As strong as the New Albany High School boys cross country team was last year, coach Chad Olinger hopes the final goals it didn't achieve translate into even better standing this season.
Austin Bach made his third consecutive state appearance, finishing 49th in the Division I meet in 16 minutes, 22.08 seconds, but Olinger can't help but think how the Eagles might have fared had Zack Buck and 2012 graduate Sebastian Matt been healthy enough to compete the entire year.
"I'm not sure we would have won, but we potentially could have been a top five or 10 team," said Olinger, who is in his fifth season as coach.
This year's parity has him thinking about those goals again.
Having lost only Matt from last year, the Eagles entered this week with four invitational championships and a revolving door at the top spot. Buck, a sophomore, has led the Eagles three times -- winning the New Albany Classic on Aug. 22 (16:42) and finishing sixth in the Hot Summer Bash at Hilliard Davidson on Sept. 1 (16:27) and Galion Cross Country Festival on Sept. 15 (16:03.9) -- and has been in the top three with Bach and classmate Dennis Maloney in all but two races.
Maloney led the Eagles with a seventh-place finish (17:09.5) in the Pickerington Classic on Aug. 25 and a second (16:50.16) in the Tiger Invitational on Sept. 22 at Pickerington Central. Bach's sixth-place finish (16:53.92) led the team to 63 points and the championship of the McGowan Invitational on Sept. 8 at Watkins Memorial.
"We've had the same top five all year, but the order's always different. That's the sign of a good team," Olinger said. "Our top three are interchangeable and our fourth and fifth guys (seniors Joydeep Ganguly and David Stanislav) are interchangeable. To have guys always being able to step up and pick up the slack if one of their teammates isn't running their best race, that's huge.
"To be honest, this is our deepest team ever. Our guys can step up in any role we need them to."
The Eagles are familiar with low scores. They totaled 24 points in the New Albany Classic and 30 to win the Tiger Invitational.
Also contributing on varsity have been seniors C.J. Stringer and Rhyne Vlaservich, junior Chris Ryan and sophomores Jack Flaherty, Ben Iten, Brian Krugh and Alex Quillen.
Suarez leading girls runners
Sophomore Camilla Suarez is leading the girls cross country team, which began the season with second-place finishes in the New Albany Classic (85 points, behind Upper Arlington's 38) and Pickerington Classic (96 points, behind Westerville North's 86).
Suarez, who was 103rd (20:07.97) in last year's state meet, finished fourth overall in the Pickerington Classic (19:59.6) and Tiger Invitational (20:21.82), fifth at Galion (19:21.9) and sixth in the Hot Summer Bash (19:47). Also consistently in front for the Eagles have been senior Mirra Galbreath and juniors Eliza Matt and Catherine Ralston.
The rest of the varsity roster consists of seniors Elissa Burack and Hannah Ralston, junior Lexi Simpson and freshmen Lani Chung and Charlotte Matt.
The team is coached by Brian Olinger, who is in his third season.
Football team looking to extend win streak
The football team will look to win its fourth consecutive game when it visits Delaware on Friday, Sept. 28, in an OCC-Capital Division contest.
The Eagles rolled to a 66-14 win over Franklin Heights on Sept. 21 in a game called with six minutes left after a lightning delay. Quarterback Darron Lee was 5-for-8 passing for 133 yards and four touchdowns. Carson Tunney caught touchdown passes of 25 and 44 yards, Lee threw a 49-yard score to Joe Siegenthaler and added a 6-yard pass to Matt Smith.
New Albany, has outscored its last three opponents -- DeSales, Olentangy Orange and Franklin Heights -- by a combined 175-69.
Boys golfers win league title
The boys golf team wrapped up another league championship Sept. 19, shooting 313 to win the final OCC-Capital tournament at Granville Golf Course and finish the league season 28-0.
Jack Carter shot a 76 to lead the Eagles, followed by rounds of 79 by Nick Karzmer, Jackson Moss and Avery Schneider and an 83 from Grant Oehler. In the league standings, New Albany finished ahead of Mount Vernon (20-8), Olentangy (20-8), Orange (18-10), Big Walnut (13-15), Watkins Memorial (9-19), Delaware (4-24) and Franklin Heights (0-28).
The Eagles earned the fourth seed for the Division I postseason, which begins with sectional play Tuesday, Oct. 2, at The Players Club at Foxfire. The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to the district tournament Oct. 9 at Apple Valley.
Girls golfers missing Dressel
The girls golf team continues to find its way without sophomore Megan Dressel, the team's No. 1 player who sustained a season-ending separated shoulder earlier this month.
In her place, the Eagles have been paced by junior Madison Fixari and freshman Maggie Archer.
Archer started the season on junior varsity and participated in the varsity's final two OCC-Cardinal tournaments. She shot 49 on Sept. 19 in a 188-209 loss to Orange at Winding Hollow.
"I've been trying to force them to develop some toughness and focus on improving their game," coach Darryl Sycher said. "Our scores lately haven't been far off what I've hoped to see, but it's indicative of the challenges we face without a No. 1 golfer."
New Albany tied Dublin Scioto for fifth in the league with a 5-19 record, behind champion Dublin Jerome (24-0), Olentangy Liberty (20-4), Orange (16-8) and Olentangy (12-12) and ahead of Pickerington Central (2-22).
The Eagles will participate in a Division I sectional tournament Tuesday, Oct. 2, at Oakhaven. The top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the district tournament Oct. 9.