New Albany High School boys cross country coach Chad Olinger didn't let his team's finish in the Division I state meet Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway dampen what the Eagles accomplished this season, and what he thinks can come in 2014.
"They've trained at a whole new level this year," Olinger said. "Their condition and development is astounding. This is the toughest meet they'll have. They've been able to handle volume and training, the amount of miles and the intensity, and we've increased both this year."
A year in which the Eagles finished lower than third only twice ended with an 11th-place finish at state. Led by junior Dennis Maloney's 42nd-place finish in 16 minutes, 21.54 seconds, the Eagles scored 238 points as Cincinnati St. Xavier (46) won in a 16-team field.
Junior Zack Buck was 61st in 16:32.89, followed by classmates Ben Iten (84th, 16:32.35) and Alex Quillin (99th, 16:56.19), sophomore Eyob Alemayehu (103rd, 16:59.23), junior Brian Krugh (113th, 17:09.48) and senior Chris Ryan (114th, 17:10.96).
Maloney said he ran through left hip pain that began about a mile into the race.
"I was trying to ignore it," he said, adding his hips hadn't bothered him at any point this season. "It slowed me down, but I did all right."
Olinger was especially encouraged by Alemayehu, who ran 20:06 in the season-opening Panther Invitational on Aug. 24 at Pickerington North.
"I told him he had 17 minutes in him with his talent," Olinger said. "He cleared that hurdle. Coming that far is huge for him."
New Albany began the postseason by scoring 27 points to win the OCC-Capital Division meet Oct. 12 at Pickerington Central ahead of Olentangy (48), Olentangy Orange (68), Worthington Kilbourne (123), Mount Vernon (141), Delaware (150), Big Walnut (197) and Franklin Heights (227). Maloney was the individual champion in 16:34.64 and was joined in the top 10 by Buck (second, 16:41.62), Iten (third, 16:46.51) and Quillin (ninth, 17:07.39).
The Eagles were second (46) in the 14-team district 1 meet Oct. 19 at Watkins Memorial behind Hilliard Davidson (29). Maloney was third (16:14.32), Buck was fifth (16:26.66) and Iten seventh (16:31.17).
In the 16-team regional Oct. 26 at Pickerington North, Buck's 12th-place finish (16:12.86) paced New Albany to third (111) behind champion Dublin Jerome (66).
The Eagles expect to return six of their top seven, with Ryan being the only loss to graduation. "We have great expectations for what we can do next year," Quillin said.
Girls runner Matt earns all-state
Senior Eliza Matt of the girls cross country team doubled her standing in the final mile of the Division I state race to finish 25th in 19:04.27.
Matt was 50th about halfway through the race and was able to pass five runners in the final 200 meters. The top 25 runners earned all-state.
"I thought I had a pretty good shot because I was seventh in our region and generally our region is one of the harder ones, so I was thinking I could do it," Matt said. "If I could have, I would have liked to have moved up more in that second mile, but I think overall, how can I be sad with 25th?"
New Albany did not advance to state as a team.
With Matt their lead runner in every race, the Eagles finished in the top four in three regular-season invitationals and won the OCC-Capital meet with 29 points, ahead of Kilbourne (38), Olentangy (62), Delaware (113), Orange (144), Big Walnut (173) and Mount Vernon (189).
Matt was the individual champion in 19:38.27, followed by sophomore Charlotte Matt (third, 20:22.39), senior Catherine Ralston (fifth, 20:46.39) and freshman Jessica Zaper (eighth, 21:19.71) in the top 10.
In the district 3 meet, New Albany was third (114) behind champion Upper Arlington (64) to advance to regional, where the Eagles were seventh (214) behind champion Gahanna (90).
Matt qualified for state by placing seventh (19:03.49). The top four teams and top 16 individuals advanced.
The Eagles lose Eliza Matt, Ralston and Lexi Simpson to graduation.
Expected returnees include junior Becca Adams, Charlotte Matt, sophomore Anna Weibel and freshmen Danelle Calero and Zaper.
'Character-check year' for girls soccer team
The girls soccer team's .500 season did not live up to the Eagles' accomplishments of the previous two years, but coach Chad Schuler doesn't necessarily think that's a negative.
"This year was kind of a character-check year for our girls," said Schuler, whose team finished 9-9 overall and 4-2 in the OCC-Capital, and lost 1-0 at Westerville South on Oct. 19 in the second round of the Division I district tournament. "We've had so much success the past few years that you get into a few situations that aren't so ideal and you wonder how the girls will react. I was proud that they faced adversity and continued to persevere."
New Albany won the OCC-Capital in 2012 and had reached district semifinals each of the past two years. This year, the Eagles battled injuries in the first half of the season and started 3-6.
New Albany earned the 16th seed in the tournament and defeated 31st-seeded Newark 6-0 in a first-round home game Oct. 15 before losing at 13th-seeded South.
The Eagles tied Kilbourne for second in the OCC-Capital behind Orange (6-0) and ahead of Olentangy (3-2-1), Big Walnut (1-4-1), Delaware (1-4-1) and Mount Vernon (0-5-1).
Junior midfielder Megan Glass had a team-high 14 goals and was first-team all-league and all-district. Senior forward Vanessa Eastwood added 11 goals and was first-team all-league and third-team all-district. Second-team all-league honorees were junior midfielder Sam Damante, senior midfielder Danielle Dixson and senior defender Kelci Winters. Sophomore defender Kiana Kawari was special mention and freshman forward Emily Sayre was honorable mention.
Better offense defined field hockey season
Field hockey coach Kristen McLean hopes her players don't let a 6-0 loss to Watterson in the first round of the district tournament Oct. 15 define a season in which the Eagles made several strides from 2012.
New Albany, which finished 5-9-1 overall and 3-5 in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-East Division, increased its goal output from 12 last year to 32 this season and, according to McLean, exhibited more poise and maturity throughout the year.
"It really has been a phenomenal season. I just told the girls not to look back on (the Watterson loss) as a defining moment," McLean said. "Last year, we scored 12 goals all season. I think we might have scored 12 some weeks, so it's been a nice turnaround. The girls have decided they wanted to work hard for it."
Junior goalkeeper Michaela Master made 10 saves against Watterson, which outshot New Albany 16-1, and finished the season with 101.
The Eagles lose two seniors in forward Allison Lopez and center/defender Jackie Zaper, but expect to return the bulk of their lineup and scorers. Junior center/midfielder Jamie Sevenish scored a team-high nine goals, and sophomore forward Liza Hernandez and junior forward Meagan O'Rourke each had seven. Junior forward Mariah White had four and junior forward Ellie Fireman had three.
New Albany was sixth in the COFHL-East behind Columbus Academy (8-0), Bexley (7-1), Watterson (6-2), Worthington Kilbourne (4-4) and Hartley (3-4-1) and ahead of Columbus School for Girls (2-5-1), Granville (2-6) and Lancaster (0-8).