The Olentangy Liberty High School boys cross country team had somewhat of a bittersweet 2007 season.

The Olentangy Liberty High School boys cross country team had somewhat of a bittersweet 2007 season.

The Patriots enjoyed the most successful season in the short history of the program but did not run as well as they had hoped in the Division I district meet as Tom Wilkin was the only runner to qualify to regional.

Wilkin has since graduated but the rest of the team remains intact.

Liberty finished eighth (228) behind champion Hilliard Davidson (45) in the district meet last season. The Patriots placed second (66) in the OCC-Capital Division behind Dublin Scioto (36) and ahead of Big Walnut (67), Watkins Memorial (77) and New Albany (85).

"Last year we were getting better and better as the season went on and we were a top-10 team in central Ohio, but the district meet didn't come together," second-year coach Jared Mills said. "Now, we're a better team than how we finished last year. And it will be evident in the results."

The leading returnees include seniors Adam Cellar, Charles Marxen, John Buffington and Nick Kahl and juniors Callum Johnston, David Waybill and Tyler Ross.

At district last year, Ross was 35th (17 minutes, 16 seconds) and was followed by Johnston (51st, 17:30), Cellar (65th, 17:51), Kahl (66th, 17:53) and Waybill (74th, 18:02). Mills is hoping that the Patriots can run even closer to each other this year to help score points.

"One of our goals would be building the team," Mills said. "Team is often an underrated concept in cross country. All of the top cross country programs in central Ohio are very cohesive units. Getting athletes to understand that is key to achieving performance goals.

"The guys work together very well. They're close as a group and I think as a result that we'll be better than last year."

Liberty hopes to challenge for the OCC-Cardinal title. Also in the new league setup are Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Marysville, Olentangy, Westerville Central, Westerville North and Westerville South.

Mills believes it will be a tough competition for the top spot in the league.

"All of those teams have been competitive at one time or another in the last few years so it wouldn't surprise me if any of them stepped up and challenged for the title," Mills said.

The girls team returns many of the of runners who helped the Patriots win the OCC-Cardinal title last season and finish seventh at district.

Liberty (37) won its league ahead of New Albany (44), Big Walnut (79), Dublin Scioto (94) and Watkins Memorial (102).

"Winning the league was a positive note, but the season ended on a disappointing note in that we finished seventh at district and did not qualify a team to regional," sixth-year coach Larry Sweeney said. "We had planned on going another week but we just didn't run well."

Leading the Patriots will be juniors Erica Hamon, Katie Stanfill and Chelsea Denlinger. All three are two-year letterwinners. Only two runners from the top seven, graduates Arwen Marker and Sarah Hutchinson, are gone from last year.

At district, Marker was 19th (20:07) followed by Hamon (20th, 20:40), Hutchinson (33rd, 20:47), Denlinger (49th, 21:12), Stanfill (56th, 21:24) and Heydorn (81st, 22:49).

"We're a big team with a lot of depth," Sweeney said. "As of yet, we don't have a dominant runner who can always get you that single-digit score but we have a well-compressed pack of runners. All of the girls are in good shape and competitive and hopefully they all step it up a bit."

Sweeney said he would like to see somebody emerge as a dominant runner. He thinks that will help the group improve as a whole.

"There are always people who are pushing one another and that's good," Sweeney said. "We do need somebody to step up and be a dominant runner. You need somebody to step up and take (Arwen's) place and improve on that. We also need to be more consistent and take what we can and make sure that comes to fruition every week. Because at the end of last year, obviously, we didn't carry it through."

At a glance

Coach: Boys -- Jared Mills, second season; Girls -- Larry Sweeney sixth season

Next meet: Saturday at Westerville Classic

Key returnees: Boys -- Adam Cellar, Callum Johnston, Nick Kahl, Tyler Ross and David Waybill; Girls --Chelsea Denlinger, Erica Hamon, Alyssa Heydorn and Katie Stanfill