Centennial High School cross country coach Rhonda Reese nearly gave up hope that she would field a competitive girls team this season after only four girls showed up for preseason practices.
After the Stars didn't have enough runners to score in each of the first three invitationals, the 11th-year coach was pleasantly surprised to see her squad score 152 points to place sixth in the 12-team Whetstone Arrowhead Invitational on Sept. 19 behind champion Grandview (53).
"This is a total surprise for me because I didn't know if we were even going to have enough (five) girls to score in this race, and I certainly wasn't expecting us to score this well," Reese said.
Sophomore Catherine Ryan won the race in 19 minutes, 44 seconds. It was the third-fastest time posted by any girl in program history behind Niki Reese (18:46) and Molly Delcamp (19:00).
Junior Emiyah Kelly (sixth, 20:37), junior Carmen Godel (30th, 22:24), sophomore Emily Carpenter (93rd, 25:59), sophomore Breanna Neutzling (111th, 26:50), sophomore Natalie Thies (141st, 29:57) and sophomore Claire Curran (163rd, 40:45) also competed for the Stars.
It was the first cross country race for Godel, Thies and Curran.
"That was the first time Cate has won a race and that should increase her confidence and expectations for the future," Reese said. "Carmen was a big shock because she's an exchange student from Germany and she's just learning what cross country is."
The Stars will compete in the City League meet Oct. 10 at Whetstone.
Last year, Centennial scored 32 points to win the City meet and capture its fourth consecutive league championship.
Whetstone scored 134 points to finish one spot ahead of Centennial on Sept. 19.
"I think we have a chance to catch Whetstone because we have two frontrunners and a couple of our runners have the potential to run much faster (in the league meet) than they did in this meet," Reese said. "Whetstone runs a good pack, so we'll see if we can close the gap on some of their runners. I'm just glad we have a full team again. If we do lose the City League title, it's not going to be without a good fight."
The boys team didn't have enough runners to score in the 19-team Arrowhead Invitational, which Bexley (68) won.
Competing for Centennial were junior Kevin Adams (fourth, 17:10), senior John Neutzling (14th, 17:44), junior Glauco Fontgalland (161st, 23:16) and freshman Shayekh Rara (162nd, 23:19).
"Kevin Adams is running impressive times and having a really good season," Reese said. "Shayekh took a minute off his time."
Junior Alex Nonapo and sophomore Mark Brownfield didn't compete because of shin splints.
According to Reese, sophomore Chad Ellis was academically ineligible to compete Sept. 19 but is expected to run in the City meet.
Last year, the boys scored 24 points to win the City meet for their first league title.
"We were missing our No. 3 runner, Chad Ellis, and we have a German exchange student who will probably be our No. 4 runner once he's approved by the OHSAA to compete for us," Reese said. "I hope our boys team can maybe be in the top three in the City meet if we have everyone running for us that day. We're banking on Kevin winning the City meet, and I think Cate could win the girls race, too."
Football team earns first win
The football team won 15-8 at Linden-McKinley on Sept. 21 to improve to 1-4 overall and 1-1 in the City League-North Division.
After falling behind 8-0 in the first quarter, the Stars pulled within 8-7 by halftime, as Robert Dye scored on a 4-yard run in the second quarter.
Centennial went ahead 15-8 in the third quarter when defensive end Aaron Giles recovered a fumble in the end zone and quarterback Jeremy Johnson ran in the two-point conversion.
"The kids have continued to work hard and they deserved to win," coach Mark Shaffer said.
"Offensively, our line didn't block well in the first half, but we moved the ball up and down the field pretty well in the second half. Our defense played really well across the board to keep us in the game."
The Stars play host to Mifflin on Friday, Sept. 28, in a league contest.
The Punchers, who beat Centennial 45-0 last year, defeated Columbus East 20-13 on Sept. 21 to improve to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the City-North.
Senior running back Derrick Pope rushed for 95 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries.
Mifflin's offense also is led by senior quarterback Javonte Bing and senior wide receiver Kamaron Green.
"Our defense is coming off its best game of the season and we'll need to continue to tackle well against Mifflin," Shaffer said.
Centennial had success running the ball against Linden by lining up in a three-running back, double-tight end formation, with Johnson handing off to Dye, P.J. Rogers and Darshawn Watts.
Shaffer said the Stars will continue to run out of that formation, but he indicated they will need to pass more effectively as the season progresses.
Mifflin's defense is led by senior linebackers Vinny Mills and Andre Richards.
"We put in some different blocking schemes against Linden-McKinley and they seemed to help us," Shaffer said. "We have a good quarterback and good receivers, but the problem has been protecting Jeremy long enough for him to throw.
"We have to be more focused this week because we turned the ball over inside Linden's 5-yard line twice in the second half, once on a fumble and once on an interception. We need to clean that up."