Coach Sam Lehman doesn't know how competitive his Olentangy Orange High School boys cross country team will be, but he does expect his runners to work hard.

Coach Sam Lehman doesn't know how competitive his Olentangy Orange High School boys cross country team will be, but he does expect his runners to work hard.

"I hope we're competitive, but to be competitive we need to establish a good work ethic," said Lehman, whose team opened last Saturday in the Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North, placing 10th (308 points) of 17 teams in the Tiger Division. "That's very important when establishing a cross country program. We want to improve (throughout the season), and we should do that if we establish a good work ethic."

Lehman spent 19 seasons at Olentangy, including the last 15. He also coached the Braves from 1979-81.

"It was my idea," Lehman said of his move to Orange. "I had been at Olentangy for 30 years. There was no negative reason to leave but I teach at Orange Middle School and (the runners on the team) are kids I've had in class."

Orange, which competes in the Westerville Classic on Saturday at Westerville North and the Delaware County meet Wednesday at Big Walnut, has no runners with varsity experience. Juniors Brian French and Sam Meyung and sophomores Aaron Hargrove, Garrett Swisher and Zach Upton competed at the junior varsity level last year. Meyung is a transfer from Olentangy Liberty and the others came from Olentangy.

Also on the team are junior Zach Roush, sophomore Michael Misch and freshmen Ryan Benecke, Andy Bosley, Connor Brown, Joe Chekanoff, Mitchell Deakins, Dar Faroughi, Chris Gearinger, Blake Hoskins, Chad Kirksey and Danny Meyung.

"I think there's good potential," Lehman said. "Obviously, we have keep working. We've got to keep our nose to the grindstone."

Hoskins was Orange's top finisher in the Pickerington Classic, finishing 50th in 19 minutes, 52.1 seconds. Danny Meyung (52nd, 19:52.81) and Gearinger (92nd, 21:07.47), finished second and fourth. Swisher was the third Pioneer to cross the finish line, placing 58th (20:03.77).

"I believe we'll get some help this year from the freshman class," Lehman said. "There's good potential there."

Orange will compete in Division II in the postseason and is a member of the OCC-Capital Division along with Big Walnut, Delaware, Franklin Heights, Mount Vernon, New Albany and Watkins Memorial. Hilliard Bradley will join next year when it opens.

"The last year Olentangy was Division II was 1996, so to be honest, I don't know a lot about other Division II teams in the area," Lehman said. "But hopefully we can get someone to regional or beyond.

"The OCC is always competitive and without seniors and any returning letterwinners, it's going to be a real tough challenge."

•The girls team also has no seniors, but it does have two returning letterwinners in juniors Aggie Gerhardt and Heather Knight. Both ran at Olentangy last year. Sophomores Natalie Green and Chloe Vaughan were on the j.v. last year at Olentangy.

Rounding out the team are sophomore Taylor Shifflet and freshmen Alex Cenci, Emily Ennis, Emily Fischer, Madison Gadawski, Shauni Kerkhoff, Mary McLain, Emma Sicker and Savannah Warner.

Orange was 12th (283) of 19 teams in the Tiger Division of the Pickerington Classic. Kerkhoff was second (20:34.45) behind Carrollton's Kelsey Cogan (20:19.49). Knight (27th, 22:32.71), Gadawski (80th, 24:52.31) and McLain (96th, 25:45.49) rounded out the Pioneers' top four finishers.

"It's tough with no seniors," coach Ingrid Simpson said. "For a first-year team, I think we'll be competitive because we're in Division II, and every time we step out to run in a meet, we'll gain experience.

"Most of the girls are freshmen, so it will take some time to adjust (to varsity competition). But I think they're ready for it."

This is Simpson's first season coaching varsity. She spent the last five seasons coaching middle school, including the last four at Orange Middle School.

"It's awesome to be a part of a brand new school and start a program," Simpson said. "It's a great opportunity to move up from middle school because I know most of the girls."

At a glance

•Coach: Boys -- Sam Lehman, first season; Girls -- Ingrid Simpson, first season

•Next meet: Saturday at Westerville Classic at Westerville North

•Key runners: Boys -- Brian French, Blake Hoskins, Danny Meyung, Sam Meyung and Garrett Swisher; Girls -- Madison Gadawski, Aggie Gerhardt, Shauni Kerkhoff, Heather Knight and Mary McLain