The Columbus Academy girls cross country team is preparing for what it hopes will be another strong postseason run.
The Vikings have returned five runners from last season's Division III state-qualifying team and have added junior Julia Rizk, who was a standout in track and field last spring when Academy finished second at state behind Versailles.
Last season in cross country, the Vikings finished 14th (321) of 16 teams at state, behind champion Liberty Center (65).
"I'm happy with how much talent we have this year as well and hoping ... to end the season as successfully as we've started," second-year coach Kelly Parker said.
Junior Abby Wilson was 26th (19 minutes, 17.27 seconds) of 141 runners at state last year. Also back are senior Susan Peck (47th, 19:41.16), sophomore Sydney Brault (83rd, 21:30.06), junior Sydnie Boykins (115th, 21:32.38) and sophomore Cobi Warstler (132nd, 22:33.95).
Peck, Wilson and senior Elizabeth Falkenberg are captains.
Parker said Rizk has emerged as the No. 1 runner and freshman Audrey Grammel is No. 2. Wilson and Peck have been competing for the No. 3 spot, Brault has been the No. 5 runner, and Warstler and Falkenberg round out the top seven.
Other runners are seniors Caitlyn Halsey and Connie Zhang, juniors Emma Farrenkopf and Taylor True and sophomores Eleanor Rackoff, Paige Farlin, Dorian Garcia and Jessica Hile.
Academy finished fourth (135) in the Tiffin Cross Country Carnival on Sept. 7, behind champion Liberty Center (96), as Rizk was fifth (19:17.4) and Grammel was 10th (19:43.77).
"We know who are competition is now and we know who we can compete with," Parker said. "That is why Tiffin is a good race for us."
The Vikings won (102) the Newark Catholic Invitational on Aug. 24 ahead of Liberty Union (107), as Rizk was second (19:49.2) and Grammel was fifth (20:41.4).
Academy also won (62) the Canal Winchester Invitational on Aug. 28 ahead of Chillicothe Zane Trace (78), as Rizk finished first (19:49).
"Julia is a tremendous leader and ... as far as speed and running is concerned, she's a stud and does very well for us," Parker said.
Boys runners start strong
Seniors Aron Aziz, Alex Ho and Ben Uchimura are the top returnees for the boys cross country team.
Last season at regional, Aziz was 30th (17:48.61) and Uchimura was 46th (18:14.21).
Academy opened by finishing second (102) at Newark Catholic behind Liberty Union (71), as Ho was seventh (17:24.2), Aziz was 13th (18:09.4), Uchimura was 15th (18:15.6) and sophomore Andrew Heermann was 18th (18:27.1).
The Vikings were third (144) at Canal Winchester behind Bexley (64) and Fairfield Christian (139).
At Tiffin, Ho was 12th (16:50.81) and Aziz was 26th (17:13.36).
"We've had a real good start for the boys," coach Mike Ramseyer said. "We're pleased with where we are. We still have lots of work to do, but we're on track for where we want to go."
Other runners competing for spots in the top seven have been sophomores Atticus Lee and Otis Klingbeil, junior Sam Wittmann, freshman Austin Ho and sophomore Sean Reagan.
Other runners are senior John Hughes, juniors James Danison, Ricky deAguiar, Josh Levy and Randy Zhong, sophomores Hirsh Hede and Andrew Zhang and freshmen Grant Berliner, Aaron Brown, Brandon Liu, Eric Min and Anthony Thomassey.
Girls volleyball team off to good start
After finishing 4-17 overall and 0-14 in the MSL-Ohio Division a year ago, girls volleyball coach Amanda Roehr-enbeck was optimistic her team would improve this season.
The Vikings were 8-3 overall before playing Village Academy on Sept. 16 and 4-1 in the realigned MSL-Ohio before facing London on Sept. 17.
"I was confident entering the season," Roehrenbeck said. "Every game has been a battle. Every game has been tight. That's one thing I've been impressed with this year is their ability to fight back through the points if they're losing, because in the past we really struggled with being able to fight back when we were losing."
Senior Jillian Woodard, a middle hitter/outside hitter/def-ensive specialist, was second-team all-league last season. Senior outside hitter/defensive specialist Lauren Vodnick was honorable mention all-district in Division III.
Also back are seniors Addison Anders (middle hitter), Ciara Fekete (right-side hitter/defensive specialist), Catherine Lange (right-side hitter) and Annie Morford (outside hitter/defensive specialist) and juniors Ana Clavijo (libero), Yashi Gunawardena (setter) and Natalie Weikert (right-side hitter/middle hitter).
Other players are senior Abby Littleton (defensive specialist) and freshmen Olivia Irion (defensive specialist), Maddie Smith (defensive specialist) and Kami Tibbles (setter/all-around player),
Anders, Vodnick and Woodard are captains.
"The seniors are elated," Roehrenbeck said. "It's so exciting to see how pumped they are for every game. ... That's been wonderful to see how excited they are about winning."
Football team to open league play
The football team begins MSL-Ohio play by visiting London on Friday, Sept. 20. Both teams are 1-2.
"It will be exciting," coach Jim Collis said of opening league play. "We will meet new faces. It will be good."
London lost to Sidney Lehman Catholic 48-26 on Sept. 13, while the Vikings will be looking to bounce back from a 30-24 overtime loss to visiting North Union on Sept. 12.
Hayden Stofcheck's 20-yard touchdown pass to Jake Blevins on the Wildcats' first play of overtime provided the winning points.
Academy couldn't hold a 24-10 lead after three quarters. The Vikings built their lead on touchdown runs by running back Bryce Bailey (80 yards) and fullbacks Ben Dahl (5) and Connor Nelson (33), and Tyler Kohman's 32-yard field goal.
Bailey rushed for 119 yards on 11 carries.
"We didn't have a great week of practice, but they came out and battled," Collis said. "They showed some character. It's unfortunate it didn't work out for us. There's a lot of good that will come out of this."
Field hockey team wins first six games
The field hockey team was 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League- East Division before playing Granville on Sept. 17.
The Vikings defeated Worthington Kilbourne 7-1 on Sept. 12, as senior attacker Paige Berliner and sophomore attackers Alyssa Edwards and Maddie Vaziri all scored two goals. Sophomore attacker Madeline Walter scored the other goal and senior goalkeeper Sarah Guendert had one save.
"I couldn't be more pleased with what we're doing," coach Anne Horton said. "I like our progression. ... We're not close to peaking. That's OK, and we have some work to do."