Judging from the results, New Albany High School girls cross country coach Herb Gregory hasn't had much trouble imparting his philosophies in his first season with the Eagles.
All he needs to do is remind his runners of their performance Sept. 14 in the Galion Invitational, in which the Eagles finished third (165 points) of 26 teams behind champion Thomas Worthington (99).
"We moved up 25 to 35 points from the end of the first mile to the finish. I felt like we were being the aggressor, chasing teams, instead of being the hunted and having teams chasing us," Gregory said. "I want them to manage races early instead of being super-aggressive. I want them to be in the best position possible, of course, but I want them feeling reasonably fresh after the first mile. Then, they can take off and race from there."
New Albany has finished no lower than seventh in any race, and was second (102) of 15 teams in Lancaster's Bob Reall Invitational on Sept. 21 behind champion Upper Arlington (32). That race was particularly challenging given Lancaster's hilly course and several hours of rain the previous night and early that morning, turning some of the terrain into a quagmire.
Senior Eliza Matt has led the Eagles in every race this season, recording a season-best time of 19 minutes, 8.5 seconds at Galion, where she was fourth. Senior Catherine Ralston and sophomore Charlotte Matt have been second or third in every race, followed in some order by senior Lexi Simpson, junior Becca Adams, sophomores Harper Loeb and Anna Weibel and freshmen Danelle Calero and Jessica Zaper.
Eliza Matt has finished fourth in three races -- in the Asics Hot Summer Bash on Aug. 31 at Hilliard Davidson (19:59), Galion and the Bob Reall Invitational (20:15.1).
"I talked to her (Eliza Matt), Catherine and Lexi at the beginning of the year and told them their leadership was going to go a long way in deciding how our season will go. They're the ones who set the tone," Gregory said. "Eliza has gone above and beyond. ... She's detail-oriented and very competitive."
New Albany was seventh of nine teams in the Midwest Meet of Champions on Sept. 28 at Hilliard Bradley, scoring 178 points in the Race of Champions to finish behind champion Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (51). The field also included area powers Upper Arlington and Westerville North.
Eliza Matt was 12th (19:33.38), followed by Ralston (30th, 20:21.11), Charlotte Matt (20:43.95), Simpson (53rd, 21:47), Weibel (59th, 22:29.39), Adams (60th, 22:59.08) and Calero (64th, 23:44.92).
"The size and quality of that meet is a lot like the regional," Gregory said. "That's absolutely the kind of meet we need to be in at this point in the season."
Boys runners seventh at Bradley
Junior Dennis Maloney led the boys cross country team for the second consecutive race, finishing 15th (16:11.41) in the Race of Champions at the Midwest Meet of Champions at Bradley.
Maloney also was fifth (16:57.4) in the Bob Reall Invitational, a race in which coach Chad Olinger opted to give junior and usual lead runner Zack Buck a week off. Buck was 26th at Bradley (16:26.98), followed by juniors Ben Iten (16:45.44) and Alex Quillin (64th, 17:01.59), senior Chris Ryan (71st, 17:10.79), junior Brian Krugh (78th, 17:21.67) and sophomore Eyob Alemayehu (117th, 18:18.1).
New Albany was seventh (210) of 19 teams behind champion Dublin Jerome (69).
"(The Midwest Meet of Champions) is an easy way for us to see where we are. It's absolutely one of the top meets in the state in terms of the course and the competition we see," said Olinger, who added he was particularly encouraged by the Eagles' second-place finish at Galion on Sept. 14. "I like where we are. Things really clicked at Galion. The way our training works, we were coming off a training cycle and running with heavy legs. We were hoping we'd race fast there, and we did. I was very impressed."
At Galion, the Eagles had 127 points to finish behind champion Davidson (94) in the 33-team field.
The Eagles end their regular season Thursday, Oct. 3, at Westerville Central with a two-mile run against the Warhawks, Bradley and Olentangy Liberty.
"It's a good, low-stress two-miler that helps get us tuned up for the conference race," Olinger said. "The stakes go up after that."
Girls tennis team finishes third in OCC
Three runner-up finishes led the girls tennis team to third place in the OCC's inaugural first-place tournament Sept. 28 at Pickerington Central.
Freshman Alex Cash and senior Carol Vitellas went 1-1 at second and third singles, respectively. Cash lost to Jerome's Rhiannon James 6-2, 6-3 in her final, and Vitellas fell to Upper Arlington's Olivia Kompa 7-5, 6-3.
New Albany's first-doubles team of freshmen Taylor Selby and Christina Vitellas went 1-1 and lost its final 7-5, 6-3 to Dublin Scioto's Stephanie George and Courtney Go.
The first-doubles team of senior Alyssa Seneviratne and junior Sydney Setnar went 1-1 and finished third. Junior Jane Haffer was 0-2 at first singles.
New Albany earned 12 points and finished behind Jerome (17) and Upper Arlington (13) and ahead of Central (8). The champions of all four OCC divisions played for the overall conference championship for the first time, replacing the previous format of postseason divisional tournaments coupled with regular-season dual matches deciding league winners.
Teams earned four points per first-place finisher, three points for second, two points for third and one for fourth.
New Albany went 7-0 to win the OCC-Capital Division.
"Any time you can bring four teams like this together to play, it's going to be a great opportunity to see some great tennis and get good matches, which is what we're after," Eagles coach Marc Thomas said. "We just have to keep coming together and continuing to get better. We have a lot of tennis left to play."
The Eagles were 17-0 overall before playing host to Upper Arlington in an Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I district semifinal Oct. 3. The winner will play Jerome or Olentangy Orange in a district final on a date to be announced.
New Albany will participate in a Division I sectional tournament Thursday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 5, at Reynoldsburg. The top four finishers in singles and doubles will advance to the district tournament Oct. 11 and 12 at Davidson.
Cash and Haffer will play first doubles at sectional. Seneviratne and Setnar will be at second doubles, and junior Francesca DiLorenzo, Carol Vitellas and Christina Vitellas will play singles.
Boys golf team competes at sectional
Seeded fourth in the district, the boys golf team competed Oct. 1 in a Division I sectional at Darby Creek. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Tuesday, Oct. 8, at Apple Valley.
New Albany is seeking to repeat as district champion, an honor the Eagles won for the first time last year. They finished fourth at state.
The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams at district advance to the state tournament Oct. 18 and 19 at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
Girls golf team looks to extend season
The girls golf team also had its Division I sectional tournament Oct. 1 at Oakhaven. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Tuesday, Oct. 8, at The Links at Groveport.
The same guidelines apply for advancing from district to state, which will take place Oct. 18 and 19 at Ohio State's Gray Course.
New Albany lost its final regular-season event, 176-199 to Thomas Worthington on Sept. 25 at Glenross.