New Albany High School boys cross country coach Chad Olinger would be glad not to have another 10 minutes like he and his team experienced after the Division I regional meet Oct. 27 at Pickerington North.
It took that long for the Eagles to hear their best-laid plans paid off.
Led by sophomore Zack Buck's 17th-place finish (16 minutes, 17.91 seconds) and senior Austin Bach's 19th-place effort (16:28.86), New Albany scored 114 points and had all seven runners separated by just 58 seconds while finishing fourth to earn the regional's final berth in the state meet Saturday, Nov. 3, at National Trail Raceway.
"We knew we'd have to get out and run aggressive and our spread would have to be thin," Olinger said. "I told the boys 115 points (or fewer) would get us out. Our boys just ran really, really gutty."
Sophomore Dennis Maloney was 25th (16:36.94), followed by seniors David Stanislav (32nd, 16:54.33) and Joydeep Ganguly (36th, 16:57.78), sophomore Brian Krugh (52nd, 17:13.15) and senior Nathan Lackey (53rd, 17:15.11).
New Albany was 20 points ahead of fifth-place Lancaster as Westerville North won with 79 points. Hilliard Davidson (88) and Olentangy Liberty (108) also qualified for state, to which the Eagles advanced for the third time in four years. New Albany did not qualify last year, but Bach advanced as an individual and placed 49th (16:22.08).
"I could tell how my group (Buck and Maloney) was going," Bach said. "As far as the guys behind me, I just had to have faith that they'd stay together. They're a good group of guys and they worked really hard."
Olinger and Bach agreed the team falling short of its fourth consecutive district championship Oct. 20 at Watkins Memorial provided some motivation. The Eagles scored 53 points, two behind champion Dublin Scioto.
"(District) was huge for us to match up with the teams we knew we'd see here (at regional)," Olinger said. "We got Liberty last week and Jerome got us. Today, we got Jerome (which was sixth with 168 points) and Liberty got us. We knew it'd come down to that and it's just neat to be in the top four."
Bach said New Albany had a chip on its shoulder because of finishing second.
"I think before that, we were just expecting things to happen and (after district) we knew we had to work hard for good things to happen," he said.
Sophomore Camilla Suarez of the girls team advanced to state by finishing 11th (19:17.04) as the Eagles were fifth (179), one spot shy of qualifying as a team. Davidson won with 50 points, and the other state berths went to Upper Arlington (113), Dublin Coffman (115) and Scioto (129).
The top 16 individuals qualified for state.
Suarez was followed by freshman Charlotte Matt (29th, 20:09.2), juniors Eliza Matt (47th, 20:29.33) and Catherine Ralston (51st, 20:37.59), senior Mirra Galbreath (60th, 20:50.97), sophomore Becca Adams (105th, 21:50.27) and senior Elissa Burack (118th, 23:40.13).
Suarez joined the varsity last season, was 103rd at state (20:07.97) and has been the Eagles' top runner ever since.
"She was a freshman and moving up from running two miles in eighth grade. She took a few races to figure it out," coach Brian Olinger said. "I think once she did, she had a breakthrough race and it snowballed from there. Her confidence only grew and her expectations for herself became higher. She's been in that top spot for so long now that she expects to be."
Girls soccer season ends in district semi
Westerville Central's Alex MacLeod scored with 8 minutes left in the first half Oct. 23, sending the sixth-seeded and host Warhawks to a 1-0 victory over New Albany in a Division I girls soccer district semifinal and ending the Eagles' season.
"It's a cruel game. Sometimes you win that way, sometimes you lose that way," coach Chad Schuler said. "Hats off to Westerville Central. They played a great game. This is a great group of girls we had and it hit them really hard."
New Albany, which was seeded 11th, took a first-round bye in the tournament and defeated Gahanna 2-0 in a second-round game Oct. 18 at home. The Eagles finished 11-5-2 overall and 6-0 in the OCC-Capital Division to win their first league championship since 2010 ahead of Olentangy (4-2), Olentangy Orange (3-1-2), Big Walnut (3-3), Watkins Memorial (2-3-1), Delaware (1-4-1) and Mount Vernon (0-6).
Franklin Heights, also a member of the OCC-Capital, did not play a league schedule.
Senior forward Emily Makowski scored a team-high 16 goals and was named first-team all-league and all-district. Junior midfielder Vanessa Eastwood scored four goals, and junior forward Danielle Dixson and sophomore defender Megan Glass added three apiece.
Senior goalkeeper Megan Jayes allowed 14 goals and recorded 10 shutouts to finish her career with 33 shutouts and a 35-7-6 record. She was named first-team all-district and was the OCC-Capital Player of the Year.
Senior defender Chrissy Harris also earned first-team all-league. Dixson, Glass and junior defender Kelci Winters were on the second team, and sophomore defender Kyra Zuiderwig was honorable mention.
The Eagles lose seven seniors in Erica Blankemeyer (forward/midfielder), Jessica Brand (forward), Harris, Jayes, Kristen Lee (defender), Makowski and Madison Sikyta (defender). Expected returnees include juniors Dixson, Eastwood and Winters as well as sophomores Sam Damante (defender), Glass, Ashton Shearer (goalie) and Zuiderwig.
"Our seniors are great girls. The younger girls have a chance to honor them. I told them the best way to honor them is to go out and keep winning and getting back here next year," Schuler said. "That was the thing. We've lost two years in a row in a district semi. We have to keep building on that."