Adam Luehrman (6-4, 185) added 348 yards and 13 scores. Williams (5-10, 180) ran for 1,436 yards and 21 touchdowns. Other key players are juniors Colter Thompson (C/DL), Bryce Graves (LB) and Heath Wiseman (RB/PK).